I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that random free pastries and other snacks don’t make employees feel appreciated. These offerings certainly don’t make them feel respected. Employee appreciation needs an upgrade because appreciation and respect are the real drivers of success for your organization. My goal as a leader is for my team to feel seen, heard, respected, and appreciated. When your team feels these things, their confidence increases, and they feel fulfilled in their role. You can’t get there with a once a year Employee Appreciation Day, or random snacks.
How do you make your team feel seen, heard, respected, and appreciated? You do so by consistently demonstrating my core principles of employee appreciation.
Some leaders believe that there is a line you don’t cross when it comes to honesty. These leaders think it is better to shelter their teams from the truth because knowing the truth would mean the employees would lower their effort and result in a detriment to the business. In my experience, when information is missing, people will fill the void with rumor and gossip, and that will undoubtedly be detrimental to the company.
For that reason, honesty is the most crucial principle of employee appreciation. Honesty leads to stronger teamwork and focus. When you include employees in the good and bad problems facing the organization, they feel they are in the know. It helps them understand what is happening, and as a result, they will feel more ownership and opportunity to make an impact. Being honest with your employees makes them feel appreciated and respected.
Employee development comes in many shapes and sizes. Each employee is on their own career trajectory. Each stage of that trajectory will require different types of management. Offering guidance during the ups and downs of your employee’s professional journey is your responsibility. Some managers don’t want to train employees out of fear they will take that training elsewhere, or take their job. What happens if you don’t train them is they won’t perform, and you won’t be able to get rid of them. You won’t be able to advance to the next level because no one is ready to take your place.
Development is a core function of any manager. Develop their soft skills as much as you develop their technical skills. It is your responsibility to help your employees transform and evolve into their best selves. Offer specific positive feedback to build confidence. Provide specific improvement feedback so they can improve. Actively listen, ask questions rather than offer solutions, share feedback, and hold them accountable. Development is one way to show employee appreciation, and unlike bagels or danishes, knowledge is something that will last their lifetime.
Feeling respected tops the list of what matters most to employees. Respect is also considered one of the most important leadership behaviors. Despite the importance of respect, with every year that passes, employees report increases in disrespectful and uncivil behavior. People who feel respect regularly, such as those in leadership roles, don’t think about it as often, and as a result, it is easy for this to be a blindspot.
Showing respect is the best demonstration of employee appreciation. It starts with communicating expectations, setting goals, and reviewing progress regularly. Provide the tools and information they need to do their job. Provide initial and ongoing training to make sure they are ready to do what is expected of them. Obviously, you need to provide the equipment that’s essential to their job. Trust them to do the job you hired them for by demonstrating you believe in their skills and talents. Finally, be kind because everyone appreciates kindness. Showing a sincere interest in their well-being conveys to your employees you respect them, both on and off the job.
When employees don’t feel empowered, they start to wonder why they should go above and beyond. They become disengaged and do the bare minimum to get by, their baseline job responsibilities. A key asset in any organization’s long-term success is empowering employees to make a meaningful, measurable difference. Employees who feel empowered to make their own decisions and determine their destiny will enjoy their jobs more and take more initiative.
By empowering employees, you demonstrate appreciation for them, their skills, and their talents. Start by ensuring they have access to the information needed to make decisions. Create an environment the encourages open, timely dialogue that travels up and down the org chart. However, with empowerment comes accountability. Holding employees accountable will empower them to take ownership over their work. Empowering your employees does not dissolve you of supervisory responsibility, you still need to provide guidance, direction, and support.
When you treat employees with honesty and fairness, develop them, and help them grow, respect, and empower them, you are genuinely showing them appreciation. Yes, of course, everyone likes a random cupcake or bagel, but leveraging these principles of employee appreciation are the seeds of your leadership legacy. People won’t remember eating the random muffin or bagel, but they will never forget how you made them feel.