There is no such thing as overestimating the positive effects of high morale and positive culture in the workplace. Studies have shown how happy employees work harder, stay longer and improve the bottom line.
And why do these unhappy employees leave? A whopping 79 percent of people who quit their jobs cite ‘lack of appreciation.’ William James, psychologist and philosopher, said it best: “The deepest principle of human nature is a craving to be appreciated.”
So, as the transitive property goes (flashback to fifth grade math!): If you want high morale, show your coworkers you appreciate them.
Here are ten ways to do just that.
1. Adjust schedules
Who wouldn’t appreciate an extra day before a long holiday or more personal days?
Offering extra time off or flexible scheduling has become an incredibly energizing way to offer appreciation for hard work.
Companies like TripAdvisor and TaskUs with great time-off policies offer perks like unlimited time off, sabbaticals and plenty of paid holidays.
It’s good to offer flexibility and create joy for employees in-office too, from dog-friendly offices to meditation rooms.
2. Tell them!
No one I know gets sick of hearing how terrific they are. Do you?
And anyone in the organization can offer verbal or written appreciation to anyone else, not just managers. (Read: that includes you!)
That said, managers need to be sure they’re tracking feedback in some ways internally—to ensure folks are not left out in the cold without a positive word to their name. Plus: Studies show employees who feel recognized and appreciated stay.
My Graymake team is small, so it’s easy for me to provide feedback with each check-in meeting and with pay, but as I continue to grow, I know I must be more intentional.
At larger organizations, many track using documents and sheets. These can be digital, like Google Docs, or paper sheets inside a binder or folder. I’ve seen others use professionally printed posters with stickers—yes, adults love stickers too—and when they reach a certain number, it’s a cue to head to lunch or buy flowers or receive swag. Tracking avoids animosity that can be created when we inadvertently offer kudos to some more often than others purely because of relationship or proximity.
3. Show it with gifts
Gifts can take many shapes dependent upon budget, appropriateness in the field and more. (And it doesn’t have to only happen around the holidays—although that’s a great time to start!)
I worked at a large company where the president personally signed a birthday card for every employee on their birthday and dropped it in our mailboxes—with a candy bar. This was a small but impactful gesture.
Other organizations participate in larger gift-giving, like food baskets, swag, gift cards or experiences.
4. Plan fun events—no strings attached
Sometimes companies plan outings for employees with a pressure to attend, “or else.” But if not attending is associated with not being a team player or thought to jeopardize their role in the company somehow, this is not truly a reward for employees, and can even be seen as a punishment.
Hosting an outing folks truly want to attend where they are honored and appreciated through fun and relaxation with co-workers builds a culture of gratitude.
Think: Bowling, axe-throwing, candle- or soap-making, a cooking class, white water rafting, and more.
5. Honor Milestones
Mark special occasions in the employee’s lifecycle: promotions, number of years with the company, awards won inside or outside of the organization.
Use this as a way to model care for the individual, as well as to set up others for success.
6. … And acknowledge them publicly.
This can be done at regularly scheduled meetings, special ceremonies or even on a publicly posted employee bulletin board.
Create processes for how each department may recognize someone each week, month, quarter—or whatever works for your culture dependent upon the size and structure of the project.
Determine ways for others to engage and how this may be announced. Is there a certificate or other plaque, pin or token that honorees may receive?
7. Promote all-stars and award bonuses (when possible).
When possible, showing appreciation to employees financially is both tangible and impactful.
Along with the promotion or raise, be sure to explicitly share why they are receiving this recognition in writing and thank them for their work to get to this point. This will continue incentivizing the hard work but also likely encourage them to help others to improve their work—enhancing the organization and bottom line overall. Not to mention, it will likely inspire others to aspire to the same and spell out clearly the steps to get there.
8. Offer educational and professional development opportunities.
I once read a parable that said, “What if we educate our employees and they leave?” The response: “What if we don’t and they stay?”
In that vein, support employees and co-workers in reaching continuing education and learning goals.
Professional development is an act of appreciation in some cases, but also just makes good sense for everyone.
9. Support the charities your employees care about.
This has to do with aligning values and learning what matters to them. Like any of these options, it continues to make employees feel seen and valued.
How do you know who or what they care about? Ask.
My dad used to share the amount of money his organization could afford to gift at year’s end, depending on how they had done. He shared this with the entire organization. Determined by the accountant and a collective discussion, every employee received a bonus and an excel sheet was made where we all—my sisters and I included—were able to write in our charity of choice.
Several times, someone in the company was going through something tough or something local happened. Our team decided together to donate collectively.
10. Get creative!
You know your organization best and what is going to feel especially different and exciting for them.
Would a casual dress day (or week)! be exciting in a setting where jeans are rare?
How about bring-your-dog-to-work day?
A certain day of the week where breakfast or lunch is provided?
Is remote work a huge change and therefore a show of appreciation?
Or, simply, “We had a great week and it is beautiful outside. We are closing at 3 today to celebrate your hard work as an act of appreciation for all we do here. Have a great weekend!”
There are countless options because no two companies are the same.
What holds true across the board is that employee appreciation creates a stronger company culture by increasing employee morale, loyalty and engagement. Turnover decreases because brand loyalists are made.
Building strong teams and a healthy, connected workforce isn’t black and white… We help companies thrive in the gray. To set up a 30-minute phone chat with a member of our team, sign up here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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