Six Ways to Create a Culture of Appreciation

Whether it’s a teacher slapping a “Well done!” sticker on our spelling test or a school cheer (“2-4-6-8, Who do we appreciate?”), it’s a great feeling to have your hard work recognized.

Our need for praise, or having our efforts appreciated, is not something we outgrow. However, often times, when we get out into the work world praise for a job well done, seems much harder to come by.

Don’t forget a person’s deepest emotional need is to feel appreciated.    -H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Consider this, a study about appreciation in the workplace revealed that only 34% of supervisors can name the strengths of their employees and only 32% of supervisors are having meaningful discussions with their employees about their strengths. However, of the employees who have had a meaningful discussion with their manager about their strengths, 78% feel their work is making a difference, which results in a lower turnover.

The bottom line: 1) Appreciation is a powerful tool. 2) Feeling appreciative without action is meaningless.

Before your mind starts reeling about how thanking your employees is going to be an expensive exercise, here’s some awesome news. The best way to express appreciation will not cost you a dime.

According to a survey of 100,000 employees, nearly half (47-percent) cited receiving verbal praise as their primary language of appreciation.

That’s right. Your team members don’t require a gift card to an expensive steakhouse. They need you to tell them they are doing a good job.

When gratitude is expressed in meaningful ways, the positive impact overflows to your organization through improved relationships with colleagues and managers, a decrease in absenteeism, higher employee engagement and improved customer satisfaction ratings.

Conversely, a lack of appreciation can leave your employees feeling disengaged, or even resentful. This isn’t about a one-time act. This is about creating a culture where employees feel valued for their contributions, big and small, to your business.

Here are six tips for upping your appreciation game at work:

  1. Spot the good and be sincere. This is more than a strategy or a recognition program. We’re talking about genuine appreciation that comes from pausing and thinking about all of the things people in your organization do on a daily basis to make your company tick. A restaurant owner doesn’t have a business without people washing dishes or serving tables. Look for the good around you and call it out.
  2. Speak it or spell it. Verbal compliments can come in the form of a handwritten note, a one-on-one conversation, a group email or a team huddle. (We often give shout-outs on Slack, our group messaging app. In fact, we have a channel dedicated just to this!) Don’t underestimate the power of words. You never know when someone needs to hear more than anything that they’re getting something right.
  3. Make some noise. At Whirks, we have an old-school, boxing bell mounted in a central location in our office. We gather our team around and ring the bell to recognize an employee that has gone above and beyond. It’s borderline obnoxious but that’s what makes it’s fun and memorable. Cowbells, kazoos, and confetti are also options.
  4. The gift of time. Do you have an employee who’s been burning the midnight oil or picking up shifts for colleagues? How about giving them an extra day off? It shows that you see that they’ve sacrificed sleep or time with their family to be a team player.
  5. Group participation. Appreciation doesn’t have to be reserved for managers. Remember this is about a culture. Put up a whiteboard in a high-traffic area in your business where team members can note things and colleagues they are thankful for. Wipe the clean slate on Friday afternoons and find new things to be grateful for.
  6. The $100 handshake. Pick a random, unexpected moment, approach an employee, communicate something they’ve done really well and shake their hand or give them a pat on the back with a $100 bill. (This might be a case where it’s truly more fun to give than receive!) The element of surprise is important. If you only recognize your employees for meeting specific goals it feels more like a transaction than genuine appreciation.

In Your Corner

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