When was the last time you showed gratitude in the workplace?
As we go about our work in the office, it's easy to forget to appreciate the hard work done by employees or coworkers. That's why March 6th is Employee Appreciation Day, a day set aside to remind managers, and even employees, to recognise others’ work and show appreciation.
But while it is great to have a day to show your appreciation for your staff, it is much more effective to build appreciation into your day-to-day. Having that practice of gratitude in your company isn't just heartwarming, it can also boost your business. Employees with the opportunity to give recognition in the last month are more than twice as likely to be highly engaged than employees who haven't.
Here are 8 tips to doing employee appreciation right, and make it last.
1. Find out how they like to be shown recognition ahead of time.
Just like people have different backgrounds, interests, and food preferences, they also have different preferences in how they like to be appreciated. According to Gary Chapman, there are 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Physical Touch, and Tangible Gifts. While someone may respond best to verbal affirmation (“You did a great job on this report, keep up the good work!”), others may prefer a tangible gift (“For hitting all your targets this quarter, here’s a voucher to your favourite local restaurant”).
To suss out the different ways people like being appreciated, ask them ahead of time and take note of it for the next job well done. Using a questionnaire with pre-set answers can get employees’ input, while filtering out unrealistic options.
What appeals to you most as a reward for hitting your targets?
- An announcement to the team that you did a good job
- Getting a voucher for Restaurant X
- Getting a half-day off
- Getting a voucher for a fitness class
2. Be specific about the actions you are praising.
If verbal affirmation is your chosen appreciation language, be specific. Specificity can help the praise come across more authentic, and also provide a source of positive feedback. This allows employees to understand the kind of work that is appreciated in this work environment through the lens of your words. In turn, they will feel encouraged to repeat those same behaviours in the future.
For instance, instead of saying: “Good job with the project”, try “Good job managing all the stakeholders in that project. The way you managed expectations and got everyone’s buy-in was impressive.”
Now, wouldn’t you want to be praised the same way too?
3. Build a culture around celebrating small wins.
While it is intuitive to celebrate big wins and goals met, it can be as important for employee morale to celebrate small day-to-day wins. This is because the sense of progress is one of the greatest motivators in the workplace. The more frequently you feel this progress, the more likely you will be creatively productive.
Small wins could be anything from completing a series of small tasks, a call that went well, or even personal development.
4. Don’t just focus on targets, also celebrate personal growth
Work isn’t just about meeting targets. It's also about growth. While celebrating meeting targets is important, also take the time to celebrate personal growth. If someone’s skills in an area has improved, or they have gotten through a tough time well, recognise it.
Acknowledge the quiet strength of your employees, either privately or publicly, can help make their effort seem worthwhile. Making a point of personal growth could also bring more meaning to their jobs by affirming a feeling of progress and showing that managers - and in extension the company - truly care.
5. Get everyone involved in the activity.
Employee appreciation isn’t just top-down. Making appreciation a group effort will encourage everyone to recognise other’s efforts regularly, instead of putting the onus on managers to do so. Additionally, it will help the workplace feel more like a community and build a sense of camaraderie between coworkers.
One way to do it is to set up a nomination system, where you can show appreciation for others in the form of little notes. This could be done through a post-it wall or an interactive voting system. The Pigeonhole Live team has done this before, with very fun results.
6. Build traditions.
Ringing a bell when a sale is made is a common sales team tradition, and for good reason. It reminds everyone that every sale, big or small, is important. For other teams, it could be giving high fives to everyone in the team when a product goes live or taking a shot when a marketing campaign goes live (given your workplace has a drinking culture).
Building a tradition gives your team something to look forward too, and ingrains the celebration of regular milestones into your company culture.
7. Be mindful of appreciating everyone equally
It’s human nature to prefer working with some people as compared to others. But when it leads to preferential treatment of employees, it can create a hostile environment at work. When thinking about showing appreciation to employees, this could be a good time to think about the employees that don’t often receive praise. They may be the silent workers of the group or support staff.
Once you’ve identified those in the company who are not often appreciated, take extra effort to show that they’re doing a good job and that their work matters.
8. Give employees a voice in your team
Rewards and treats are great now and then, but genuine appreciation for employees shows in day-to-day interactions. So instead of the typical gift cards or vouchers, give them autonomy in work-related matters. If your top performer regularly gets recognised for their work, but never gets to choose the projects they work on, the recognition will fall flat.
Taking action on concerns raised or listening and acting on feedback will go a long way in engaging your employees. By giving them a voice, and a choice, you show them that their opinions and their choices matter.
9. Reward good work with opportunities for career growth.
Managers often fall into the trap of rewarding good work with more work. Understandably, you would want your best people on as many important projects as possible. However, this could lead the best people to reach burnout. Instead of rewarding good work with more work, instead explore career opportunities with them. This could be L&D opportunities, a clear roadmap to promotion, or even resources for a project that they’re passionate about.
Career progression is something that appeals to most anyone, but may look different to everyone, so be sure to have a conversation about what that looks like first.
10. Say Thank You
Don’t underestimate the importance of these two simple words. A genuine thank you from a manager, simply appreciating a good day’s work, can go a long way. It is one of the simplest and easiest ways to show appreciation. By thanking someone, you not only say “I recognise the effort you put in”, it also delivers a degree of sincerity and creates a connection.
Work your “thank yous” into your company culture. Say it at every project retrospective. Say it at the end of each major, or minor, milestone. Heck, say it at the end of a challenging day. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t appreciate it. Make appreciation a habit, and not just another special occasion.