Posted by: rayseghers | January 30, 2010

Using Words to Motivate

When organizations want to improve employee engagement they often rely on words instead of actions.  Now don’t get me wrong.  Verbal or written communications are an essential ingredient in the engagement building process but words must be backed up by actions.  Words alone will not work and may even have negative consequences.  It may even have a negative impact on the word.

A few years ago when I was with The Loyalty Institute, I found myself in a discussion with several college interns about the word “associate” versus the word “assistant.”  In my experience, associate always represented a higher level than assistant.  Assistant Professors (if they were good and lucky) were promoted to Associate Professors and given tenure.  I had been a Research Associate which was two levels above Research Assistant.  So, to me, there was no question that associate was better.

Well, the college interns had the entirely opposite perception.  I was intrigued.  I realize that things change but I wanted to know how this situation arose.  Their experience came from large retailers who starting referring to their non-supervisory workers as associates instead of as employees.  The idea was to make the workers feel more important and to have an increased sense of engagement with the company.  Well, “a rose by any other name…”

Since nobody believed that these non-supervisory workers were really more important in the eyes of the managers, there was no increase in engagement and the value of the word “associate” went down.

So, all you Associate Professors, Associate Deans, and Research Associates look out.  The reign of the Assistants has begun.

http://www.segherssurveyconsulting.com

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