Appreciating Your Staff Makes Business Sense
Everyone is aware that these are tough economic times. Many managers want to pay their staff more, but often the money just isn't there. Leaders know their employees are stressed, but they don't know what to do to encourage them.
But there is a growing chasm between employees and managers. Research consistently shows that the vast majority of employees don't feel appreciated at work. In one study, 55% of the workers reported they had received no recognition for doing good work in the past 12 months.
When employees don't feel appreciated bad things happen, including:
Higher rates of tardiness and absenteeism
Increased clerical errors
More conflict among team members
Lower customer satisfaction
All of these results contribute to higher costs for organizations. Finding and training new employees has been found to be one of the most expensive non-productive costs to organizations. And absenteeism can be up to 30% of a company's payroll expense.
Over the past 10 years, leaders have looked to one savior to help employees feel better about their jobs: employee recognition programs. In fact, employee recognition programs have proliferated (90% of businesses have them in place).
The problem is: most don't work. Statistics show that employee engagement and job satisfaction are actually declining, while cynicism and lack of trust are growing.
It is important to understand that recognition isn't the same as appreciation. Recognition focuses primarily on external behavior and. specifically, employee performance. So team members receive a verbal compliment, or possibly some tangible reward, when they are observed to be doing well in the behaviors desired.
Employee recognition programs typically are not viewed positively. The same complaints are common: “It is so contrived.” “They don't care about me personally, they just want me to perform better.” “The ‘rewards’ they give us are lame anyway.”
Over time, resentment and a lack of trust build.
Believe it or not, employees have different languages of appreciation. Not everyone likes verbal praise. Some people just don't trust words. Others believe actions speak louder than words . Or, for some, time is the most important message you can send.
It can be difficult to determine which of the five languages of appreciation an employee prefers. The topic doesn't typically come up in daily conversation. As a result, we created an online instrument which identifies team members’ preferred languages of appreciation and allows them to specify the actions important to them.
We have been able to identify four key components for team members to actually feel valued by their supervisors and colleagues. Appreciation must be:
Communicated regularly. Once a year at the employee's performance review or at the team member of the month ceremony doesn't get it done. People need frequent feedback that they are valued (the frequency will differ according to the individual and the setting.)
Individualized and personal. An email to the team saying, “Good job, team. Way to go!” doesn't say anything to the employee who worked late to get it to the printer. And bringing in pizza for the employees at a high-performing branch can feel like a cheap, convenient way to thank everyone at once.
Language and specific actions meaningful to the recipient. Do you realize that 20-25% of people don't want to go up front to receive a reward? Or that going to an unstructured social gathering with a group of people they don't know well is torture for many introverts? Some prefer a gift card.
Perceived as authentic. The biggest complaint about employee recognition programs is that they feel contrived. If the message sent isn't believed to be genuine, you are wasting your time and energy.
Leaders can help their organization flourish by investing in communicating value to their employees. The key is to communicate authentic appreciation in the ways that are meaningful to each person. The return on investment will be significant. Clearly, effectively communicating appreciation makes good business sense.
Paul White is co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. He can be reached at (316) 681-4431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.