You walk down the hallway at work and just as you are about to greet a co-worker, he instead stares at the floor as he passes by. Later on, you realize in a meeting that a “random” co-worker you smile at each day actually provides your most important reports. So you finally break the ice and introduce yourself. Then at a promotion reception in your honor, an old co-worker congratulates you but you can’t for the life of you remember his name. You fumble for a cliché nickname, leaving both of you embarrassed.
None if this would have happened if your organization simply had name tags.
What’s in a Name?
Dale Carnegie, author of the classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, believed so strongly in the importance of knowing other people’s names that he devoted an entire chapter to the subject. “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” According to Carnegie, remembering and using a person’s name works magic with royalty and commoner alike since a name makes a person unique among all others. Not surprisingly, Carnegie’s 100 year-old capstone course still begins with a lengthy exercise devoted to helping people remember the names of others.
Herein Lies the Problem
Unfortunately, most people are not astute at remembering names, myself included. On my first day of college, I must have met over 200 new people. I have been terrible at remembering names ever since (even after taking the Carnegie course!). In fact, as I write, I recall the faces and personal facts of former classmates and colleagues and still struggle to place their names. If I run into them tomorrow, I’ll be in trouble!
The Benefits of Name Tags
So what difference do name tags make? They can’t force people to remember, can they? Let’s take a look at the benefits.
When people wear name tags, it’s easier to learn their names. No one needs to remember because the names stand right in the open. In fact, people are much more likely to remember them since they have a constant match between name and face.
When people know each other’s names, they are more likely to converse. It’s embarrassing when you can’t remember a name. It is much easier to break the barrier of unfamiliarity when a name is visible.
When people converse, they are more likely to collaborate and work together. It’s easy and enjoyable to work with someone you are already familiar with. Military members have their names sewn onto their uniforms. Is it any wonder “camaraderie” is one of the main retention factors?
When people collaborate and work together, they are more likely to become friends. When people collaborate, they share. They share information, interests, and ultimately, respect. And respect is often reciprocal.
When people become friends, they are more likely to be engaged, create safe work environments and solve the organization’s problems. It’s simple: people care about their friends’ safety. They may not stay late to help just anyone, but they will sacrifice for a friend.
If those benefits aren’t enough, Gallup author Tom Rath reported in his book Vital Friends that employees who share friendships at work are more likely to: engage customers, get more done in less time, have fun on the job, innovate and share new ideas, feel informed, know that their opinions count and have the opportunity to focus on their strengths each day. (Rath also authored the book StrengthsFinder 2.0). It all starts with knowing each other’s names.
But Aren’t There Other Ways?
Yes, there are plenty of other ways to get people to work together. From open work spaces to team building events, organizations go to great lengths to launch and measure new approaches. But name tags are cheap and simple because they immediately match a name with a face. Your organization should also have an online directory, but even that takes an extra degree of effort both to produce and use.
“But we already have security badges with our pictures on them,” some argue. Yes, everyone should have a security badge to get into the building, but not for the purpose of collaboration. Half the time they are flipped over. More importantly, people usually clip them to their belts, which means you’d have to focus on someone’s crotch area to decipher their name. Most people can intuit the negative results of that strategy.
So Where Do I Get Name Tags?
Here are three places to custom order a variety of nametags you can use for your entire organization:
So what are you waiting for?
Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, speaker, and thought leader. To learn more about his services, visit NathanMagnuson.com/consulting or follow him on Twitter.