Appreciation within a Production-Oriented Work Culture

May 20, 2024 9:00 am Published by

Isn’t Focusing on Appreciation Counterproductive in a Production-Oriented Workplace? Absolutely not!

Recently, I’ve had some interesting experiences on opposite ends of the spectrum regarding how production-focused workplaces can function. On the one hand, I visited a parks and wildlife center where three employees were “working.” But while I was there, they just sat, doing nothing, not talking to each other and only occasionally scrolling on their cell phones. On the other end of the continuum, I conducted training with an organization who clearly “produces.” They are viewed as one of the premier global institutions in their field of expertise, and excellence is a core value for them. But team members report feeling pressure that is almost suffocating at times.

I personally know (from experience) about working in production-oriented workplaces. I grew up in the context of a family manufacturing firm where I started working in the factory before I was a teenager. When you are on the back end of a conveyor belt with product coming out that you are supposed to pack into boxes and tie down onto shipping pallets, you quickly learn to keep up so the whole packing line doesn’t have to stop for you to catch up. I’ve also worked in professional service settings where (literally) time is money. If you are seeing a client, you are earning money, and if you aren’t seeing a client, you aren’t earning money. And I’ve been part of a team in a sales organization where the mantra is “you eat what you kill,” meaning you only make money if you make a sale.

So I get it – work is about getting the necessary tasks done, so that the desired results follow. But, where does appreciation fit into this context? On the surface, showing appreciation to a colleague seems rather sentimental and unnecessary.

The problem is: that viewpoint does not accurately reflect reality. Due to the fact that we are people, not mechanical production-units. Just because a certain amount of time and energy creates X results in a workplace does not mean two times that initial time and energy will result in double the results. In fact, the results may be only incrementally better or even less than the initial amount due to exhaustion. Consider this: if we use a purely logical, mechanistic model for understanding “getting results,” then why sleep? Sleep (or relaxing, or friendships and family) is a waste of time – you could get more done by just continuing to work. But that isn’t how life is or how humans are meant to exist – we aren’t machines and we have other needs that lead to a healthier, productive life.

Focusing on the Wrong Solution

When organizational leaders focus solely (or almost exclusively) on efficiency and productivity, they are actually doing themselves and the company a disservice. Why? One small reason is because when the emphasis is on getting tasks done quickly, mistakes happen more frequently – and correcting those mistakes costs more than if the task would have been done correctly at a slower pace with proper focus and attention.

But the BIG reason is because staff turnover is the single most costly non-productive cost to organizations. Think of the process: an employee becomes disengaged (and stops working to their capability), their lack of effort impacts others negatively, they start looking for another job, they resign, you lose institutional knowledge, relationships (both internally and externally) are disrupted, you have to find a replacement (which can take weeks and months), you have to train them, then you have to wait while they get up to speed. You have just lost a bunch of money, and the entire process has negatively impacted other employees.

So how do you reduce your cost of staff turnover? Keep your employees. Research shows that there is a direct relationship between employee engagement and productivity, and team members feeling valued and appreciated. Feeling appreciated creates connectivity. Leaving an organization and finding another job is not a fun process – and people try to avoid the experience. You can make it easier for them to stay by training team members and supervisors how to communicate authentic appreciation effectively and in the ways desired by each person.

Use the Tool Professional Athletes Use

Visualization is one of the core tools athletes use to improve their performance. So, try visualize this – create the image in your mind of your team, and the organization as a whole, working together when everyone has been around for five or more years. They are experts at what they do and work together collaboratively. There is a general sense of respect for one another and a positive expectation for completing the task at hand. People are focused and working with appropriate intensity but without feeling pressured. There is space for interaction.

This type of experience is why research has found that when team members feel valued and appreciated, productivity and profitability increase. And when comparing companies within the same industry, those who pay attention to and invest in their workplace culture are more successful than those who don’t. (Chapter 2 of our book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, is dedicated to discussing the decades of research in this area.)

The summary: Yes, creating a culture of appreciation ultimately improves productivity.

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Published by
May 20, 2024 9:00 am

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