Loyal employees who believe in your company and are willing to work hard for your business are hard to come by. And if you have loyal employees, your primary goal is to keep them happy, engaged, and committed.
One way to do this is by showing them you appreciate them on a regular basis.
Appreciation vs. Recognition
We often use the words appreciation and recognition interchangeably, but they’re actually distinct words with separate meanings. Both are important; however, you shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming your employees need to be recognized when they really have a need to be appreciated.
“Recognition is about giving positive feedback based on results or performance. Sometimes this happens in a formal way: an award, a bonus, a promotion, a raise,” Harvard Business Review explains.
Being recognized is exciting and can make you feel good, but there are limitations. For starters, it’s performance-based. That means it’s highly conditional. On top of that, it’s based on past performance and it’s scarce. (There’s a finite amount of recognition to go around.)
Appreciation, however, is rooted in acknowledgment. It’s about acknowledging an individual employee’s inherent value as a person. They might have a long track record of great accomplishments, but appreciation is independent of performance. It’s their worth as a human being.
In the simplest terms, recognition is tied to what people do, while appreciation correlates to who people are. If you’re only offering recognition, this means you’re missing out on numerous opportunities to connect with and encourage your people. As a result, you’re hurting your team’s confidence and performance.
Oprah Winfrey spent more than 25 years talking to people every single day in interview settings, and she found that there’s one common denominator in the human experience.
“The common denominator that I found in every single interview is we want to be validated,” Winfrey told a group of Harvard graduates at a commencement speech several years ago. “We want to be understood. I’ve done over 35,000 interviews in my career. And as soon as that camera shuts off, everyone always turns to me and inevitably, in their own way, asks this question: ‘Was that okay?’”
Whether your employees say as much or not, they’re always wondering if they’re doing okay. By focusing on appreciation over recognition, you can build them up and promote a higher degree of loyalty.
4 Ideas for Employee Appreciation
Want to show your employees that you appreciate them? Here are four simple suggestions:
- Kind Words
Sometimes the most effective thing you can do is pop into an employee’s office, look them in the eyes, and tell them that you appreciate their hard work and commitment to the company. Tell them that you value them as a person and that everyone in the company is better because of their presence. (Obviously, you don’t want to lie or overdo it, but don’t be afraid to be transparent.)
- Handwritten Notes
While a quick appreciation email can work, it’s not nearly as effective as a handwritten note. There’s something powerful about a handwritten letter of appreciation. It’s slow, intentional, and requires time. When someone receives something handwritten, they know they’re cared for.
Get a good quality set of stationary and make it a point to write at least two handwritten notes each week. It’ll only take you a few minutes, but your employees will feel incredibly appreciated.
- Office Perks
Looking for a tangible way to show your employees that they’re appreciated? Try offering different perks…just because. In other words, don’t tie these perks to performance (which would be a form of recognition). Instead, give out perks just because you appreciate your team.
For example, you could upgrade office furniture to something more comfortable and functional. (Try getting your team standing desks from BTOD.com.) Another option is to occasionally surprise the team with a catered lunch in the breakroom.
- Check In and Listen
One of the greatest forms of appreciation is listening. Make a habit out of regularly checking in with your employees to gather feedback. Then when they start talking, shut up and listen. Truly listen to what they have to say. Then ask follow-up questions and listen some more. When appropriate, apply the feedback and then check back in with the employee to see how things are going.
Adding it All Up
Every employee is unique. One of the responsibilities of being a good employer or manager is figuring out how to communicate effectively with every personality type. Find out what makes your employees tick and show them that they’re appreciated in their own unique ways.