This month my Marketing team asked me to write a piece on ‘Growth Hacking’ which concerned me slightly as I wasn’t truly sure what it meant. Upon looking it up, it is very straightforward. Wikipedia says “the goal of growth hacking strategies is generally to acquire as many users or customers as possible while spending as little as possible” whilst other sources talking about driving growth from low cost and “unusual or original methods”

So my growth hack is ‘Acknowledgement’; that is, acknowledging people for who they are or what they have done. For sure, it is not ‘original’ but it is, in my experience, ‘unusual’ in the workplace and the fact that it is unusual is one of the craziest things ever in my opinion.

Breaking down the science of it. It really isn’t that hard

EVERYONE loves to be acknowledged. Even the really shy modest people who get embarrassed by it, love the fact that someone has acknowledged them for an attribute or something they have done. Let me give you an example: My grandfather, father and brother are or were all butchers working in traditional type butcher’s shops. The majority of customers were female and it would be very common for one of the butchers to pop out an cheesy line like “Oh, I see you’ve come straight from the hair salon today” – the obvious implication being that their hair looked like it had just be done professionally.

It was simple technique: Acknowledge the client for, in this case, how good they look, and they will feel warm and fuzzy, be more open to conversation and a closer personal relationship (‘Sales 101’ right there). As a result they would be more likely to take your suggestion of the overpriced piece of beef or the now getting a bit old minced lamb or whatever. More meat sold = more revenue with no extra costs= growth hacking (by butchers) . . . a sentence I never thought I would write . . .

“Make a habit of telling your team how good they are and what they have done well. It’s free!”

But here is the rub: We love to be acknowledged (“have you lost weight?” “Oh, oh, can you notice? Well, err, yes in fact... (then proceeds to tell you about their fantastic new diet)”.  But we do not do it! We are so selfish that although we have in our hands a completely free way of making people feel awesome about themselves, that is tried and tested over millennia, we point blanketly refuse to use it. The other one I love is when someone walks into the office with a fantastic new haircut and everyone notices. No-one says anything until the person turns to walk away at which point then lean into each other and say’ doesn’t so and so look great with that new haircut?” Say it to them!! Why are you are whispering that stuff out of earshot of the one person who gives a damn, who is probably nervous because they want people to like the new hairdo but are not sure they will and would feel amazing if someone acknowledged it?

Those little voices that we all have in our head that are constantly reminding us that we aren’t good enough, smart enough, thin enough or whatever are pretty powerful. By acknowledging others for the work they have done, their contribution to a project, something they did that was above and beyond or simply for being a good or helpful person we start to change people’s perceptions of themselves for the better. And we start to build closer relationships with each other. When we acknowledge someone we are seen as the bringer of these good feelings and seen in a very positive light. Finally, and this really should be no surprise, making someone else feel great feels great!

acknowledge your employees

The most important part of the equation: your employees

I was at a Customer Experience conference this week in Singapore where the question was asked of the impressive panel of experts: “Should you look after employees or clients more?” The unanimous answer was “employees, as they look after our clients”. This reaffirms my fundamental belief that if the base needs of your workers are catered for (money, health and safety at work, a decent manager etc) and they are inspired, motivated and know what they need to do then everything else becomes relatively straightforward including providing an excellent customer experience. It’s even more widely held that if you provide an excellent customer experience (especially nowadays which much higher expectations) you will acquire and retain more customers.

Being happy and feeling good about one-self is an important part of this whole concept. It is hard to imagine an engaged and passionate workforce where this is not present. Whilst it is not a panacea, ensuring that your colleagues and team are regularly acknowledged, it can really help to make them happy and feel good about themselves. The impact of this on their level of engagement and, ultimately, your customer experience and revenue should not be underestimated. Anyway, it’s free and takes minutes so no reason to hold back!


acknowledge your employees

Tips to bring acknowledgement into your workplace

Here are some ideas on how to build this into your business. It’s about getting started because when you remember how good it feels you’ll be acknowledging people everywhere without thinking about it:

1. Set a reminder in your calendar (or whatever you use) to acknowledge one person every day. It actually doesn’t matter what you acknowledge the person for. It can be a tiny thing and take a few seconds. But it should be by a call as speaking to them is better, although an email or message can work too.

2. At Spoka, the last agenda item on our regular global management meeting is to identify someone in the business who needs to be acknowledged. One of the group will nominate someone in their team, that is worthy (again, there is always someone!) and we ask another member of the management team, in a different function and/ or country, to call the person and acknowledge them for what they have done. The benefits of this are not only that the team member gets the acknowledgement but they realise that the news of their work has spread far and wide (and high up the organisation). The feedback we get is amazing. I made such a call to Pierre, this super nice and creative graphic designer in Paris, who had really thrown himself into a recent brand launch. Not only could I hear that he was moved when we spoke but, very soon afterwards, I heard back from his manager as he had been quick to share the news with her. Similarly, our e-commerce Director in London called one of my salespeople in India to acknowledge her for some great sales work she had done and she was similarly moved by how far news of her efforts had travelled and was being appreciated.

3. End every meeting you run (or even attend) by acknowledging the people in it. After you have discussed what needs to be discussed it can be as simple as saying, “look, great work on blah blah blah guys. The way you took that on and your approach to this project really gives me confidence. Well done” or something similar. You can use the same with your follow-up messages to one-to-ones and coaching sessions - after all the actions and notes simply add an acknowledgement for who they are or something they have done.

4. You need an ‘Acknowledgment Sheriff’.  As mentioned above, we know this only brings good things but those voices in our head still manage to convince us that we should not acknowledge open and freely. Just like we all know that to lose weight we need to eat less and exercise more, yet we find it very easy to hit the snooze button and eat that chocolate. The ‘Acknowledgment Sheriff’ is like the personal trainer that ensures the acknowledgement happens, nags and chases you do it. Like your personal trainer, you hate him/ her at the time but are grateful afterwards. I happy to be the sheriff in this town and it’s fun.

Do you want a fantastic customer experience that will retain and grow revenue? Just make a habit of telling your team how good they are and what they have done well. It’s free and, sadly, unusual but it will drive employee happiness and engagement. You’ll be amazed at the results

PS: It works in your private life too.