We all know that everyone wants to be appreciated – in life and in work. Managers, employees, husbands, wives, children, coaches, players……we all want to be seen, heard, valued, and appreciated. We never outgrow this need – even if we appear to be confident, independent, and successful; the reality is that everyone needs (and wants) to be valued and appreciated by others. Period. And though money is certainly one method to recognize and reward our employees; it is by no means the only way. Studies have actually shown that though money is one metric by which we gauge success and provide incentive; it is not the most important one.
In fact, the startling reality is that in one particular study, over 75% of employees say it is very important for their work to be appreciated by others AND 70% believe they are not getting the amount of recognition or appreciation they would like. The relevance of praising and validating an employee’s work is what encourages ongoing improvement and commitment from our employees. It is simply not optional to praise, recognize, and reward our hard-working teams. And again – newsflash – money is NOT the only way. Compensation is what we give folks for doing their job; recognition and appreciation is what feeds us on a totally different level.
Thus, many of you asked me to offer a few non-monetary creative approaches to motivate and reward employees. This particular article will highlight a few ideas (certainly not all-inclusive); which may sound basic, yet, from my experience the leaders that actually DO these things are the ones that truly make a difference in their employee’s life AND impact their performance and ongoing careers. So here you go:
- Call an employee into your office just to THANK him/her…nothing else.
- Put a handwritten (key) thank you note with specific feedback and thanks in the mail if they are remote employees or on the employee’s office door.
- Answer your employee’s phone for a day. (Ha! That would be interesting!)
- Have your manager’s manager call your employee to personally thank him/her for a job well done.
- Wash your employee’s car in the parking lot during lunch.
- Greet every employee by name when you pass them in the hall or by their desks. Remember – the most beautiful sound is your name!
- When discussing a new idea with other individuals, be sure you NAME the person whose idea it was and/or who has contributed to the idea. Give credit – early, often, and consistently.
- Create a ‘BRAVO’ card which you send for exemplary work. This card will become a ‘standard’ and everyone will want to receive as many as they can for doing great work.
- Create a ‘Hall of Fame’ with photos of employees who do exemplary work or who exhibit a team value (like teamwork) which you want to encourage. Have the other members of your team choose the person to receive this award.
- For those employees in your office (or when you go to visit them if you are remote), write small thank you notes (could even be Post-it notes) and hide them in their desks for them to find after you have gone.
- Provide and ‘out to dinner’ or ‘cocktail hour’ for two when an employee does something out of the ordinary….like working through their vacation or helping another employee with a challenging project.
- Develop a ‘Behind the Scenes’ award for those team members who are not in the limelight – yet, do a lot of ‘heavy lifting’.
- Create a ‘Recognition Day’ once a quarter where employees make it a priority to write hand written notes to those individuals who have helped them over the course of the past quarter. (Note: I sit on the Board of Directors for the University of Arkansas; and we do this for all the faculty and administrators once a year. It is amazingly impactful. Some faculty members may receive 300+ notes from students, other faculty, and board members.)
- Arrange for an employee you want to recognize to have a one/one lunch with a senior level executive within the company. You do this for them, and arrange all the details, etc.
- Buy a gift for your employee’s child or ‘four legged child’ as a way of saying thank you. (Note: I did this for an employee who was single, yet, loved her dogs so much. The chew sticks I sent to her for her dogs were a home run!)
- Provide a massage, facial, or manicure as a gift of appreciation.
- Create an ABCD award (Above and Beyond the Call of Duty)…..and make a shirt with this acronym on it to give to the employee who exceeds the ‘requirements’ of the job.
- Give an employee a copy of the latest best-selling business book or a subscription to a periodical. (Yes, I know most folks read online – yet, there is something about a hard copy book/magazine. AND the best part: inscribe it to them with your gratitude.)
- Make a contribution to their favorite charity, in their honor.
- Order pizza for an informal lunch for the team….and yes, even if you manage remote employees – you can still do this in your office AND encourage them to do this in their office. It builds tremendous esprit de corp.
- Offer exposure to the top management team through placing a high-performing on a task force or committee.
- Recognize and thank people who recognize others. This helps to build a collaborative culture and one that makes everyone a ‘hero’.
- Meet with your people at least once a week – and no, this is NOT all about the work/projects they are managing. Make THEM your priority. Find out what they need; where they want to go in their careers; and how you can help them. That is your #1 responsibility – helping grow leaders within your organization.
None of this is complicated or sophisticated. Saying thank you is one of the first things we learn as children (or at least in the South it is:)!). Yet, so often we just forget. We get too busy. As Ken Blanchard, a highly regarded author and management consultant says: “Good thoughts not delivered mean squat”. That is so true. This does not mean to start praising people ‘right and left’…..that would evolve into ‘empty praise’ which dilutes the power of sincere, authentic gratitude. The net point can be summed up in this way: the real Golden Rule when leading folks is what I call the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – if you were them.” We have to meet folks where they are….not everyone wants to be rewarded or recognized in the same way. It is our responsibility to get to know our teams and ‘meet them where they are’. Learning what our individual employees need AND how they want to receive it is the silver bullet relative to motivating them. And no, money is NOT the only lever we have to pull!