In his New York Times bestseller Life’s Little Instruction Book, H. Jackson Brown has a great quote for managers: “Don’t forget a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.”Think about that for a moment. More than joy, love, hope, awe, or inspiration, we need appreciation. I’m sure many of you find ways to let your teams know you appreciate the work they do, but are you intentional in the way you go about it? And what about the other people in your life? We can sometimes become so focused on the people we work with in our professional lives, that it’s easy to forget about the people in our personal lives.
Employee engagement is a hot topic right now, but the conversation seems to be more about and ping pong tables and relaxed dress codes than actual engagement. In reality, engagement goes far beyond benefits and perks. Those are factors, of course, but I believe that letting your team know you care about them and their development is what really matters when it comes to engaging your workforce. There may be no better way to start this process than by showing your appreciation and saying “Thank you”.
Why saying "thank you" is so important
Simply saying the words “thank you” is easy, but taking it one step further and doing it in a way that is sincere and meaningful to the recipient can be hard. It’s hard because it takes time and effort to get to know how someone likes to be recognized, what motivates them personally, and how to make them feel appreciated.
So, how do you answer those questions for each employee? Here’s my process. I have monthly one on one meetings with all of my direct reports, and during each of those conversations I try to uncover something new that will help me do a better job of showing my appreciation. For example, I know one of my team members is very competitive, so when recognizing her it’s important to emphasize the context of how she performed relative to the group. I might give her a handwritten note that says, “Great job in September, you had the highest sales in the company.” Another team member of mine on the other hand prefers to be recognized for her contributions to the team, so her note might say something like “Thanks for your support on this project, because you did X, Y, and Z, we were able to execute a flawless event and the client already wants to book us again for next year.”
These may seem like minor nuances, but I assure you they have a huge impact on how your team feels about both you and the work they do every day. According to a study by HR tech provider Globoforce (now called Workhuman), 77% of employees would work harder with more recognition, yet 39% feel underappreciated at work. An employee that feels appreciated is going to be more productive, have a more positive attitude, and be less likely to leave when another opportunity arises. The ability to attract and retain top talent is a defining characteristic of companies that grow and thrive, and showing appreciation is a crucial part of getting there.
So, how do you show appreciation? Here are ten ideas.
Below, I’ve compiled a list of ten fun and easy ways to show your team you appreciate them. They may not all work for everyone, but I highly recommend you try at least a few of them and see how they go.
- Give your employees handwritten thank you notes. Nobody does this anymore so it really stands out -- it’s even better if you mail these to their home address.
- Bring donuts or ice cream sandwiches to the team as a surprise treat. They’re cheap and easy, but our team loves them!
- Leave an appreciative voicemail commemorating a job-well-done on their work line on a Sunday night. Listening to an appreciative voicemail from their boss is a great way for employees to start their Monday.
- Take time during group meetings to recognize an individual for a job well done or for being the top performer of the week.
- Read positive online reviews to the entire team and highlight the people who were part of the event.
- When one of your team members works a long weekend or overtime, send a note and a bottle of wine home to their significant other saying something like, “Thanks for your support of the work __________ is doing here.” It’s great to show your gratitude for the other folks in your employees’ lives.
- Give staff goodie bags after big events with snacks and a note thanking them for their hard work.
- Bring breakfast to a morning meeting after a successful week of events.
- Give out personalized birthday and anniversary cards for your team members. You can even take this a step further -- I have one friend who sends birthday cards to all of his employees’ kids!
- Leave a thank you on someone’s Facebook page recognizing what a great job they did. This only works if they enjoy public recognition, but for a lot of people, it’s cool for their friends and family to see that they did something great at work.
Think about the impact you can have on the lives of other people, simply by letting at least one person every day know that you appreciate them. As Margaret Cousins once said, “Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” Are you overdue in letting someone on your team know that you appreciate them?