Ep. 73

How to Motivate and Engage Your Employees w/ Violet Mendez

In episode 73 we talk with Violet Mendez about how appreciation can keep employees motivated, engaged, and eager to do their best work.
73 - Violet Mendez

Violet Mendez

HR Consultant

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When it comes to employee engagement, appreciation is key—but it has to be done right. In this episode of the HR Mavericks podcast, we sat down with HR consultant Violet Mendez to talk about how appreciation can keep employees motivated, engaged, and eager to do their best work. Violet knows from experience the difference it can make when an HR leader truly cares about each individual they work with, and she shares how she’s used those insights in her own career. 

During our discussion, we talked about: 

  • Why it’s important to value employees’ ideas
  • The effect that recognition can have in the workplace
  • What it looks like to care about individuals’ wellbeing
  • How to show appreciation—whether you have a budget or not
  • The connection between engagement and employer brand

Episode 73 Transcript

You’re listening to HR Mavericks, a weekly podcast, featuring leading small business HR professionals who share their experiences and insights to help you know how to turn your HR processes and employee experience into a strategic business advantage. Let’s get into the show. 

[00:00:00] Violet Mendez: This meeting is being recorded.

[00:00:04] Garrett Jestice: Welcome to the next episode of the HR Mavericks podcast. I’m Garrett Jestice, and today I’m joined by Violet Mendez, who’s an HR consultant. Violet, how are you doing today?

[00:00:15] Violet Mendez: I’m doing great. How are you?

[00:00:17] Garrett Jestice: Good. It’s great to finally have you on the show. I know you and I connected maybe last year. Is that right?

[00:00:22] Violet Mendez: That is right.

[00:00:24] Garrett Jestice: Well, we’re so happy that we finally were able to work it out and get you on the show today.

Excited to jump into our topic today, because I think it’s an important one and one that’s gonna resonate with a lot of our listeners. But before we do that, tell our listeners a little bit more about you and your career background.

[00:00:41] Violet Mendez: Absolutely. I have been in HR, I wanna say about 17 years. And I was, contacted through LinkedIn through an agency, a staffing agency, and said, I know you’re bilingual. I’m looking for a, a temporary HR recruiter. Are you able to come on in? And I was in the career services department, literally, with technical schools.

So I was finding the employers for our students once they graduated. I had been there a couple of years and I said, this is a temp position, but I’m gonna risk it. It’s HR, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. So I did. And two days in, the boss says, how do, how do you feel about, how do you feel about us?

You interviewing actually the position that you’re gonna fill and then you’re gonna be gone? And I said, Well, after a week of working with me, I’m gonna be your person. And he just laughed. Two weeks later he interviewed me, He kept me on and started from a corporate bilingual recruiter to, you know, benefits and….

And I’ve done generalist, I’ve done a coordinator just about everything, payroll as well. So basically just a lot of experience with different fields in real estate and manufacturing, construction.

[00:01:59] Garrett Jestice: Yeah. Awesome. Well, it’s so great to have you on the show. I know that, you know, you’ve worn that solo HR person hat for many years. You know the challenges that many of those small businesses face when it comes to that. We were talking about a couple of them before we jumped on here today that I think will just really resonate with, with our audience.

But you know, before we jump into our topic today, one question that I like to ask a lot of our, our guests who come on the show is, what drew you to HR? And then part two of that is what’s kept you in that career, in that space for so long?

[00:02:34] Violet Mendez: Well, it had definitely was my, my father, he worked for school district, did not know the language, lived here for many years, but never spoke English, so he missed a lot of the benefit enrollment section. He missed a lot of the events. He missed a lot of opportunities, 401k, because he did not know the language and there was not a bilingual HR rep that would involve herself with her employees that way. So what I do now is I make sure that I, that I make, I am going out to my employees and I walk my office, I walk outside. I say, Good morning, I’m out in the field. I’m literally outside on the field, 4, 5, 6 am because that’s when they get there before they go to their job sites. And I involve myself and make sure, tell them about 401k, tell them how important the retirement plan is, tell them how important it’s for them to enroll in benefits.

