With the ‘new normal’ proving highly abnormal, workers are under more pressure than ever. This is why leaders must prioritize appreciation to keep their employees feeling connected, valued and motivated. After all, appreciation and recognition brings out the best in people, leading to greater drive and determination, better work relationships and stronger connections to their organisations. Here’s why staff appreciation is so important, and how to most effectively recognize staff during lockdown.
Why appreciation is vital in the workplace
Appreciating and recognising staff is key to elevating their self-worth, engagement levels, performance and sense of belonging. On top of this, effective recognition can make employees feel 355% more appreciated. On the flip side, latest O.C. Tanner research has found that organisations without a formal recognition programme during the Covid-19 crisis have seen a 48.6% decrease in employee engagement and a 14.4% increase in mental exhaustion. It’s therefore vital for leaders to focus on how they can best appreciate their teams right now, in spite of the lockdown. Whether it’s a simple but genuine 'thank you', an act of spontaneous praise or a more formal gesture of appreciation in front of managers and peers, here are six tips on how to appreciate your employees.
1. Appreciate often
Employees need to feel valued on an ongoing basis, not just at the annual review. And during a time of crisis when people are dealing with isolation and the associated stresses, it's more important than ever for leaders to frequently praise and recognize effort and results if workers are to remain engaged and motivated. So recognize when staff go above and beyond and be quick to show appreciation, even on a daily basis where possible. Waiting to say ‘thank you’ at the team meeting the following week just won’t cut it.
2. Make it personal
Making a 'thank you' personal is fundamental to conveying genuine appreciation. This means going into the detail of why the person has done such a great job. Which of their individual qualities should be praised, why and how does the recognition link back to the company’s purpose? A quick 'thanks' that is generic and vague will do little to motivate and inspire. However, an expression of appreciation that is specific and personal will be meaningful, particularly when staff are working in an increasingly isolated work environment.
3. Encourage peer-to-peer recognition
It shouldn't just be down to leaders to appreciate, workers should be encouraged to recognize their colleagues' efforts and successes as well. This could take the form of an email, a phone call or perhaps a fun pre-recorded video message. Whatever the format, when co-workers give each other recognition, there is a significant lift in engagement levels, wellbeing and feelings of connectedness. So, organisations should champion a culture of peer-to-peer recognition as well as top-down and bottom-up recognition, encouraging everyone to celebrate positive attitude, effort and performance.
4. Appreciate via video conference
With person-to-person appreciation not possible at present, leaders must make full use of video conferencing for allowing recognition moments to be shared with managers and colleagues. By involving peers in the moment, and encouraging them to take part by volunteering their own positive comments, observations and stories, this makes it all the more special and memorable.
5. Ensure recognition links back to company values
The most effective acts of recognition will outline how colleagues' actions and successes link back to the company’s purpose and its values. This is called ‘values-based recognition’ and reinforces what the company stands for and how employees are expected to behave. Putting values centre stage and reaffirming the company’s core principles during a time of crisis is especially important, as staff are reassured that their employer is fundamentally unchanged and retains a strong moral compass.
6. Don't forget the silent heroes
All companies have quiet workhorses who don’t complain, but who rarely appear in the spotlight. These teammates often get overlooked because they care more about their work than their ego. During the Covid-19 crisis, when it’s all too easy for the quiet members of the team to keep plodding along in their home offices unnoticed, leaders must ensure no-one is overlooked when it comes to showing thanks.
During a time of crisis, it’s all too easy for organisations to go into survival mode, focusing on the nuts and bolts of keeping afloat. Elements such as staff recognition can quickly go by the wayside, considered a ‘nice to have’ rather than a fundamental necessity. But without it, staff engagement, motivation and performance will go into a downward spiral and when some level of normality returns, those employees who have felt ignored and taken for granted by their employer may be the first to jump ship. So, take the time to recognize and appreciate frequently, personally and authentically. It may just prove the key to organisational survival.
About the Author
Robert Ordever is the MD of recognition expert, O.C. Tanner Europe and has specialized in the field of Human Resources for over 18 years. Robert was previously at Harrods and Fulham FC and has a real passion for creating workplace cultures that truly get the best out of their teams.