Do Employees Even Notice You Care?
Public expression of appreciation has a powerful impact. Here are five ways managers can do so effectively.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
With their efforts ranging from hosting employee-appreciation banquets to granting years-of-service awards, company leaders do try to boost morale. Productivity and morale peak may peak at those times of celebration, then drop off a cliff days later on.
Sixty percent of the employees surveyed in a recent Towers Watson study were disengaged or detached or felt unsupported in their jobs. Conducted online last April and May, the study analyzed more than 32,000 responses in 26 markets around the world.
Furthermore, last year's Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey found job satisfaction among only 64 percent of almost 400,000 government workers and organization satisfaction for just 55 percent.
Here are some effective ways to show employees you care:
Related: 5 Easy Ways to Keep Top Performers Happy
1. Inspire peer involvement.
Friendships in the workplace can have a significant impact on employee morale and loyalty.
In a Harvard Business Review article "We All Need Friends at Work," Christine Riordan underscored the value of peer relationships: "Camaraderie is about creating a common sense of purpose and the mentality that we are in-it together."
Riordan explained camaraderie promotes "group loyalty, mutual respect, sense of identity, and admiration to push for hard work and outcomes."
When employees feel a sense of belonging, via meaningful relationships at the office, they feel better about where they work. Inspire peer relationships by encouraging employees to communicate with one another via recognition efforts and providing regular feedback.
Managers who want to help employees feel more connected to their organization might think the burden falls on their shoulders. But all the socializing doesn't have to be management's responsibility. Peers can also help satisfy employees' relationship needs.
2. Say thank you right away.
Timeliness is key for recognition of accomplishments otherwise it can lose value. If managers wait till the end of the quarter or year to salute positive results, employees may only barely remember the context. The effect might not be as strong because the hard work occurred so long ago, perhaps making it difficult to connect the two experiences emotionally.
Say thank you right away. Don't worry about coming up with a gold plaque or shiny trophy. A few words of encouragement or a handwritten note will do. Employees desire their work to be acknowledged and doing so immediately provides instant gratification.
Related: 6 Things Effective Leaders Should Do to Inspire Their Teams
3. Shout it from the rooftop.
Public recognition has more of an impact because it affects a person's social image.
Research from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published in April concluded that social influence can encourage a particular behavior through direct or indirect persuasion.
Take the time to recognize employees publicly. When employees see their work is good enough to be used as a model for future work or ideal behaviors, they'll feel their effort has been noticed.
4. Be specific.
A recognition program won't work if it isn't driven by effective communication, I believe.
Organizations with managers who communicate effectively are 28 percent more likely to meet their overall project goals and 34 percent more likely to complete projects on time, according to a 2013 study by the Project Management Institute of 740 project-management practitioners.
But another study that year, by Quantum Workforce, examining feedback from more than 400,000 employees at nearly 5,000 organizations, revealed that about 25 percent were uncertain about how they fit into their organization's future plans.
Regularly remind employees how their roles fit into the bigger picture. Clearly communicate short-term goals and recognize staffers when they reach them. Create a space so the entire team can clearly see how individual goals align with the organization's mission and let staffers know when milestones are reached.
5. Provide small, regular rewards.
Sometimes people value small, regular rewards more than the larger rewards they must wait for.
Walter Mischel, Ebbe Ebbesen and Antonette Raskoff Zeiss' famous 1972 study of 92 kids, 3 to 5 years old, found that when given the option between getting a small reward right away or waiting for a larger one, the children preferred larger rewards but were more likely to accept a smaller reward instantly.
Instead of focusing on the magnitude of rewards, stress consistency and timeliness. I believe the one-time effect of an annual bonus pales in comparison to how frequent recognition can keep an employee engaged all year round.
To employees, money doesn't matter as long as their work feels meaningful. To reinforce that meaning, employees need to have the great work they do acknowledged and appreciated.
Related: 5 Ways Appreciation Can Backfire