How to Get Employee Appreciation Right

By Robert Half on September 2, 2020 at 2:30pm

Remember back in elementary school, when it was a big deal to get a good grade on a test paper with a coveted smiley face from your teacher? People don’t outgrow their desire to receive praise from on high, including from their boss.

Are you giving your employees that smiley face kind of joy? And are you aware how your thank-you’s affect your ability to retain them?

Just because many of your team members may now be working remotely doesn’t mean you can let your recognition efforts slip. In fact, sharing employee appreciation may be more important now than ever. Acknowledging your team members’ hard work under today’s unusual circumstances can boost spirits and help instill loyalty. And retaining them may depend on hearing from you how the quality of their work is a key factor in the company’s ability to thrive and be resilient.

Does this mean you need to rethink your approach to employee appreciation? Maybe. Because this is a time when companies are closely watching expenditures, here are some ways to celebrate your staff regardless of your budget. Then, let’s take a look at some common employee recognition faux pas to avoid.

Show them that you mean it

Put your praise in writing. Verbal praise is important, but documenting great work in writing is even better. A thank-you note — especially one that the company’s leaders add their own congratulations to — can serve as a motivating message that an employee can keep and look back on.

Sing their praises widely. While large, celebratory events and even in-person staff meetings may no longer be possible as avenues to recognize employees for their accomplishments in front of their colleagues and managers, you can still use video conferencing. Don’t overlook it. Announcing key achievements can be part of a regular virtual meeting, of course, but don’t underestimate the value of also scheduling a special online event to salute major successes.

Broaden the recognition. Consider calling out everyone who played a role in a big win. This reinforces the benefits of collaboration.

Consider monetary rewards. Few things have a larger impact than extra pay. As you recognize staff, also explore the possibility of providing spot bonuses, raises and other financial rewards if budgets allow.

Employee appreciation mistakes to avoid

Don’t underwhelm them. The form of recognition should fit the degree of achievement. Giving a strong performer a $5 gift card for their five-year anniversary, for example, doesn’t exactly send the message that you view the milestone as significant.

Don’t let smaller budgets lead you to skip appreciation. Recognition doesn’t always need to be extravagant to be effective. Frequently saying “thank you” or giving credit for good ideas can be a powerful motivator.

Don’t be vague. Just telling someone that they did a “nice job” is too generic. Properly give thanks by tying acknowledgments back to specific actions so the employee knows exactly what they did well.

Don’t let one star outshine the rest. Although some workers naturally gravitate toward the limelight, don’t forget to celebrate the unsung heroes who made significant contributions behind the scenes. Nothing is worse than thanking an employee for something someone else did. People will take note.

Skilled professionals are in demand in any job market. Don’t lose a top performer to a competing business because you failed to make them feel appreciated.

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