- A record 4.3 million workers left their jobs in August.
- One reasons workers have cited for leaving a job is lack of appreciation from employers.
- Giving kudos to teams can encourage collaboration, inspire trust, clarify organizational goals, improve quality, and reinforce a team’s sense of purpose.
A record 4.3 million workers left their jobs in August, and while reasons for quitting vary, one recent survey shows that a lack of appreciation from employers is a common driver.
Appreciation is an especially important factor to a large segment of the workforce: Millennials and Gen Zers.
In a poll taken shortly before the pandemic began, 79% of Millennial and Gen Z respondents said an increase in recognition and rewards would make them more loyal to their employer.
David Friedman, author of Culture by Design: How to Build a High-Performing Culture Even in the New Remote Work Environment, says that because companies are losing talented people and struggling to fill open positions, leaders need to know how to make employee recognition and appreciation a more consistent part of their work culture.
“Recognition is the best way to boost employee engagement, productivity. and profit while significantly strengthening your culture,” Friedman said. “It may seem intuitive that employees who are thanked and recognized for their work are happier and, as a result, perform better. But unfortunately, managers may be busy with other tasks or have an attitude of ‘If you don’t hear anything, assume you’re doing a good job.’ That approach loses good people who were very valuable.”
There are benefits to company leaders praising teams as well as individuals. A Gallup survey shows that giving kudos to teams can encourage collaboration, inspire trust, clarify organizational goals, improve quality, and reinforce a team’s sense of purpose.
“Praise for a job well done should flow across all levels of the organization – peer to peer, manager to their direct report, and direct report to their manager,” Friedman says. “Remember your remote workers – they may already be feeling disconnected from the workplace, so remind them that you notice and appreciate their contributions.”
Friedman offers these thoughts on giving recognition and showing appreciation in the workplace:
1. It should be authentic and individualized.
Friedman observes that employees are savvy and can see through an “everyone gets a trophy” mentality.
“Saying ‘great job’ is nice, but it’s much more meaningful if you detail the specifics of the person’s actions and how they helped advance the company’s objectives,” he says. “And if their efforts merit more than a compliment, or such efforts are a trend for them, then leaders need to figure out a fair tangible reward. Promotions with pay raises and increased responsibilities go the next step to show consistent high performers that they are truly valued.”
2. Tailor recognition to the recipient.
Some people enjoy being the center of attention, so a formal public recognition is ideal for them, according to Friedman. Others avoid the spotlight and prefer a one-on-one acknowledgment.
For a team acknowledgment, a company-wide or departmental meeting might be a fitting forum.
“That’s a great way to show the link between the team’s accomplishments, company objectives, and the importance of working well together,” Friedman says.
3. Convey your appreciation in person.
Friedman notes this may be difficult with remote workforces, and sometimes a phone call or email will have to do.
“But the in-person touch has a lot more impact,” he says, “especially when it comes from an executive with whom the employee has very little exposure.”
4. Create a culture of recognition.
“Culture change starts with identifying the specific behaviors that drive success in your company,” Friedman says. “One of them should be showing meaningful appreciation. That means regularly recognizing people doing things right, rather than frequently pointing out when they do things wrong.”
In a Q&A with Friedman, he explained in depth why recognition is so important to work culture.
Allwork.Space: Why is recognition so important for employees, especially Millennials and Gen Zers?
David Friedman: Being acknowledged for a job well done is deeply rewarding for people of all ages, but younger generations place a higher priority on having jobs where they feel appreciated.
Millennials and Gen Zers are more interested in feeling purposeful in their jobs than simply drawing a paycheck. They want to know that their performance is making a difference. Positive feedback about how their actions have helped the company succeed inspires them to continue to do good work and tightens their connection with the organization.
Allwork.Space: What can companies do to ensure recognition and appreciation are a consistent part of their workplace culture?
Company leaders should set the tone by normalizing meaningful recognition instead of making it a rare practice that only happens on special occasions like a promotion or retirement celebration. After leading by example, they should coach managers about effective acknowledgment techniques and equip them with the tools to make consistent recognition in the workday feasible. The process will pick up steam once managers experience the positive effects that consistent acknowledgment has on their team members.
Allwork.Space: Can you share effective ways companies are recognizing employees?
Recognition is a powerful way to build employee engagement, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Formal recognition programs can be perceived as contrived and can be burdensome to maintain. Unscheduled genuine acknowledgment is much more effective.
Managers can begin meetings with a shout-out to people who have gone above and beyond. Team-wide emails from the company leader are appropriate when someone has done an excellent job on a project, landed an important client, hit a vital milestone, or generated a game-changing solution. And employees deeply appreciate their boss taking the time to personally express appreciation—either with a one-on-one conversation or in a hand-written note.
Allwork.Space: What are some best practices for employers/managers to recognize employees?
The most important thing for employers to remember is that recognition must be authentic to have a positive effect. People are put off by insincere compliments or a “participation trophy” environment. That being said, meaningful recognition should happen as frequently as it is merited.
Employees also appreciate timely acknowledgment much more than hearing accolades long after the fact in an annual performance review. To have the most impact, people should be recognized for accomplishments as soon as possible while the situation is still very fresh in everyone’s minds. Finally, employees shouldn’t simply be told they’ve done a great job. Recognition has much more value for employees when you highlight the details of their accomplishment and how their efforts will positively affect the business.
Allwork.Space: How does recognition look for in-office workers vs remote workers?
There really isn’t a great deal of difference in recognizing on-site workers versus those who perform their jobs remotely. We’ve all become adept at using technology to communicate. People can still be recognized within a group or in one-on-one meetings whether these interactions happen in person or via platforms like Zoom.
The key thing to remember about remote workers is that there are fewer spontaneous opportunities for recognition than with people you might bump into at the office. Leaders must commit to being more intentional about reaching out to acknowledge their remote team members to make them feel like important members of the team.