“Suppose I ask your employees if they feel appreciated. What will they say?”
You’re sitting across the table from an interviewee who just surprised you with that question. How will you respond? Your immediate reaction might be to recount your management style and take a mental inventory of the times you’ve shown employees how you respect them and their work. Are you doing it enough? Can you do better? How do you think your employees would answer the question? Showing high regard for employees doesn’t need to wait for raises or bonus checks. The thing about appreciation is that when it’s genuine, it drives people as much or more than money. And it brings a higher level of dedication and loyalty, growing long-term employees who earn pay in line with their output.
Here are a few simple ways you can listen, encourage, and observe in ways that target appreciation.
Hear their voice.
Listening is an active skill. You’ll find employees give you feedback regularly through concerns, praise, and in everyday conversation. Pay attention to this feedback, no matter how subtle the clues. For those who aren’t comfortable sharing their ideas publicly or in person, offer an anonymous route. Perhaps a web form or a simple drop box. Whatever the method, this input is key to understanding office morale and what employees want and need.
Make it contagious.
Not only is it important for you to praise good work, but employees should be encouraged to praise each other. Appreciation isn’t a strictly top-down phenomenon. One beneficial program is for employees to occasionally send certificates, thank-you notes, or other kudos to anyone else in the organization. Whether you attach added value to those is up to you (Five dollars towards a local coffee shop, for example). The point is anyone receiving one of these kudos has their effort acknowledged and knows they’re essential to the team.
Protect the environment.
As you walk through office, keep an eye on conditions. Have employee’s workspaces been checked for ergonomic correctness? Are the chairs and carpet looking worn? Could a bit of paint and some newer appliances improve the break room? Making a workspace comfortable and welcoming lets your employees know you care about their health and focus time.
Your customer base.
If you’re a manager, you have lots of customers. Not just the ones that come to your company for products or services. Your employees are customers, too. Treat them with the same urgency and care as your company’s regular customers. Study after study shows employees who feel appreciated exhibit higher output. They’re also more motivated, believe their their work environment is more fun, and are more loyal to their managers. The practices of producing happy customers and happy employees are largely the same.
The next time.
These few tips are a starting point for brainstorming and maybe a little disruption. Think of inventive ways to tell your employees you value them and their work, but don’t forget about the ol’ standbys. A simple, heartfelt “Thank you. You are appreciated” goes a long way. And the next time an interviewee asks you that question, you’ll be ready.
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