Heard in the Lunchroom®: Get Employee Appreciation Right

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By Paul Love August 25, 2017 at 9:23pm

Robert Half's Heard in the Lunchroom® blog series offers real-world advice on navigating tricky topics that can impact your professional happiness and career prospects.

How you thank your employees for their hard work matters. Read on to see if you need to rethink your approach to employee appreciation.

Remember back to elementary school, when it was a big deal to get a great grade on a paper followed by that coveted smiley face from your teacher? People don’t outgrow their desire to receive praise from those around them, particularly those familiar with their work.

Are you giving employees and coworkers that smiley face kind of joy or a big letdown? Their answers might be different than you think.

Yes, we’re talking about you!

You may be thinking, “Hey, I rock at showing employee appreciation! No worries here.” Well, think again, because there’s a chance your employees don’t believe that’s true.

In an OfficeTeam survey, nearly nine in 10 (89 percent) senior managers said their company is effective at recognizing employees. But not all workers agreed: Three in 10 (30 percent) felt their firm isn't good at showing staff appreciation.

What’s more foreboding, more than half of workers polled said it was at least somewhat likely they would leave their jobs if they didn't feel appreciated.

Regularly praising your staff for a job well-done can do wonders in terms of employee morale and retention, but just handing out compliments may not be the way to go. Even small gestures, such as a handwritten thank-you card or cupcakes can make a difference in how an employee feels about your company’s recognition habits.

Mistakes to avoid

A colleague just came through for you in a big way and you want to thank them for their hard work. Showing gratitude is great, but it’s easy to goof it up and send the wrong message.

  • Get your facts straight. Nothing’s more embarrassing than addressing a card to the wrong person or thanking them for something they didn’t even do.

  • Don’t overwhelm them. Recognition doesn’t need to be extravagant to be effective. Small, everyday things like saying “thank you” or giving credit for good ideas can be powerful.

  • Don’t underwhelm them. The form of recognition should fit the degree of achievement. Giving someone a stapler for their five-year anniversary, for example, sends the message the milestone is insignificant.

  • Be specific. Just telling a coworker that they did a good job is too generic. Properly give thanks by tying acknowledgments back to specific actions so people know exactly what they did well.

  • Recognize all involved. Although some workers naturally gravitate toward the limelight, don’t forget to also celebrate unsung heroes who help behind the scenes.

Shake it up

Don't be afraid to get creative when it comes to saying thanks! Here are some simple ways managers can make an impact with employee appreciation:

  • Award them. Nominate staff for external or internal accolades, such as “employee of the month.” Company awards may come with enviable prizes like a reserved parking space.

  • Encourage professional development. Reimburse employees for participation in industry associations and conferences. Also consider giving them subscriptions to work-related publications.

  • Give a little. Everyone appreciates tangible awards. But don’t worry, that doesn’t mean your staff appreciation efforts have to break the bank to make an impact. Rewards such as a gift card to the local coffee shop go a long way and cost relatively little.

  • Look into monetary rewards. Few things have a bigger impact than extra pay. So provide spot bonuses, raises and other financial rewards if budgets allow. You may decide to save this type of employee recognition for only the most exceptional of achievements, so establish criteria that separate outstanding effort from other activities.

  • Get feedback. You may think your staff appreciation program is awesome. But is your team among the 30 percent mentioned above? If you can’t answer this question — or, worse, know that you and the group aren’t on the same page — your efforts won’t have the intended effect.

In competitive markets, good employees often have ample occasion to find new and potentially better opportunities. Giving them due recognition and making them feel appreciated can sometime make the difference between them sticking with you or joining forces with your competition.

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