Let’s face it, managers, in the competitive business landscape out there, your business cannot survive if you do not have a talented and dedicated workforce. Without good employees you might as well forget about success and reaching your mission. And if you have a culture that does not value employees or their hard work, it is highly likely that your company will struggle to stay afloat as people enter and exit after dissatisfaction. So you need to create a culture of employee appreciation. But how to do that? How can you make your company a place where people wish to work and do not wish to leave? This article attempts to answer exactly these questions.
What is Employee Appreciation?
As the name itself suggests, employee appreciation is when you spend time and authentic efforts in recognizing and acknowledging your employee’s contributions, and achievements in your organization. This simple act makes them feel valued and seen in the organization. When a person feels valued, they are more likely to stay loyal and increase their efforts towards their tasks .
Authentic efforts do not mean grand gestures. Rather, even a simple act of appreciation will work if it appears to be genuine in its expression of gratitude towards your employee’s hard work. You engage in employee appreciation via various means including verbal praise, small rewards, performance incentives, and professional development opportunities.
Some authors prefer to differentiate between employee recognition and appreciation. According to them, recognition is about praising and rewarding positive outcomes. Appreciation on the other hand is about identifying and acknowledging the individual’s intrinsic worth and capacities. The latter becomes about the person whereas the former remains about the company and the outcomes. While appreciation can make the person feel more valued, both are important for an organization .
The importance of these acts have been captured in Human Resource literature by many psychologists and authors. But one foundational theory that specifically highlighted the importance of employee appreciation is Herzberg’s two-factor theory. The theory suggests that two sets of factors influence employee motivation and job satisfaction: hygiene factors and motivators. Now hygiene are all those things without which the employee will not be satisfied at all. These include basics like salary, job security, ethical company policies, etc. On the other hand, motivators are all those elements which enhance satisfaction and engagement. These include recognition, growth opportunities etc . Essentially to enhance work engagement, you need motivators like employee appreciation.
Why is Employee Appreciation Important?
Benefits of motivators like employee appreciation are many. They can significantly affect the organization and set it apart from other competitors. Some of these include    :
- Improvement in Morale and Motivation: As humans we all wish to be valued and when we get that, the intrinsic motivation to perform better increases. When you begin seeing your employee’s work and recognizing their efforts, it tends to positively impact their morale and well-being.
- Enhances Job Satisfaction: This aspect is directly related to how satisfied your employee will feel in the company. When employees are appreciated they are likelier to feel fulfilled. It also creates a positive work environment which eventually leads to increased productivity.
- Reduces Turnover: Losing a good employee is a major loss to the company. And when your organization’s culture is dismissive or unappreciative, people leave. Harvard Business Review conducted a study and found that employees who receive regular recognition and appreciation tend to be more loyal to their organizations. In other words, appreciation reduces turnover.
- Enhances Employee Engagement and Performance: We have been indirectly talking about productivity but many authors have invariably found that employee appreciation means higher levels of employee engagement. When employees feel appreciated they work with a personal sense of belonging which increases productivity and improves their performance.
- Improves Overall Relations Between Employee and Employer: Professional relationships are a lot like personal ones when it comes to trust and authenticity. When you regularly reward employees but do so without appreciation and recognition, they start believing you only prioritize productivity and profits. This translates to feelings like “I am not valued” and eventually migration to a place which either values the person more or pays the person more.
How to Effectively Practice Employee Appreciation?
If you wish to reap the benefits of employee appreciation, you have to invest in building a culture of appreciation. In this culture, recognition is the norm and leaders set an example for others by genuinely appreciating efforts, ideas, initiatives and hard work of people under them. The culture is psychologically safe and conducive to growth.
Here are some tips that one can follow to effectively practice employee appreciation     :
1) Ask and Listen to Employees: This may not be a direct way to show appreciation but it matters a lot with respect to the culture it builds. Listening to employees shows them that they are valued. You can build such a culture by asking questions about their life, their day, their beliefs. This will show your interest in them beyond the work and company outcomes. Further, taking their opinion on company processes, policies and goals can make them feel that they are an equal part of the company.
2) Connect Appreciation to Company Vision and Mission: When you appreciate an employee by reminding them how they are helping the company reach their goal, it enhances their feelings of being seen. We all want some purpose and indirectly when the employee’s work is linked to the company’s vision, the feeling that their work is meaningful increases.
