Employee Appreciation: How do you show your employees that you appreciate them, beyond the old school printed “Employee of the Month” certificate? One key is through real time communication– rather than waiting once a quarter to thank your employees, show them that you are aware of the work that they do and the skills they bring to your business as successes happen.
Employee recognition is less of a “nice to have” and more of a “must do” than many employers think. Rather than viewing employee recognition as a way for leaders to pat themselves on their own backs or as a gift to employees, employers need to reframe their approach to understand recognition as a business strategy that is essential in building a healthy, productive, and sustainable workforce.
Leading a team can be one of the biggest day-to-day challenges of managers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. Beyond the many intricacies of interpersonal relationships that affect any working team, there is an added layer of difficulties with regards to the employer-employee/leader-team member dynamic—recognition.
Valuing your employees as team members and as integral members of your small business operations is a key to entrepreneurial success. Employee recognition and appreciation is a powerful tool to promote healthy coworker and team relationships, reinforce productive and creative behaviors, celebrate success milestones, and to ensure that you retain good employees
Employee appreciation is a broad term that can relate to salary and benefits, recognition, and celebration of successes and teambuilding. It goes beyond the surface level of gratitude, like a casual thank you or good job, and should be reflective of your company culture and values at its heart.
Benefits that employees really want
Perhaps one of the most obvious ways you can appreciate and recognize your employees is through their salary and benefits packages. Money talks, and appropriate compensation goes a long way in saying thank you. While overt exchanges of cash for a project completion or a well written report are murky, ensuring that you pay your employees a competitive wage and offer incentives, such as health care and stock options, that appeal to them is foundational in ensuring that your employees feel appreciated and that they are respected.
Quarterly or year-end bonuses are a popular way to incentivize employees and to celebrate a successful year or timeframe. While this old school option may feel outdated, there are ways to update the tradition without losing sight of the goal. Including a handwritten note thanking your employee for their contribution to the team during the year, giving the bonus during a more unexpected time than the company holiday party, or offering it as a stock option, are all relatively easy to implement options.
Thoughtful and effective communication
Awareness of other’s contributions to a team and then acting in purposeful ways to reward and recognize talent is a hallmark of a good leader. Being thoughtful in the way that you thank your employees can mean a few different things. It includes an awareness of personality type and working style, as well as sensitivity around the issue. Different people want to be appreciated and recognized in different ways.
What works for one employee may not be meaningful to another or fail to appropriately recognize their success. For instance, one employee might find it appropriate to mention their hard work and collaboration on a project in front of the collective team, while another might find that embarrassing and will shy away. It truly does depend on the individual, and it also requires you to assess the situation and determine what sort of gesture is appropriate both for the person and for the situation.
Humility and teamwork
Being thoughtful about the way that you communicate your appreciation requires a degree of humility about your own role as an entrepreneur or business owner. While it may be easy to think that by paying your employees competitive wages or by thanking them for going above and beyond their responsibilities that you are doing them a favor, you run the risk of entirely missing the point of employee appreciation.
The employee and employer relationship is bilateral, not one way. Your employee is doing as much of a service to you by choosing to work, and do good work, in pursuit of your business’s vision as you are by hiring them and financially providing a livelihood. You are all part of the same team, and every team member, provided that they are the right fit, brings something integral to the table. Working together as a unit requires that each member feels valued in their role and supported as they work together towards goals.
Timing is everything
As with many things in business, timing is key with respect to employee appreciation. Many find that smaller, but timely appreciation gestures are more satisfying or perceived as genuine over larger, but later thanks. Speaking personally, I’d rather be thanked or shown appreciation at the close of the project over a gesture that takes place six or ten months after the fact. Of course, both are still appreciated and meaningful in their own ways, but there is something to be said about timely delivery that heightens one’s gratitude. Saving the large gestures, such as a yearend bonus, for later are warranted, but consider smaller gestures that respond to the task at hand as a more day-to-day option.
Showing your appreciation for your employee and recognizing their contributions should be a thoughtful and strategic gesture that is part of your culture and way of doing business. Employees that feel appreciated and valued are more likely to be productive and engaged in the workplace, and they are less likely to jump ship. As a leader, your role in the workplace should be as a representative of your company culture, and integrating appropriate recognition into that structure will go a long way in ensuring that your business lives its values.