Consider your favorite colleague and reflect on why you hold her in high regard. You will likely identify admirable qualities, such as her ability to uplift your spirits or bring positivity to the gloomiest days. Encouragement is an underestimated skill in today’s workforce. But it can act as a binding force to retain talent while boosting employee morale, motivation, and productivity.
Alfred Adler, a pioneering psychologist, is credited for proposing a comprehensive theory on the significance of encouragement. According to Adler, encouragement becomes crucial when people experience declining social interest, particularly in fostering meaningful connections. Rudolf Dreikurs, like Adler, considered encouraging others the most important attribute for establishing positive interpersonal relationships.
In the current landscape of the Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and the Invisible Revolution, the power of encouragement becomes crucial in a company’s culture. It calls for the case of a Chief Encouragement Officer, albeit encouragement cannot solely rely on the shoulders of an individual — leadership and employees have a part to play here.
“Encouragement is a motivation tool,” says clinical psychologist and executive coach Dr. Tina Mistry, adding the need for organizations to shift from a coercive leadership style to a more soft style.
“If leaders do not model a culture of encouragement, it becomes challenging to establish it throughout the organization,” said Jasmine Navarro, certified family and executive well-being expert. She says overcoming this barrier requires leaders to understand its importance and take proactive steps to demonstrate and promote it.
NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH
Research has shown that organizations that prioritize encouragement and create an environment of support have higher employee retention rates and better performance outcomes. A study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior found that supportive supervision, which includes encouragement, positively correlates with employee retention.
“Encouragement as a powerful tool makes people thrive, feel safe, and have autonomy,” says Dr. Mistry.
Research has shown a link between encouragement and job satisfaction. Another study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior found that employees who received more encouragement from their supervisors reported higher job satisfaction and lower levels of burnout.
Cultivating such a culture is a long-term strategy that should be tailored to the specific needs of each business. Dr. Mistry emphasizes that all members of an organization must contribute to creating a positive and productive workplace.
Meanwhile, Hazel Kurian, Psychologist and Associate Director of ICAS MENA, says micromanagement is one of the worst hindrances to employee encouragement. “Companies should prioritize basic professional and ethical considerations to encourage employees genuinely.” This includes meeting the fundamental requirements for a healthy work environment, such as providing solid and timely employment agreements, demonstrating respect to all employees, ensuring timely payment, and offering managerial support. Regular feedback in structured Key Performance Areas (KPAs), among other measures, should also be part of the equation.
By involving all, a positive and productive workplace can be crafted, creating an environment that promotes growth and success.
So what are the stumbling blocks facing organizations from becoming hubs of encouragement? “There is compounding evidence that most employees are discouraged by their supervisors or bosses. Investing in training for your managers can yield excellent results in the long term,” says Kurian.
She adds that one of the most important ways to encourage employees is to ask everyone on the team how they want to be encouraged.
“Whether you’re a small, medium, or large enterprise, anonymous surveys are probably the best ways to do this, and depending on the company culture, direct feedback to line managers can also be helpful,” she says.
For Navarro, a simple “thank you” can go a long way in boosting morale. Another way to encourage employees is to provide opportunities for learning and development. Whether through training programs, workshops, or mentorship opportunities, these would help them catapult in their careers, she says.
There are levels of encouragement, says Dr. Mistry, and understanding each is critical to instituting a positive work culture. She says encouragement can work through factors such as the ability to communicate encouragement (interpersonal communication) or having team leaders responsible for boosting morale. These factors lead to the group norm that determines why some organizations foster a culture of encouragement more than others.
“Encouragement is an important building block in a successful organizational culture, and it should work in both ways,” says Kurian.
HOW DO WE GET THERE
There are several ways to encourage. One is providing feedback, which plays a significant role in motivating individuals and driving personal and professional growth. When provided effectively, feedback can be a powerful tool to inspire and encourage individuals to excel.
“Being specific about what they did well and why their contribution matters,” says Navarro.
By highlighting areas for growth, feedback promotes a teachable mindset. Individuals who receive feedback with a positive and growth-oriented perspective see it as an opportunity to enhance their skills and knowledge, leading to increased motivation to overcome challenges.
“Fostering a supportive work environment where employees feel comfortable taking risks, sharing ideas, and seeking help when needed, are all critical ways,” adds Navarro.
When employees receive regular feedback that is constructive, supportive, and aligned with their personal and professional goals, they feel valued, engaged, and motivated to contribute their best to the organization’s success.
“I would encourage businesses to look at science and research to help them foster and create more encouraging and inclusive environments,” says Dr. Mistry.
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