3) Be Specific and Personal when You Appreciate: Many leaders make the mistake of keeping an arsenal of generic praises for all the employees in their company. A “thank you” or a “I am happy with this performance” is ingenuine and impersonal. Appreciation is about recognizing the person and that has to be specific. You need to highlight exact behavior, skill, or contribution that was useful.
4) Regularly Acknowledge Achievements and Milestones: Consistency is the key. As mentioned above, this has to be a culture and not a one-time or short term practice. When your culture recognizes a person’s achievements, both small and big, only then do employees perceive that you are different from others and are worth being loyal to.
5) Give Rewards and Tangible Gifts: While appreciation is a consistent culture, rewards and incentives which come under recognition must also be present. This gives worth to the words as they make the appreciation concrete. You can develop a system of giving your employees rewards. These can be small tokens of appreciation, such as personalized thank-you notes or certificates, to more substantial rewards, like gift cards, extra time off, etc.
6) Give Verbal and Written Praises: These are two of the most powerful tools of appreciation. Verbal recognition is powerful and immediate. You can take time to praise employees verbally when they show exceptional behavior. Alternatively, you can make it more widespread and concrete by providing written praises in emails, notes, or even social media posts.
7) Act in Ways that Show Appreciation: Action speaks louder than words. This adage might be old and cliche, but it is true. Appreciation should not be limited to words or rewards. You can also show appreciation through actions by providing opportunities for growth and development, and providing an inclusive work environment that showcases a genuine commitment to employee well-being and success.
8) Be Genuine in Appreciation: This is the crux of the matter. If you as a leader are appreciating employees just for the sake of it, the employees will know. Spend some time reflecting on your own values, what makes you a genuine leader, what is it that you truly appreciate in others and what are your values. You can also reflect on the type of boss you wished to have and then be that boss. When you move from a value-oriented place, appreciation becomes automatic and genuine.
No one wishes to work in a toxic work culture where outcomes are recognized and humans are just a means to an end. People wish to be recognized. When they are valued and appreciated for who they are, they feel inclined to be with you, stay loyal and give their best. By recognizing and celebrating employees’ hard work and dedication you and your organizations can enhance employee engagement, increase retention rates, and develop a culture which is devoted to the development of both the company and the employee. Company and employees cannot be separate. For the development of one, the needs and personhood of the other has to be valued.
If you are an organization seeking to improve your organization’s culture and employee well-being, you can get in touch with United We Care. Our platform provides Employee Assistance Programs and training for employees and managers to improve organizational culture.
- M. Rabha, “8 unique ways you can build a culture of appreciation in 2023,” Nurture an Engaged and Satisfied Workforce | Vantage Circle HR Blog, https://blog.vantagecircle.com/culture-of-appreciation/ (accessed Jun. 22, 2023).
- “Why employees need both recognition and appreciation,” Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2019/11/why-employees-need-both-recognition-and-appreciation (accessed Jun. 22, 2023).
- M. Alshmemri, L. Shahwan-Akl, and P. Maude, “Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory,” Life Science Journal, vol. 14, 2017. doi::10.7537/marslsj140517.03.
- J. Carter, The Effect of Emplo ect of Employee Appr ee Appreciation Methods on Job Satisfaction eciation Methods on Job Satisfaction of Higher Education Support Staff , 2023. [Online]. Available: https://scholarworks.waldenu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=12914&context=dissertations
- K. Luthans, “Recognition: A powerful, but often overlooked, leadership tool to improve employee performance,” Journal of Leadership Studies, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 31–39, 2000. doi:10.1177/107179190000700104
- “Appreciation and employee recognition: Company culture glossary: Building corporate culture,” O.C. Tanner – Appreciate Great Work, https://www.octanner.com/culture-glossary/appreciation-and-employee-recognition.html (accessed Jun. 22, 2023).
- P. White, “Differences in preferences for appreciation across various work settings,” Strategic HR Review, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 17–21, 2022. doi:10.1108/shr-11-2022-0061
- A. M. Canale, C. Herdklotz, and L. Wild, Inspiring a culture of appreciation @ RIT, https://www.rit.edu/provost/sites/rit.edu.provost/files/images/FCDS_AppreciationReportFinal.pdf (accessed Jun. 22, 2023).