Staff appreciation may not always be top-of-mind on a business owner's priority list. It's easy to get swept up in all of the other operations needed to keep a business going, but neglecting the contributions of your employees can bring numerous potential negative consequences. Employees who feel overworked and underappreciated often manifest their dissatisfaction through decreased productivity, inattention to detail and--worst of all—a lack of interest in delivering high-quality customer service.
In other words, devoting time to staff appreciation should be a key element of every business owner's growth strategy.
Here are numerous ways to show your gratitude and positively reinforce employee achievements (but not at the cost of making other employees feel unworthy):
Find ways to say thank you. Look at the workplace through your employees' eyes. When was the last time the owner or manager paused to simply thank an employee for his or her work on a project or initiative? A CEO or business leader who actually stops by an employee's cubicle to express gratitude can be, in itself, greatly appreciated every time it occurs.
Just remember that the most meaningful "thank yous" are specific in nature, referring to a particular contribution or achievement. Generic thank yous carry far less emotional impact.
Publicly acknowledge an individual or team. There are various options to publicly acknowledge an individual or team's hard work, including:
- Personal email from the owner
- Mention in employee newsletter
- All-staff meeting
- Social media mention
Such public acknowledgment gets everyone's attention and also communicates why the expression of thanks is deserved. This sends the message to all employees about what kind of work and dedication is most valued by their employer.
Engage employees in conversation. It's not always necessary to specifically offer verbal thanks. Finding a few minutes just to talk with people can make them feel appreciated as well. They "will find the fact that you take the time to engage them in conversation rewarding and recognizing," notes human resources expert Susan M. Heathfield. "You also set an example when you establish courteous interaction as an expectation in your workplace."
Offer some time-off. Recognizing employees by offering additional time-off (a full day, an afternoon) when they least expect it. If you have employees who haven't used their vacation days in a significantly long time, politely insist that because you so highly value their contributions, you believe it's critical for them to have some downtime. Help them figure out who can handle their job responsibilities while they're gone.
Keep your word. One unfortunate habit among some managers and business owners is the ease with which they cancel a scheduled meeting with employees or in some other way demonstrate a lack of respect for their staff. If you promise an employee you'll look into something they've asked about, keep your word and follow through. Never offer something you don't intend to fulfill. Treating employees with respect is a clear demonstration of how much you appreciate their presence within the organization.
Give employees the opportunity to advance their skill sets. Another great demonstration of gratitude takes the form of training and cross-training opportunities. Is there a new team project you'd like them to lead? Can they represent your business at an upcoming industry event? What new assignments can you offer that stretch their job skills without adding more pressure to their work-lives?
Staff appreciation is a key tool in every business owner's "employee retention arsenal." Regular expressions of gratitude are often a key factor in an employee's decision about whether to stay or leave a job.