Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

During this prolonged time of disruption and stress, those you lead benefit from your personal attention in letting them know that they are appreciated and valued. The return on these efforts is higher individual and team performance, greater collaboration, increased willingness to invest in changes that deliver improvements, and enriched job satisfaction for your people. 

Good employees are hard to find, develop, and keep. And replacing trained, experienced people is often quoted as the #1 non-productive cost for businesses. Of those employees who are doing cognitive work (not repetitive production work), and who voluntarily leave a company, 80% cite “feeling unappreciated” as the primary reason for their decision to move on; it’s not about earning more money. 

Here are 3 keys for communicating genuine appreciation:

1.   Communicate appreciation regularly. Defining ‘regularly’ varies by work setting, the frequency of interaction between coworkers, and the nature of the relationship. But it definitely needs to happen more often than once or twice a year during a performance review. 

In a production setting, where things move quickly, it’s important for a leader who notices improvement in an employee’s performance and/or behavior to immediately express appreciation for the progress the employee has made. Shift change or start-up meetings occur regularly; read a letter from a satisfied customer that highlights the quality work of the team, or an individual. On a routine basis, a leader could post appreciation for the accomplishments of direct reports.

2.   Recognize people in a way that is individual and personal. People want to know that you value them and the work they do on an individual level. Be specific and be personal. 

Leaders have few responsibilities more important than building trust relationships with their people; without this, there can be no success. Not everyone feels appreciated in the same ways. Some value praise or a gift card, while others feel more valued when their leader spends time with them, or when being asked to collaborate with their colleagues to make something better. Be deliberate in noticing and remembering what your people value in appreciation. 

3.   Be authentic when expressing appreciation. Your tone, voice, posture and facial expression tell your people if you believe what you’re saying, if your message is authentic. “Great job, whoever you are and whatever you do” won’t cut it. All of us have received that kind of “recognition.” We know how it feels, so slow down and make sure you are prepared to give the kind of appreciation that matters. 

Share success stories, and encourage others to share theirs to learn from others’ triumphs. Set expectations that recognition will be part of everyone’s responsibilities, and train your people in showing valued appreciation.  

Leaders own culture. Those who seek to build a culture of authentic appreciation set the tone with their example, strengthening the trust and credibility their people feel for them. People know the value of your time, so when you invest it in them, they realize that your care for them is genuine, and they’ll follow your lead. 

Start with a small step – start somewhere, today, with someone. Commit to doing what you can to communicate appreciation to those around you. Create a more positive workplace and you’ll reap significant benefits in time. 

How will you start building a culture of appreciation?