Make employee appreciation a year-round effort
March 5 was Employee Appreciation Day. How did you celebrate? If you didn’t, don’t worry. Employee appreciation is not about an annual gift or party. Done right, it is baked into an organization’s culture every day, year-round.
Employee engagement surveys conducted by Energage in 2020 showed appreciation was the top driver of employee engagement. In other words, it was the factor that most inspired employees to feel strongly connected with their work. That research is based on data from 1.7 million employees.
During the COVID pandemic, when the going got tough, appreciation stood out as the most important thing that kept employees going. In fact, employees initially felt extra-appreciated during the beginning of the pandemic as employers leaned in and prioritized their well-being and safety.
And while the positive vibes for appreciation took a small hit during the darkest days of the pandemic last fall, it bounced back and continues to stand out as the thing that keeps employees surviving and thriving.
That does not mean companies always put employee appreciation at the forefront of what they did. When we looked at what drove the most positive engagement pre-pandemic vs. post-pandemic, appreciation ranked seventh in growth. This is lower than other culture drivers such as execution, interdepartmental cooperation, clued-in senior management, meetings, clued-in employees, and working at full potential.
But there is probably a clear reason for that. Companies had significant work to do in operational and structural areas to make adjustments last year. While that work was getting done, appreciation appears to have suffered a bit.
That is not a cause for alarm, but it is a cause for awareness. Now is the time to double down on being thankful for hard-working employees. Top Workplaces know the value of showing employees how much their hard work and contributions matter.
As a top culture driver, employee appreciation is one of the least expensive, most impactful ways to improve motivation, job satisfaction, productivity, and retention. Here are some ways you can create a year-round culture of appreciation, including some quick fixes and big-picture ideas:
- Take every opportunity to give a sincere compliment or a simple “thank you.”
- Incorporate meaningful appreciation into team and company meetings.
- Think about the ways people prefer to be appreciated. If you don’t know, ask.
- Adopt a tool that enables employees to publicly express appreciation.
- Emphasize appreciation in all training sessions.
- Explore various formal praise and recognition strategies to fit your culture.
- Encourage and role model a culture of peer-to-peer appreciation.
Greg Barnett is chief people scientist at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s partner for Top Workplaces.