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This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Register your company now at

Influencing and getting the most productivity out of employees is not as complicated as some may think. It all starts with the manager-employee relationship.

The majority of managers in large to small organizations understand the benefits of having more positive than negative relationships and interactions with their employees.

The micro skill of acknowledging employees' positive contributions is a simple but powerful daily practice of paying attention and recognizing the efforts of your work force.

Managers are in positions of authority, so their opinions matter. And because of that they need to be very conscious of what they say. Negative comments often have more influence than positive feedback on employees' confidence in their value to their organization.

For employees to feel job satisfaction they require clarity on their roles, clear understanding of how their contributions positively impacts the organization's success, and they need to receive meaningful feedback and encouragement.

What a manager does and says that positively and authentically acknowledges employees' positive work and contributions can strengthen their commitment and motivation.

Instead of assuming employees should do good work and that it is their job, managers need to recognize that it can be challenging for employees to do their best every day. Effective leaders accept that it is their role is to inspire, monitor and measure quality work, to correct when it's not up to standard, and to acknowledge when it's done right.

An employee's day may go fine until they have 10 minutes with some type of negativity. This one session can outweigh the rest of a positive day, leaving the impression that the day over all was not good. It's also too common for this to be the only interaction with a manager for the day.

Employees are less likely to trust a manager whom they believe cares only about finding and correcting mistakes. The micro skill of acknowledging suggests that managers get better results when they recognize their employees' good work more than mistakes.

Managers with the highest level of engagement are known for watching for employees doing good work and quickly acknowledging it. Offering praise can take many forms, such as congratulations on a job well done or a simple thank you that acknowledges someone's contribution and value.

Some managers have a fault-oriented leadership mindset, putting more value on looking for fault and mistakes than consistently acknowledging employees who do good work. Employees' desire to to a good job is not fuelled simply by compensation. We all want to feel that what we are doing matters and that we get acknowledgement for our efforts.

Employees will accept acknowledgement when they trust the source. This micro skill can help strengthen relationships and positively influence employee engagement and discretionary effort.

Here is a game plan for managers to improve their ability to acknowledge employees on a daily:

Accept your opinion matters.

Accept the notion that your opinions matter to your employees. Every employee sees the world differently than you, so take time to learn what matters to your employees and what they think good work is.

Watch for good work.

Observe your employees and monitor when good work is being done. If each day you can't find one thing your employees are doing well, then they are not doing their job. Then you'll know when it's time to take some positive, corrective action.

Say something when you see good work.

Know when to act. When you see good work, immediately acknowledge it. Most employees don't need a ton of formalities, just the sense that their manager knows they are trying hard and doing their job. Acknowledging can fall on a scale from informational (smile, thumbs up, gesture, simple thank you, a simple phrase, "cool, wow, you rocked it") to acknowledging your staff in performance appraisals, rewards, and formal recognition.

Managers who are involved and connected with their employees are in the rhythm of day-to-day events. The more a manager is in touch and in tune with their people, the more likely they will be in a position to acknowledge their contribution and fuel engagement and productivity.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link:

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