Overwhelmingly all of the research says that if you have a happy and engaged workforce, your company will perform better commercially, your customers and clients will be more satisfied and your employees will feel more motivated, productive and engaged.

So, let’s examine what makes employees happy at work. And immediately, your mind goes to money. I know my mind does too. We have all been conditioned to believe that more pay equals more happiness. But this equation is not entirely true. Yes, the first reward everyone seeks at work is to be paid well. But once salary has been established as fair – it is actually recognition for a job well done that is far more powerful for happiness than pay. In fact, pay ranks (surprisingly!) 9 th in determining whether or not people are happy at work.

Here are some “RECOGNITION” action items you can implement if you want to lead a more engaged, productive and creative team.

Celebrate the small wins

Action item: Start meetings with recognizing those wins.

We’re good at remembering our big achievements but it’s often harder to remember the small successes we have along the way. In fact, it is the small wins that ignite joy, engagement, and creativity at work. People will feel the happiest, proudest, and most motivated on days when they feel that they are making progress on meaningful work. Most managers don’t have a clue about how important progress is.

Identify Team Strengths

Action item: Highlight individual strengths. Be specific. Explain the impact.

People are not great at identifying their own strengths. It makes them uncomfortable and they lack the confidence to “brag” about their strengths. As a leader, your role is to be that strengths spotter. Share with your team the times when people are at their best. This will help people to realize what kind of impact they are having and that their work is appreciated.

Say things like “I see you at your best when…" and "What went well about that presentation was..." and "Where I observed you had most impact in that project was..."

Avoid saying “great job.” You want to provide something insightful about why what they did was great. (Added bonus: over 80% of people leave their job because they have a bad relationship with their boss. This kind of recognition will work wonders on improving your relationships with team members)

Extra tip: When having one on one’s or giving feedback ask questions like “what kind of work would you like to do more of?” or “what do you think you are best at?” These kinds of questions will lead to a deeper conversation around strengths.

Focus on the Team’s Strengths, instead of just Individual’s

Action Item: Allow team members to share stories of each other’s successes.

By creating the space for team members to share in each other’s wins, you will create a culture where everyone will feel that their contribution is valued. This will also encourage optimism and remind everyone of progress. Added bonus, especially as so many of us are still working remotely, everyone on the team will learn about each other’s strengths which will lead to more effective collaboration.

To sum up – you want to have a happy, more productive team? Recognize your team’s successes. Celebrate the small wins, identify and develop each team member’s talents and strengths, extend that sense of recognition to the whole team, empower everyone on the team to identify strengths and wins, beyond just the team leader. The impact of this positive spiral will be dramatic. You will create a positive feedback loop where work feels more enjoyable, which will lead to more creative success, which will make work even more enjoyable.