Benefits for their children. So it, it’s the passion of helping other people as well as also recruiting great candidates from a bank, from a grocery store, wherever. I, I’m a recruiting billboard. I’m always, if I see somebody good, I’m gonna pull them. Right? so giving somebody an opportunity for, for a career or getting them off from working seven days a week or working evenings. If I can do that for them. Absolutely. And, and I, I, I’ve been very successful getting people that placed in them, in, in great jobs that are now careers for them.

[00:04:04] Garrett Jestice: I love that and, and you can definitely see how, you know, experience like that, a personal experience like that growing up with your father can influence, you know, that drive that, you know, you clearly have. To help other people, you know, maybe not make the same mistakes and, and know how HR can help them, the benefits they have.

So that’s awesome. Very, very cool. Well, let’s transition into our topic a little bit. I know when we talked about what do we talk about today, you mentioned this idea of employee engagement, how to motivate, get the most and best out of your employees. I think this is a topic that, you know, a lot of companies think about, it’s kind of a buzzword these days in HR employee engagement, right?

Because so many people talk about it, think about it. and so tell me first, before we jump into this, why is it that you wanted to talk about this, particular topic today?

[00:04:56] Violet Mendez: Well one, because right now after, post Covid, it’s hard to find candidates and it’s hard to keep candidates

[00:05:04] Garrett Jestice: mm-hmm.

[00:05:05] Violet Mendez: And in order for us to keep candidates, or to want them to stay with us or come to work with us, we have to make a commitment as an employer of engaging them in, involving them in our, not just holidays and not just birthday, you know, monthly birthdays, celebrations, but also in their ideas.

Also and if we’re gonna change the policy, let’s get together with the employees and ask them, hey, we’re thinking about changing A, B, and C. What do you think? What’s your feedback? Cause they’re gonna have things that we’re not thinking about.

[00:05:38] Garrett Jestice: Yeah.

[00:05:38] Violet Mendez: How is it gonna benefit or how is it gonna hurt them? But when you include them, you make them feel part of, then they won’t leave you.

[00:05:46] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, that makes total sense. And I think that it’s a challenge that many businesses are facing today, especially dealing with the effects of, of Covid. And so really just to get us started, the first question I have for you on this is how do you motivate employees and why is it important to do so?

basically motivating them. One is, is recognizing them, knowing them by name, knowing them who they are. Go out there and, and involve yourself with, with what they’re doing and not, and have small conversations, not just about your work or your report or have you turned it in, but how’s your day going?

[00:06:19] Violet Mendez: How is your weekend start learning about their family, their kids, their dog. What? They just moved. You saw them got boxes from the warehouse. Hey, you just moved. How’s the neighborhood? If you get to know your employees and you go out one day and you see that they’re, for whatever reason, they’re not the same.

Hello there, They might have not responded, then there’s something wrong. Let’s figure out what it is. If they see that you care and if you are actually seeing who they are and helping them out, then they’re gonna appreciate that and they’re gonna wanna come, come work for us or, plus you’re also earning their trust.

[00:06:54] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, totally. People want to work and work hard for people that they know and trust intimately, right? And so the more that you can build that personal connection with your people is, you know, the, the more, the further it’ll go in helping them be motivated and also helping identify when, you know, things might be a little bit off, there might be something going on and being understanding there and helping them work through those, those life challenges.

Right.

[00:07:21] Violet Mendez: And when you do that, what do you get? You get a more engaged, happy employee that’s gonna come to work, that’s gonna stay the extra hour if you need ’em. That, if they see that some that you’re struggling with something, they’re gonna ask, How can I help? What can I do?

[00:07:33] Garrett Jestice: Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. so in addition to just the getting to know people, what other things have you done specifically to make sure that employees know that you care?

401K contributions. I sit down. I’m not a financial planner. I do not go over any of of that percentage or, or what plans they are gonna choose. But I am gonna sit down and tell ’em the importance of the long term and explain to them just like I do the benefits I explain, you could, oh, sit on an open enrollment a whole hour and you’re gonna get a bunch of information.

[00:08:05] Violet Mendez: You have no idea what an HMO plan is. You don’t know what a PPO plan is. You don’t know how to go out of network. What happens if you go out of network? What happens if you go to urgent care instead of an emergency room? So, Giving them that information and that knowledge so they can make better life decisions for them.

