Create Leaders 
at Every LevelJuly 7, 2020

How to Empower and Engage Tomorrow’s Workforce By
July 7, 2020

Create Leaders 
at Every Level

How to Empower and Engage Tomorrow’s Workforce


Hailed as the world’s leading business strategist, award-winning professional speaker Scott Steinberg is among today’s best-known trends experts and futurists, and the bestselling author of “Fast >> Forward: How to Turbo-Charge Business, Career, and Sales Growth”; “Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty” and “Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap”. He is also the president and CEO of BIZDEV: The International Association for Business Development and Strategic Partnerships. His website is 

Surprise! As surveys of hundreds of the world’s most innovative companies show, having more time, money or manpower isn’t the secret to getting ahead in business, or creating competitive advantage. Instead, as we found while researching my new book “Fast >> Forward: How to Turbo-Charge Business, Career and Sales Growth”, the world’s most accomplished organizations strive to create leaders at every level, and constantly give people more opportunities to speak up, share their insights and experiment with creative new solutions. In other words, they constantly strive to cultivate entrepreneurial thinking in workers, listen more closely to customers and find better ways to tap into the power of their people. But, with employee incentivization every bit as important to driving growth and momentum as innovation, what’s the best way to let colleagues know that their work is valued and that they’re No. 1? And, with so many great employee appreciation and recognition ideas to potentially draw upon when doing so, how can you determine which will most resonate with them? Here are five ways you can get workers excited and engaged, and transform every individual at your business into a potential change agent:

1) Create Opportunities to Contribute

Sometimes, the simplest employee recognition ideas are the best. For example, when one global health care leader wants to discover big, game-changing ideas to pursue, it creates online forums where participants are invited to share ideas, source feedback and support from colleagues, and vote which concepts should be turned into real-world solutions. Similarly, when one of the industry’s largest global finance firms is looking to identify prospective candidates for promotion to leadership roles, even though they may be young and inexperienced on paper, or not have a background managing people, it holds regular competitions in which employees from every department are invited to collaborate in small teams to come up with working product prototypes in the course of a single weekend.

Still more clients hold regular dinners where senior leaders provide time to sit down and swap ideas with new hires; provide ongoing conferences, workshops and strategic retreats where colleagues spend time sharing ideas and learning from others; and put employees through a rotation of job roles to help them gain new insights, connections and skills. All of these recognition ideas help reinforce an important point: Our company is listening to what you have to say, and every employee’s contributions matter. This kind of recognition can be even more powerful than financial incentives when it comes to promoting an organizational culture of greatness.

2) Offer Unique Upsides and Benefits

If you want to create more compelling job offers,  and attract and retain top performers by keeping your employees happier, it helps to analyze your ideal hires’ needs and customize benefits to each prospective candidate. For example, one major quick-service restaurant chain not only provides health insurance for employees who work 25 or more hours weekly to reward an older audience of part-time workers looking to supplement their retirement incomes, it also provides college tuition for many candidates because an equally large segment of employees are college-bound individuals and 20-somethings.

Many leaders in other fields are also following suit, and shifting away from demanding that employees be chained to a desk, instead shifting to operating models that emphasize teleworking opportunities and flexible schedules to help attract and keep spirits high, especially among millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers who may be working parents. Customizing the benefits of being a part of your organization can be one of the most effective employee appreciation ideas and produce big wins when it comes to boosting worker satisfaction and morale.

3) Request Regular Creative Input

Crowdsourcing creative contributions from your employees — e.g. inviting them to submit ideas and input en masse — can also be a powerful way for your organization to fast-track growth and reinforce your appreciation for their skills. Whether asking workers to send you their best designs for new logos, inviting them to film videos for possible consideration in online advertisements or requesting that they share their best stories for inclusion in eBooks, white papers and brochures, many engaging and dynamic ways exist to get your workforce involved. From photos to podcasts, slideshows to social network posts, these types of user-generated content programs can provide ready opportunities to spotlight key contributors and put a more human face on your brand.

Not only do these types of programs feel more authentic and genuine for the effort. They also provide added chances to uncover winning solutions more rapidly and shine the spotlight where it’s rightfully deserved — on the everyday employees who make your business the wonderful place to work it is.

4) Promote Professional Growth and Development

Ongoing learning and growth is the basic building block of a successful business and a successful career today. So, make a specific point to also help employees pick up in-demand training, experience and skills wherever possible as well, which are among the best employee appreciation ideas you can implement. Sometimes, this means setting budgets aside to invest in formal education, training or certification programs. But, just as often, it can include simply providing workers with the access and time that they need to sit down with colleagues from different departments to discuss best practices, or to gain deeper insight into new areas of the business, new technologies and new growth markets.

If you’re looking to start simple, remember efforts here can be as simple as springing for a pizza night that brings the marketing and software development teams together to learn more about how each other works, and share ideas for improvement. The key is to actively connect workers with resources and opportunities that can help them learn, grow, expand their skill set and become more valuable on the job.

5) Help Colleagues Shine

Most of tomorrow’s workforce — regardless of age or background — won’t measure success in terms of money, but rather their ability to accomplish goals and make a difference in their organization or community. They’ll also want to work for innovative companies and expect to run their own forward-thinking entrepreneurial ventures at some point.

If you’re hoping to boost spirits, and employee engagement, it helps to remember that you can do so by providing clear goals, an engaging variety of assignments to tackle and cultivating a go-getter attitude in your organization. Likewise, you’ll further want to provide more mentorship and ongoing feedback in the workplace, as well as more transparency, guidance and honest input about how the organization is evolving, and how employees can contribute in ways that make a meaningful difference.

And, remember, it’s common for high-performing employees to come and go as they seek to expand their horizons and take on new challenges and roles. If they choose to move on, stay supportive. Doing so will not only reinforce to others that you truly care about them, but these selfsame individuals may very well rejoin your team at a later date more experienced and capable for having done so.  I&FMM


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