A culture of appreciation boosts performance

Given the ongoing war for talent among employers, it’s important to reject the notion that people are motivated purely by money. More important is how people are treated and whether they feel genuinely appreciated. 

Culture of appreciation Years ago, companies focused more on their hard assets: machines, buildings, and infrastructure. People were considered a cost of production, perhaps even liabilities. After all, this is where the balance sheet categorizes their salaries and benefits. But accounting is about numbers; today’s successful organizations are about people.

Energage measures appreciation through this survey statement: “I feel genuinely appreciated at this company.” And time and time again, it ranks among the top four of the 24 factors on their Survey.

Appreciation isn’t one-size-fits-all

Don’t assume appreciation means the same thing to every employee. It can take a variety of forms, from praise to concern and rewards. Here are some examples:

  • Praise: Seek opportunities to give sincere compliments or to simply say “thank you.” Incorporate meaningful appreciation into meetings with individuals, teams, and the overall organization.
  • Interest: Take a sincere interest in employees’ concerns. Emphasize appreciation in feedback and communication. Encourage — and model — a culture of appreciation that encompasses all levels of the organization.
  • Rewards: Explore strategies to find what works for the organization’s culture. This can be company swag, celebrations, time off for volunteer work, or even free food. Financial incentives can be effective as tangible evidence to supplement verbal or written expressions of gratitude.

How to get appreciation right 

So, how can managers and senior leaders express appreciation to their employees? It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. Appreciation can mean different things to different people, but it should always be sincere and authentic. Consider these tips:

  • Show appreciation often and generously — but most importantly — be authentic.
  • Celebrate completed projects, significant milestones, and innovative ideas.
  • Recognize each success at the highest level possible.
  • Give specific credit to the individual(s) or team involved.
  • If employee feedback inspired the action, be sure to make it loud and clear.

It’s more than just a pat on the back

To feel fully engaged in the organization, employees need to know their work is appreciated and important. It’s more than just a pat on the back from a supervisor. They want to hear from peers, managers, and leaders as well. Sure, appreciation lets your employees know when they’ve done a good job. It’s also what makes them enjoy their work and feel motivated to perform at their best. And they know it when they feel it.   

Doug Claffey is founder and chief strategy officer at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s partner for Top Workplaces.

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