Learning & Development

How to Promote Discretionary Effort at Work

When a business hires an employee, it typically provides a job description that has a set of responsibilities and expectations. Similarly, during regular performance reviews, employees are evaluated based on how well they met certain criteria. These are the baseline requirements of the job.
But we have all seen employees who go above and beyond the call of duty.

Their work is done for the day or week or month, and yet they find ways to promote the interests of the business. Or perhaps they spend their free time on nights and weekends perfecting a presentation or report they’re working on—not because it’s a requirement, but because they want it to be better. This is what we call discretionary effort, which Aubrey Daniels International defines as “the level of effort people could give if they wanted to, but above and beyond the minimum required.”
So, how do you get your employees to put in that discretionary effort?

Engage Them

It’s tempting to think that some employees are simply the kind of people who are naturally going to put forward their discretionary effort. And, while some individuals are certainly more driven than others, generally there is a lot that companies can do to boost this kind of effort among all employees, and it all boils down to how engaged the workforce is.

Recognize Them

A big part of engagement is promoting that extra effort, but after-the-fact recognition can be just as important to spur discretionary effort. If employees feel valued for their extra work or see coworkers praised, rewarded, or even promoted for their extra work, it creates strong positive reinforcement.

Provide Them with Effective Management

As Robyn Reilly writes for Gallup, “Every interaction with an employee has the potential to influence his or her engagement and inspire discretionary effort. How leaders manage their employees can substantially affect engagement levels in the workplace, in turn influencing the company’s bottom line.”
Discretionary effort from employees not only adds to your overall productivity; it creates and reinforces a culture of strong employee engagement. Employees recognize going above and beyond, striving for perfection and keeping the interests of the company top of mind as core organizational values. Any company should strive to promote such behavior.

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