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Want More Money? Get an ROI from Your Managers

By Bobby Low

Illustration of a Carl the Yeti walking up a staircase.

If you’re part of an executive team and you’re not including “employee engagement” as part of your 2022 strategies, then you’re missing what should be one of your top priorities. Companies across the globe are facing a talent shortage and organizations that don’t focus on employee satisfaction will eventually wish they had.

So that’s the bad news. The slightly worse news? According to Gallup, only about 30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their current work anyway, so we already have an uphill battle. And unfortunately we’re not done with the bad news yet...that 30% number hasn’t changed during the past 20 years, so either no one cares, or nothing we’ve done to try and move the needle has worked.

Ends up that, for some leaders and companies, moving employee engagement in the right direction is a challenge! Now it’s time to think differently and understand what our team members truly want from us. Most of the options associated with increasing employee satisfaction aren’t as “one and done” as free snacks or a ping-pong table. They will require intentionality from leadership teams.

Many team members, particularly those from the younger generations, are focused on company mission and values more than anything else. They want the company mission to resonate and to inspire them! Others are more concerned about autonomy. They want to make decisions about how, when and where they do their jobs. Don’t expect that group to be happy if you have strict office hours and a “butts in seats” policy. Give them as much flexibility around their role as possible.

Some people want to receive frequent feedback so they can progress their careers. Some people want to receive frequent recognition so they know when they’re performing well and can feel valued. Some people want to be connected with their teammates and have friends at work.

But what does everyone want?

An awesome manager.

image with text - Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units.

Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units. Of all the levers a leader can pull, making sure managers are successful has the most potential for a positive impact. Typically a focus on these topics have the biggest chance of moving the needle:

What Do People Want From Their Manager?

  • To be treated as an individual person with goals, needs and concerns
  • To feel valued and like a contributing member of the team
  • To have clear expectations of what needs to be accomplished
  • To receive feedback specific to career development
  • To be appreciated and recognized frequently

If a manager focuses on these key themes it works some magic in the relationships they’re responsible for. What kind of magic? Magic that is spelled T.R.U.S.T. Trust is a powerful trait of high performing teams and companies. If you dig into research on the neuroscience of trust (not a phrase you see too often in a Motivosity blog), you’ll find that rewards and recognition have the single largest effect on trust. Managers can quickly build trust with their teams by increasing how often they meaningfully recognize others. And don’t underestimate the importance of timeliness when it comes to thanking others.

Frankly, we think any recognition is better than no recognition, but here are a few more ideas for how you and your managers can be recognition pros. A tangible element (gift card, thank you notes, etc.) goes a long way. Unexpected and personalized appreciations make a big difference too. And our last suggestion? When appropriate, make recognition public! Let others know what it looks like to win and encourage them to strive for excellence too!

image with text - Rewards associated with recognition have a positive impact on the brain of the giver and receiver.

This might sound “touchy feely”, but there’s actually a lot of science involved. In fact, giving a reward in association with a recognition (here at Motivosity our platform literally uses dollars) has a positive impact on the brain. Ever heard of oxytocin? It’s the chemical released in the brain when you give or receive something. Studies from leading neuroscience researchers have found that being rewarded and/or recognized boosts the presence of oxytocin. That chemical boost leads to more energy, less stress, higher performance, and increased productivity at the office.

image with text - companies with high levels of trust have a 266% higher total returns to shareholders than their low trust counterparts.

Now here’s the powerhouse stat: Researchers found that companies with high levels of trust have a 266% higher total returns to shareholders than their low trust counterparts. Not satisfied? Check out these other stats associated with high trust teams:

  • 106% increase in energy at work
  • 76% more engagement
  • 74% decrease in stress at work
  • 50% increase in productivity
  • 40% less burnout
  • 29% more satisfaction with their lives
  • 13% fewer sick days

This can absolutely make a difference on the company bank account. Here’s how: Take the national average for “annual employee revenue contribution”, which is $165,000. Assume the only benefit improved managers creates is the 50% increase in productivity. That means each employee that sees improvement could generate $247,500 or an extra $82,500 annually. Not too shabby, right?

Any effort that makes managers better, helps them recognize their team members or builds trust has an ROI associated with it. So get to work on spreading some of that oxytocin around at the office!


  • Gallup – State of the American Manager
  • Harvard Business Review – Paul Zak – The Neuroscience of Trust
  • Wyatt Watson Research