That’s what matters to ’em.

[00:08:23] Garrett Jestice: Yeah. I love that. And I think it ties back to the story that you shared of, of the experience with your father at the very beginning, right? When, when you do sincerely care about them, then of course you’re gonna want to share that knowledge with them that’s just gonna help them in their life outside of work.

Right? And by doing that, you’re, like you mentioned, you’re building that trust, that loyalty because they know that they can come to you and they, as a result, they’re gonna work harder and stick around longer, hopefully.

[00:08:50] Violet Mendez: And then they do, and I fill out forms Garrett for them. If they don’t under, they have mail one at home, they bring it to me. Even if it’s not from our company, can you help me? You know, read this, do you, do you understand? And just walking them through it. And that’s how they really know that I. I really care.

And I’ve been told all the time, You’re not just like any HR person. You, you’re different. You, I said, because I, I care. And I, and like I said, earning their trust for me is huge.

[00:09:14] Garrett Jestice: Yeah. Yeah, and I think that what’s really unique about this too is it’s applicable for the industries that you’ve worked a lot in, right? Where you have a lot of construction workers, you know, who may have worked with, or, you know, it might be different in other industries, but the point is tailoring it to the needs of your workforce, right?

Like I think exactly what you’re doing is a perfect example of how you tailor it to their needs where another HR person in a different industry might do something completely different, Right?

[00:09:41] Violet Mendez: Right. Right. Absolutely. And it is, and, and when they see that you are actually molding it to what their needs are, regardless of what the industry, it’s about the person.

[00:09:52] Garrett Jestice: Yeah.

[00:09:52] Violet Mendez: It’s about caring and having that kindness for that individual that’s gonna make the difference.

[00:09:58] Garrett Jestice: Yeah. That kind of leads me to my next question that I have for you then is, you know, in your experience, what have you seen as the most important thing that employees really want from their jobs?

[00:10:09] Violet Mendez: Appreciation.

[00:10:11] Garrett Jestice: Hmm.

[00:10:13] Violet Mendez: I have done so many stay on interviews. I’ve done so many exit interviews. I’ve had lots of conversations. And all they, they want, it’s not the money, it, it’s, it’s not as much the benefits, it’s appreciation. A pat on the back, you’ve done a great job, feedback on, on their work. Recognize whether it’s through LinkedIn, whether through your, your, social media page, whether it’s through a billboard in, in, you know, in front of, of the lobby, whatever it is.

It’s just acknowledging, and again, that you know that they’re there. They’re not just sitting behind a desk. They’re not just plugging in numbers regardless of the department that you’re in, but for the employer to literally see you and appreciate you and say, Hey man, you’ve done a great job. Thank you so much for picking up the slack.

I know you worked over the weekend. That is what matters to them is that they’re bringing value and that we as employers are seeing that.

[00:11:11] Garrett Jestice: Yeah. I love that because I think that, you know, if, if you asked a lot of people that question, I think the natural response might be money, right? We go to work to get money, right? But really, you know, on a deeper level, it really is about, Being appreciated. And when you are appreciated, again, it ties back into this topic of employee engagement.

You’re motivated to want to work harder. And I think the one thing that, I would just add to that too is this is where I think a lot of businesses fall short. I’m curious if you feel the same, is it’s the consistency of that appreciation, which is so key, right? A lot of times we give a holiday gift and say a generic thank you.

Right? But that’s not, that’s not enough, right? It’s really about those small moments and it’s really about doing it consistently where people start to believe it and it, and it drives motivation. Is that right?

[00:12:01] Violet Mendez: Not the habit, not the repetitive, like you said, the Christmas time, the Thanksgiving time. This is a year round event, a year round. And it’s not a habit, it’s not a routine. It is, You know what, I generally see you, I generally am grateful for what you’re doing. I appreciate your hard work and it is, it is absolutely ongoing and, and some people work better.

You know when, when they get appreciated and they work better when they, when the company sees you, your boss sees you, it gives us that initiative to to work harder for you. And at the end of the day, we are producing more, the company makes more.

[00:12:39] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, it sounds so simple, but I think the consistency in remembering to do that as a leader, as an HR leader or a business leader, it’s hard and it takes consistent reminders to remember, Remind yourself to. To do that. A lot of times I think that we are appreciative of the people, but we don’t necessarily express it.

