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Employee Appreciation In A Transitioning Workplace

Employee appreciation can never be overstated  

Neither can it be overemphasized as an imperative tool of employee engagement.  

Loud and proud appreciation was a life-saver when work-from-home arrangements were foisted on so many so fast last year; a pick-‘m-up and dust-‘m-off way of conveying thanks to employees for carrying on the good work of their organizations despite trying times. Many of us adjusted management approaches, saw how offsite working actually worked and started questioning the cost and value of keeping a real estate footprint 

The belief that remote work was here to stay was accepted at face value by a lot of people. And a lot of those same people moved to roomier spaces and places hours away from their employer’s work facilities. Commuting became a concept relegated to the past.  

But now big tech among others are talking about implementing a new hybrid model, a blend of remote and onsite work. It’s a shift that’s going to introduce a whole new set of pressures. And it’s going to require just as much if not more conscientious expressions of appreciation as employees are required yet again, to accommodate another suite of different work/life arrangements. 

For MyCorporation CEO Deborah Sweeneysuddenly going fully remote to eventually returning was a pre-pandemic liveexperience when her office had to be evacuated during the California wildfires of 2018. The importance of leadership’s understanding of each specific employee’s situation was critical. “Reach out and connect with each staff member on a regular basis to see how they are doing,” Sweeney advises today. “The simplest way to show your appreciation for your team is to say ‘thank you‘ often. Tell your team members that they are awesome in emails sent directly to that specific team member and publicly in company-wide messages.” 

employee appreciation - women with gift

Create an Emotional Connection 

Bottom line is, appreciation is an innate human need. It makes us feel good. Think of the beam that radiates from a child when their “artwork” is proudly hung on the fridge.  

The best forms of appreciation should make employees feel” good tooconveying that they belong, that they’re respected, they’re valued, they matter. 

According to employee recognition authorities, 2021 is all about personalization, which makes sense given where we’ve been and where we appear to be headed. 

Leaders who get to know their team members as people with lives outside of the workplace are leaders who will parlay challenges of change into stories of success. They’re the people who, by checking-in on a personal and professional level help garner loyalty, motivate through empowerment, support mental health and wellbeing, build camaraderie and ultimately, inspire a spirit of collaboration. When recognition and appreciation of individual and team accomplishments are a strategic component of an organization’s corporate culture, similar outcomes result.   

  • Research shows that frequent acts of appreciation can increase employees’ confidence in the company vision and leadership by 76% 
  • Employee engagement strengths
  • Attraction and retention rates improve
    • 63% of employees who are recognized are very unlikely to look for a new job

Whether it’s offering a special employee appreciation day off to a deserving employee (or team member who clearly needs a break) or boasting about an individual’s accomplishments at team meeting there are all kinds of ways to expresrecognition and gratitude. The following examples are some of the simplest ways to help employees feel connected and personally appreciated, especially as we move through these shifting times. 

When you see it, say it—don’t wait to acknowledge a person’s efforts or accomplishments. 

Make it a daily part of work life. In private or out in the open, who have you thanked or appreciated today?  

Promote a daily appreciation mindset across the organization. Peer-to-peer recognition is one of the most powerful forms of recognition. It’s been shown to have more of an impact on financial results than manager-only recognition (by nearly 36%). Empower everyone to express and share kudos about their coworkers, colleagues and managers. 

Recognize and celebrate work anniversaries. If it’s possible, award a preferred parking space for a set period of time.

employee appreciation - thank you card

Consider experiential rewards that speak to the individual. It’s easier to personalize when you know your people well. A single parent might appreciate a babysitting coupon for some self-pampering time out. A foodie might welcome a private cooking lesson from a restauranteur of their choice. 

Be aware as Paul Zak points out in his Harvard Business Review article: The Neuroscience of Trust  recognizing an employee for a talent is one thing, asking the same employee for help on a high-profile project is another. The latter provides recognition and shows employees you value their talents enough to put them to good use; it also demonstrates trust as you give employees leadership positions on high-profile projects. 

Every now and again, put your recognition in writing and leave thoughtful note on an employee’s desk or send a card by snail mail.  If you’re at a loss for words, 100+ employee appreciation messages can be found here. 

Lastly but importantly survey your employees to find out what forms of appreciation resonate most. Not everyone is motivated by the same things. In a notoriously tough employee engagement environment like higher education, where only 34% of faculty and staff are engaged in their jobs …setting, rewards and incentives need to strike a balance between:

  • extrinsic motivatorsprimarily monetary (and inherently preferred by employees responsible for delivering professional support services) and
  • intrinsic nonfinancial motivators like autonomy, a sense of control over their work and a recognition of the meaningfulness of their work (preferred by academics). 

It doesn’t hurt to check-in, to ask. What you learn can be applied towards making a smoother transition to whatever new hybrid work model lies ahead for your organization.

Additional Resources

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