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3 Guidelines for Employee Appreciation

The story many managers tell themselves about motivation

is that it's going to cost a lot of money. The surprising input from employees

was that, while they acknowledged it would be nice to have more money,

what they really craved was basic recognition.

Monetary rewards are over-rated.

I have been fortunate to hear the perspectives of hundreds of employees over the course of the last year. The topic? Motivation.

Employers wanted to know how they could motivate employees and employees had a lot to say.

The story many leaders tell themselves about “motivation” is that it's going to cost a lot of money.

The surprising input from employees was that, while they acknowledged it would be nice to have more money, what they really craved was basic recognition.

In fact, when asked what employers could do to motivate them, employees gave lists of activities and ideas – many of which cost little or no money.

Leader Perspective

Here are some of the answers I received when I asked the question, “Why isn’t ‘motivation’ happening now?”

  • Lack of Resources: “The budget is tight. We don’t have additional money to spend on motivating our employees.” My response: Point well taken – we can work around that.

  • Lack of Time: “It takes time – I am already overworked. I don’t have time to motivate employees." My response: I understand. And….you are the leader. Motivation is one of the most important parts of your job. (The same is true for the person who is leading you.) In fact, research has shown that leader behavior and communication is a direct determinant of employee happiness at work. Employees want and need to hear directly from you. The good news is that it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes a week and it will probably take less time than that. Making time for this is part of your job.

  • Lack of Interest: “I need my employees need to be self-motivated.” My response: I understand. They probably are already self-motivated but they need your help. Think of the leaders who have made a positive impact on you. You can, and should, be that person for your employees.

  • Lack of Information: “I don’t know how.” My response: We can SO fix that! It’s easier than you think. You are going to make quite an impact.

Employee Perspective

Here’s what employees often say when I ask, “What can your employer do to motivate employees?”

  • Understanding: "I know we are in a budget crisis. I’d like to have more money but what I’d really like is to be shown some appreciation for how hard I work."

  • Appreciation: "A simple thank you would go a long way." Receiving more/better praise and recognition is one of the most common needs that I hear expressed by employees. Research supports the positive impact of appreciation on outcomes like employee satisfaction, communication satisfaction, work environment and engagement.

  • Ideas: "There are a lot of things the company could do to make it more fun and make us feel appreciated." Employees at each company I worked with were able to offer a number of specific ideas that could be implemented with little money or energy. Tell them you would like to do better. Ask for their ideas. Implement at least one idea within a week of receiving the feedback.

Leadership takes time - make time to lead.

Guidelines for Offering Praise/Recognition

Here are some simple, time-tested principles for offering employee - or volunteer - or family - appreciation. Leadership skills are transferable - so have fun practicing and honing your skills in all settings where cooperation, appreciation and buy-in is important.

Guideline #1 – Be Specific

Offer specific appreciation – tell the employee what they did that was remarkable or notable.

What specifically did the employee do? For example, did they represent the department well? Deliver a quality report before the deadline? Exceed your expectations for xyz? Consistently reflect a positive attitude?

One of my favorite books and resources on this topic is Nine Minutes on Monday. James Robbins' site offers a number of free resources/tools for motivating employees. Check out his site for some wonderful resources. Specifically, he notes that leaders can praise achievement (i.e., something the employee accomplished), behaviors (i.e., something the employee did), and qualities (i.e., work ethic, creativity, spirit, etc.). I also facilitation leadership training in this area - contact me to arrange a program.

Guideline #2 – Make it Timely

Make sure that your appreciation is delivered in a timely manner.

Offer specific appreciation on the same day that you noticed the positive behavior. At the very least, offer appreciation in the same week.

Guideline #3 – Describe the Impact

Describe the impact of the positive behavior.

Tell the employee what the impact of the positive behavior was (e.g., “when you deliver a report without errors, it represents our department well and reflects the high quality of your work. Thank you. Keep up the good work.”

You may have noticed that the principles for delivering constructive feedback and giving praise and recognition are the same. Leaders often receive training on giving constructive feedback; they less commonly receive training on offering praise and appreciation. The parallel principles are important to note. A good leader is well practiced at delivering both.

I'll note again that these principles can be applied at home, in relationships, with volunteers, and in any setting where positive relationships are important.

Effective appreciation requires precision and attention. It also requires some practice, so dig in and make it happen.

This is the week. Continue to offer coaching and constructive feedback. In addition, start noticing what people are doing right.

And if you are already doing it, I’d like to say: “Thank you for taking the time to notice and offer appreciation to each of your employees this week. When you make the time to offer appreciation, it makes your employees feel valued and positively impacts their satisfaction and engagement at work. I know it takes time and energy. You are making a difference.”

© 2018 Kathy Sturgis, Ph.D. Kathy's commitment is to create momentum for positive change - at the individual and organizational levels. Contact Kathy@RefreshmentZone.comfor more information on strategic planning, executive coaching, and leadership and/or communication development programs.

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