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Employee Engagement and the Power of Feeling Important

Amanda Sollman


This post is the third in a series about Tony Robbins' 6 Human Needs. The concept of the 6 Human Needs is one of our "4 Cornerstones" and is taught in every training+coaching program, including The Thriving Leader, Millennial Mastermind and Agribusiness Relationship Mastery Experience. You can learn more about those programs here.

There was a short break in this series...but we're back!

Have you ever experienced a time at work where you thought, "Man, I put in all this effort and no one even notices," or "No one here cares about me"? If so, you can understand how alienating, how lonely it is to feel that way. Even within the walls of a big company, it can seem as though you aren't valued or that you're just a number.

Millennials often get a bad rap for wanting recognition (the old "everyone gets a participation ribbon" story). But, the truth is, we all need to feel important and valued at some point. And if we go too long without that acknowledgement, chances are we're going to disengage from our work and the people around us. 

significance as a basic human need

A refresher if you're new to this blog series: Renowned personal development expert Tony Robbins writes about six human needs that – after reliable access to food, water, warmth and rest – are critical if we are to feel a sense of personal fulfillment and accomplishment. Those needs include:

  1. Certainty
  2. Variety
  3. Significance
  4. Love and Connection
  5. Growth
  6. Contribution

Over the course of six weeks, I'm breaking each of these needs down and diving into how you can apply these concepts to the business world. So far, I've talked about Certainty and Variety, so up next...


Robbins describes Significance as "the need to feel acknowledged, recognized and valued" and it can be accomplished in any number of ways, depending on the employee and how they most like to experience recognition.

significance and employee engagement

There is an old school of thought out there that people don't need to be recognized for the work they do because they're getting paid and that should be enough.

But that runs 100% against the notion that feeling significant is a basic human need.

Yes, in the American workplace, there is an exchange of goods and services. You provide the company with your service (skills, knowledge, strengths) and they provide you with money.

But, in today's culture, that is simply not enough.

If you don't show your employees that you care about them, that you value their contribution, and that they are important to your organization, you will experience disengagement, performance issues and turnover. Because there are plenty of other places they could be instead that make them feel wanted.

So, ask yourself: Am I showing my team that I value them?

helping employees experience more significance

One things to realize about Significance as a basic human need is that we don't all want recognition in the same way. That makes it very important for managers and leaders to get to know their employees. What makes them feel important? Below are some ideas, but make sure you ask your employees and/or do some "test runs" to see what is most impactful!

  • Consider creating a commission, bonus, or investment program. When the company does well, show your employees financially that it's their hard work that helped create that success!

  • Establish a weekly, monthly or quarterly employee recognition program, and consider having employees reward each other for hard work – instead of it only coming from the manager. For example, at my old company, we had a set of bull horns that got passed out each week to call attention to good deeds or appreciations. The recipient from the previous week got to pick the person who received the bull horns the next week. It could be for going above and beyond on a project, delivering a really great client presentation, or just for bringing in a sweet treat out of the blue! It was so fun that everyone wanted to get the horns :)

  • Start each team meeting with "shout-outs" – give props to team members who do something great and get the meeting kicked off on a positive note.

  • Drop "surprise and delight" gifts to your employees. This could be something small like ordering lunch for the office or something big, like surprising everyone with a new piece of apparel or technology.

  • Write a hand-written note, sharing your appreciation for someone's hard work and contribution to the organization.

  • Send a text message every so often to recognize someone who puts in long hours or overcame an obstacle.

It doesn't matter if you work for a big company or small one, a for-profit multi-national or a local charity organization – we all want to feel as though the work we do matters. Particularly if you're a manager, look for ways to show your team members that you value them – and improvements in engagement will come along naturally.

Have other suggestions for making your employees feel significant? Leave them in the comments!

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