As 2015 comes to a close and you look towards next year, you may reflect on everything you have to be grateful for. Research shows that there is a psychological benefit accrued to people who take time to appreciate the good things in their lives. They are happier! Appreciation is powerful and has another more business-focused dimension as well. Retailers who shift their focus, and look at ways to pro-actively show employees that they are appreciated, find that their people become more empowered, happier with their jobs and loyal.
It is likely that right now you are up to your eyeballs in arranging holiday parties, selecting gifts and handing out bonuses in an effort to recognize the contributions of your employees and team members. For many organizations, these are wonderful time-honored traditions, but this is also a great opportunity to consider whether you are showing appreciation all year around.
Studies show that when people leave their jobs, it has less to do with salary or vacation pay, and significantly more to do with whether or not they feel appreciated. All of us have baseline needs that have to be met, but beyond that we also have a need to be recognized for our hard work and the contributions we make. Although it is a great start, there is much more to showing appreciation than a simple “Thank you”.
A critical part of running a successful business is to foster a healthy organizational culture. Sometimes we can get frustrated thinking “Why do I have to make a fuss when I am paying these people to do a job?”
It is important to remember that showing appreciation is not just about warm fuzzy feelings. It is a sound business practice. It is important to recognize the many benefits of practicing recognition and its value, as an ongoing process. After all, without your employees, your business would not be where it is today. There are many benefits to consciously practicing recognition in your stores. One major benefit is retention. You save money by not having to recruit, hire, train and deal with lost productivity while a new hire gets up to speed. Another benefit is the positive ripple effect expressing appreciation has on the organization. When other team members observe leadership expressing appreciation, it creates goodwill toward the organization as a whole. It also serves to inspire others to seek out opportunities to work toward similar recognition and appreciation.
Top performers often suffer from what I call the “A-Student syndrome”. This involves situations in which your good, dependable team members turn in outstanding performances on a regular basis. So steady in fact that you come to expect it from them and can forget to recognize them for the exceptional nature of the work. Some team members may need less encouragement as they are more intrinsically motivated, but for others it is a critical component of overall job satisfaction. Either way, the benefits are derived from being aware of the value of each employee, and letting them know how much they are valued.
Like anything that needs to be done on an ongoing basis, implementing a system for recognizing and delivering appreciation is time well spent. It does not have to be complicated. It may be as simple as determining:
- How often you want to recognize employees (monthly? quarterly?).
- Determining who you want involved in deciding who will be recognized, the criteria for recognition (meeting sales goals, lack of absenteeism?).
- What the recognition will look like.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Most experts agree that rewards are most effective when they are tailored to the individual being recognized. This doesn’t mean you have to re-invent the wheel each time. If you have time and resources, that is the ideal, but if not, choose three or four tangible forms of rewards and offer them as best-suited to the team member being recognized. Tangible rewards should be accompanied by very specific dialogue recognizing the behavior, practice or achievement you are recognizing. In other words, blanket statements like “To John—for a job well done” should be avoided. Instead, include specifics, for example, “To John, Thank you for your exceptional salesmanship and for exceeding goals each month. Your efforts are appreciated and help the company as a whole reach our goals.” Whether it was a great month of sales performance, or a highly successful contribution to a team project, let the team member know exactly what it is that you appreciate.
How do we show appreciation? The basic idea is to simply say, “Thank you”, but there are additional ways to be sure how you choose to show appreciation resonates with the employee receiving it. It takes time and effort, but getting to know what motivates and is meaningful to each employee will result in happier, more productive, loyal employees.
What type of recognition is going to be most meaningful? Below are just a few ways to express appreciation to team members.
Monetary Rewards. We would be hard pressed to find someone who did not appreciate a financial reward for a job well done. If you choose this method, however, it is best accompanied with a quick note of thanks. Cash alone can come across as cold or impersonal.
Time Off. This is not an easy one to pull off but if scheduling allows, a well-timed day or half-day out of the store can be a welcome reward. This is especially meaningful if you can time it to correspond to a special event in the team member’s personal life.
Team members may respond to awards or public recognition. Consider organizing an event centered on employee appreciation.
Gifts are a great way to show appreciation. The important thing to consider is to give a gift that is individualized, not just a generic offering that the employee might be tempted to re-gift. Choose gifts that reflect employee needs and interests. Maybe an accessory from the showroom floor that he or she is fond of?
This is the simplest and most cost-effective way to show appreciation. Take a minute, sit down with the employee and use specific examples to individualize any praise that is delivered.
However, remember that delivering employee thanks can be as imaginative as you want to make it. In a recent article in Business News Daily, Brittany Helmrich compiled a list of rich and creative ways to express appreciation from some top executives and business owners.
7 Creative Ways to Express Appreciation
1. Let employees reward one another.
“[Put] the power of recognition and reward in their hands. I use apps and programs like YouEarnedIt to give my employees the power to give each other kudos for good work done. I let my team members choose their reward, too, because not everyone wants a cash bonus or a gift card.” – Darius Mirshahzadeh, CEO, Endeavor America Loan Services.
2. Spend time with your employees.
“Employees feel recognized when their boss tells them thank you, gives them a bonus, etc., but they feel most valued when their boss invites them to lunch, takes time to have a coffee with them or even takes time to thoroughly review and discuss whatever it is that person has developed.” – Suz O’Donnell, director of client services and executive coach, Thrivatize
3. Offer employees a platform.
“It could be done as a request to share. When we let people know we value what they have to offer by asking if they’d share their story, tips, methods, etc. with others, it provides validation to them that they do have something of value to offer, and it boosts their self-confidence and self-esteem in the process. This doesn’t mean we add a training function to their currently overloaded job, but it could be sharing at a team or organizational event, award ceremony or even in a newsletter.” – Sandy Geroux, CEO, WOWplace International
4. Let employees make important decisions.
“Let them make decisions that matter and can impact the company. Verbal appreciation is important, and bonuses or other perks are appreciated, but ultimately, showing someone that you trust their opinion and expertise is far more valuable.” – Drew Thomas, chief creative officer, Brolik [Employees Motivated By Rewards, Not Penalties ]
5. Give them little surprises; they go a long way.
“My favorite forms of appreciation include unexpected treats like group lunches or a shortened workday. I also like activities that add value for both the individual and the company, including team-building challenges and fully paid continuing-education courses.” – Kelsey Libert, vice president of marketing, Fractl
6. Encourage employees to grow.
“The best way to show appreciation for your employees [and] people you work with is to give them opportunities to grow and stretch themselves, showing that you believe in them to do well in such opportunities.” – Philip Blackett, founder and CEO, Magnetic Interviewing
7. Take it out of the office.
“Off-site events are a great way to reward hard-working employees and create a culture of gratitude that is crucial to showing employees just how much they’re appreciated. Scheduling fun, engaging activities outside of work hours — such as cooking classes, sand-castle building or sporting events — produces happier employees who feel valued and loved. While in-office perks are great, prove to employees they’re worth the extra investment by showing appreciation outside the office environment.” – Nicole Lavin, vice president of partnerships, Kapow Events
To see the full list of appreciation strategies described in Business News Daily, please see Ms. Helmrich’s article at: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8152-employee-appreciation-tips.html
There are many ways to express appreciation. It is critical to make it a consistent practice, tailored to each individual. Most importantly, that the expression of appreciation is an extension of a healthy organizational culture reflecting an understanding of the many benefits of developing and retaining valuable team members. Quite simply, the gift of giving will get you employee loyalty year-round.