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Let’s “talk” – Sweet employee engagement

employee engagement

It’s February and love (and the smell of roses) is in the air. Valentine’s Day is February 14th and by the end of the day we will see restaurants full of diners and flower shops with nothing more than rose petals left on the floor. For so many people it is a day filled with love and memories of the day you met or fell in love with the special someone in your life. People may celebrate their love by sharing a candlelit dinner or exchanging gifts.

Everyone has their favourite traditions, gifts and tokens of Valentine’s Day. It may be roses, chocolates, or even my favourite, cinnamon hearts. Exchanging Valentine’s cards is by far the most popular way to celebrate. After all, sometimes Hallmark has the words we are unable to find ourselves in order to express how we feel about the ones we love.

But for those who have a hard time finding the right words themselves and think simple is best, one of the biggest “hits” of Valentine’s Day is the candy conversation heart. These small candy hearts in different colours, and sometimes different fruit flavours, are stamped with simple, short phrases of love and friendship and are exchanged across North America by young and old alike. In fact, one report states that, at their height, more than 8 billion conversation hearts were manufactured each year in the United States and sold in packages with up to 40 different sayings available.

As I was researching for this article, I found it interesting that until its bankruptcy in 2018, Necco, the leading manufacturer of candy conversation hearts in the United States had, since 1990, changed the sayings and phrases on the candies to reflect the latest communication trends, while still keeping the “oldies but goodies” in the mix. Beginning in 2005, the company moved to yearly themes with each year’s sayings centering around one topic. Themes included food (“Table 4 Two”), animals (“Puppy Love”), sports (“#1 Fan”), and even hi-tech hearts (“Email Me”). With one heart you could elicit a giggle at the same time as conveying a special or deeper feeling to the recipient. At a minimum it got you talking and engaging with the other person. What could be simpler? 

So, this got me thinking. With many employers looking for new, creative, and better ways to promote open communication amongst co-workers, what if there were conversation hearts for the workplace? 

You catch more flies with honey…

Statistics show that engaged employees are more productive than those who are not happy in their role. Happy and engaged employees also make the best brand ambassadors for your company, not only to the public but also to potential hires, allowing you to recruit and keep top talent. But it’s important to remember that employee engagement is more than employees feeling good about the work they do or liking the people with whom they work. It’s about an employee feeling that they have a role in the company or on the team, that they make a difference, and that they aren’t just a cog in the corporate wheel.

Share the love

A survey by the American Psychological Association concluded that feeling valued is a key indicator of job performance. MIT research cited in an April 2019 Deloitte article[1] concluded that “enterprises with a top-quartile employee experience achieve twice the innovation, double the customer satisfaction and 25 percent higher profits than organizations with a bottom-quartile employee experience.” 

Love language

So while employers want to encourage collaboration and growth in the workplace, employees want to have a voice and be recognized for their accomplishments. Valentine’s Day conversation candies (who says they have to be heart-shaped?) offer the perfect marriage between these two interests.

Something as simple as a candy conversation hearts provides both the personal recognition and the social aspects of communication that make employee engagement a success. But while the idea of the “office candy jar” and exchange of SweeTART-like candies makes me (though maybe not my dentist) smile, it’s the idea behind it that matters most, not the exchange of a sweet treat. The idea, and indeed the meaning, is in the exchange of the message. When you receive a candy conversation heart with the right message you instantly know that you matter to the person who gave it to you. It means you make a difference in their life and are important to them. So this Valentine’s Day, what can you say to your employee or your co-worker?

How to share the love (but in a totally office-appropriate way)

1. Don’t overdo it

I think we can all agree that some of the more traditional candy heart phrases, while cute and appropriate to share with your significant other, are simply not appropriate to share amongst coworkers. After all, traditional candy hearts that say “Kiss Me”, “Heart Throb” or “I Luv You” can lead to allegations of sexual harassment. Even simple phrases like “Let’s Get Busy” or “Call Me” can have double meanings.

2. Positive vibes only

Nobody wants to receive a candy heart with the wrong message. The “You’ll Do” heart isn’t exactly the message you are looking to receive from someone whose opinion of you matters. Messaging that may be controversial or offensive with and amongst coworkers should be avoided in the workplace. You can never be appreciated enough and thankfully, conversation hearts are about spreading “love” and positive messaging. So, with the right phrases and respectful language, employers and employees can connect with one another and recognize team members in a quick, simple, and appropriately “sweet” way. Candies stamped with “You Rock”, “Great Job”, and most importantly “Thank You”, get right to the point, are personal and focus directly on the achievements of the employee.

3. Be the coach

What about employees who are new to the team or may not be performing at their top level and need more support?  Conversation candies have you covered there to. With phrases like “You Got This”, “Prove Them Wrong”, “You Matter” or “Don’t Quit”, coworkers can offer a helping hand without making the other team member feel uncomfortable or like the spotlight is on them. This simple gesture can fix a problem before it occurs and show that the team, and the company, care enough to help them succeed.

4. Let it be said

Finally, we can’t forget the “star” employee. These are the employees who are performing well and making a difference to your company. Employers want to recognize and promote these employees. In turn, these employees generally want to be encouraged just as much as any other employee, and feel that their employer supports their growth and advancement. According to Gallup research, employees who receive verbal praise on a regular basis (at least once per week) increase their productivity, receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers, and are more likely to stay with their employer. Messages such as “You’re Key”, “Think Big”, “Rock Star” or “Amazing” confirm you have taken notice of the employee, and motivates them to continue their strong performance.

So employers, this Valentine’s Day, don’t look outside the box. Instead, look inside the box (of candy hearts) and share a “sweet” message with your employees. You’ll be better for it.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

By Cynthia Ingram


[1] From Employee Experience to human experience: Putting meaning back into work

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Piccolo Heath LLP

Prominent Canadian lawyers Patrizia Piccolo and Jennifer Heath have come together as Piccolo Heath LLP, Canada’s newest employment law firm. With more than 30 years combined expertise, the firm was founded with the purpose of delivering outstanding legal counsel and dynamic, client-focused service. Piccolo Heath LLP is focused on guiding clients through the legal landscape to determine the best solutions to their unique issues. The firm is well-versed in current employment-related case law and statutes, but is also highly sensitive to the practical impact of the law on both employers and employees. Read more.
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