Employee recognition has become an HR buzz phrase these days. Conduct a quick search on Google for “Employee Rewards and Recognition,” and you will be bombarded with countless articles instructing you, the owner/manager, on how to properly reward and recognize employees…a “prescription” of activities that is a means to a hopeful end of happy and thankful employees.
What if, instead, we as leaders shifted our mindset and efforts to building a Culture of Appreciation – something beyond the employee of the month plaque or the obligatory Starbuck’s gift card…something that is lasting and impactful?
Appreciation is a fundamental human need. It is founded in our desire to connect to others and feel valued for our unique contributions in our life and in our work. Sadly, it is at work (where we spend most of our time) that many of us feel the most unappreciated and/or totally neglected. As leaders, we must remind ourselves that our greatest asset is our employees, and we should make daily efforts to express our appreciation.
A Culture of Appreciation in Action
At first the task may seem daunting and, perhaps, not worth the effort. You may think, “I don’t have the time or resources to set up and maintain an employee recognition program.”
But I will tell you that in my 10+ years in HR, it is the little things. It is the “I appreciate you” or “great work” email that will put a smile on their faces. Or the one-on-one time spent getting to know your employees that will make them feel appreciated. So, you ask, what does a Culture of Appreciation look like?
- Real-time thank you’s for work done well, on time or accurately
- Commendation for solving a problem
- Celebration of milestones and achievements – promotions, work anniversaries, completions of projects, attainments of goals
- Discussion of progress and praise of team commitment
- Recognition for going the extra mile/contributing to the whole – assisting/mentoring a team member, working extra hours to ensure successful completion of a project, performing a task/duty outside of their job description
- Team members thanking and recognizing each other for their contributions
How to Effectively Recognize Your Employees
The most important thing to keep in mind is to be intentional and authentic. If you are merely “going through the motions” in hopes of creating a happy workplace, you will be sorely disappointed with the results (and so will your employees). In order to effectively/appropriately recognize your employees, you should:
- Make it relevant – recognition/praise should be tied to a desired work outcome or behavior.
- Personalize it – each employee has different preferences and interests (i.e. not all employees enjoy or can attend after-work activities, and some employees are uncomfortable in the spotlight).
- Be specific – state exactly what they did that is being recognized.
- Be descriptive – tell them how hard-working, detail-oriented, team-focused or just plain awesome they are!
- Highlight the impact – tell them why it matters.
So, why DOES it matter? Because employee recognition:
- Promotes engagement – employees feel valued, trust is built and two-way communication is encouraged.
- Boosts performance – employees feel a stronger connection/commitment to their work, which translates into a boost in overall productivity.
- Encourages positive workplace behaviors – by praising desired behaviors, behaviors translate to success and become workplace norms.
- Builds loyalty – by improving workplace morale, employees feel a sense of unity, and turnover is reduced.
You will find that with consistent practice, appreciation will become a new language both for you and your employees. Remember that true leaders serve their employees first, so begin serving your employees by building a Culture of Appreciation.