And so making sure you do that consistently is, is takes work and effort, but it goes a long way.

[00:13:07] Violet Mendez: It takes time and, and many times we’re busy. We’re running, we’re doing, but it it, it takes time And, and if you see how happy it makes a certain person or an employer, you or you see the difference in their work. Just continue doing it. And, and they will, they will know, they will notice it and they will talk about it and change the culture so that, you know, little bit of, of appreciation goes a long way.

[00:13:32] Garrett Jestice: I love it. That’s great. What other tips do you have, that for us today about how to motivate, get the best out of your employees?

[00:13:40] Violet Mendez: Well, other than appreciation, there is, Whether you have a budget or if you don’t have a budget. Some, you know, some give out gifts and umbrellas and headsets or whatever that may be. But sometimes if, if you’ve got a, if you park downtown and you’re paying for your parking, or hey, you have an employee the month you’re gonna get this parking spot right in front.

Have the president go park somewhere else. Give them that. Give them that spot. Have ’em half a day on Friday. You know what? You’ve done a great job. Go ahead. You can leave it even if it’s two o’clock. If they get out at four, those two hours are going to mean so much to them. Work, remote every other Friday, you’ve earned it.

Go ahead and you can work from home. So there’s a lot of different ideas that even if you don’t have a budget, you can actually do other things for employees. Bring them breakfast once a month. You know, just the small things again. decorate their cube when it’s their birthday. That’s allowed in your company because there’s a lot of different rules around that and religion.

So we get that. but it is basically at, at the end of the day, it’s things that you know, that that’s not gonna cost you. Things, like I said, just whether it’s a parking, whether a lot, whether it is a space or whether it is half a day or an hour in the morning or one day, bring them coffee.

[00:14:56] Garrett Jestice: Mm-hmm.

[00:14:57] Violet Mendez: Oh my goodness.

When you bring them coffee one morning, they are going to be blown away. And it’s that simple stuff and that smile. You’re gonna have that great employee happy the entire day, and then they come back the next day, you know, wanting to work for you and doing things for you.

[00:15:13] Garrett Jestice: Yeah, I love those ideas because I think that they’re just ways to show that appreciation, right? It starts with just saying thank you and doing it consistently, but when you really mean it, you’re looking for other ways to show it, show that you mean it, and all of those ways are ways to really show your employees that you care.

And when you do that, again, they, they’re much more motivated to want to come to work and do their best and be honest and, and be a great employee also.

[00:15:40] Violet Mendez: It is, and, and also now with, with, social media and, and reviews, you can get a good review or you can get a bad review.

[00:15:48] Garrett Jestice: Mm-hmm.

[00:15:48] Violet Mendez: So, and, and candidates look at that, whether it’s Indeed reviews or LinkedIn or Google Review, whatever it is, they will talk about the company, even if they haven’t left yet, they will talk about the company, right.

When you do things like that, those are things that are going to, to show up. I mean, I had a, a welcome, like when new hires come in, just a little welcome board, bullets and had their name on it and they said, Ma’am, can I please interrupt an orientation? Can I Snapchat this please? Because my name is on that board in the lobby. And she was just super excited and it, you know, so just things like that. And of course we want, you know, we want that promotion too, right? We want that acknowledge acknowledgement also. So just small things like that. And again, it, it, it benefits the employer much more when we do these things.

[00:16:37] Garrett Jestice: I love it. Violet, this has been such a great conversation. I really appreciate you taking the time to be with us today and share some of your insights on this topic, some of your experiences. You know, as we wrap up here, if there are listeners out there who want to get connected with you and, and maybe they have questions about this topic, maybe they just want to connect with you and, and pick your brain on something else.

What’s the best way for them to do that?

[00:17:01] Violet Mendez: Through LinkedIn, just the way you connected with me. Absolutely.

[00:17:05] Garrett Jestice: Perfect. Well, we will drop the, the, link to Violet’s, LinkedIn, profile in the show notes. You can find it there. So come and look and connect with her for sure. So Violet, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you again so much for being with us today. Hope you have a great rest of the day.

[00:17:21] Violet Mendez: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been an honor.

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