What is employee appreciation? Is it really that important?
Many companies have some sort of “recognition program”, but appreciation is not a cookie cutter plan for providing positive feedback that is limited to sporadic praise and compliments. Appreciation is not an HR initiative that you can put in place or software that you can buy. (Sure, tools can be helpful for creating structure, but the human element is what really matters.)
Appreciation is an active process that begins with paying attention, a practice that allows you to recognize & enjoy the people around you for who they are and what they do. This is the first step in creating a culture of appreciation.
Check out the slideshare, webinar video, or transcript below. 15Five CEO David Hassell, and VP of Customer Success, Shane Metcalf, discuss how employee appreciation can be a catalyst for your employees to reach their highest potential.
Human beings are organized into different levels of need, that must all be taken care of in order – from the bottom to the top, beginning with the most basic. For example, when our physiological well-being is at risk all of our attention is devoted to that basic need, to the exclusion of all others.
Most organizations by default take care of the lowest rungs in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (illustrated to the right), with environments that are physically safe and with reasonable wages that allow people to afford food and shelter.
Fewer organizations focus on the higher rungs of belonging and esteem.When those two aren’t taken care of, employees stagnate at those levels. If they don’t feel like they belong or don’t have a sense of esteem, they will spin their wheels to get those needs met.
When all four tiers are being met (physiology, safety, belonging, and esteem), people naturally shift their focus into their self-actualization. Self-actualization is characterized by two elements – growth and contribution. People will desire to keep getting better and contribute, which translates to better or more innovative work. Appreciating employees creates a sense of, “I matter, and people around me matter. We can all move forward together as a great team.”
What would your company look like if everyone was at the level of self-actualization? What would that be like, instead of getting mired in office politics or other unhealthy aspects of organizations that consume so much of our attention. What happens when belonging and esteem needs are met?
1) Strong relationships form on a solid foundation of trust. People think of company leaders more as mentors than bosses, and they begin trusting their peers. This isn’t just about creating high morale, employees who trust each other are more inclined to share information and genuine thoughts about projects. Optimization happens and issues are addressed early, because people who know that they belong aren’t afraid to share.
2) Many organizations don’t create environments which encourage esteem and belonging. It’s very hard for people to leave an organization like this, which creates a competitive advantage for talent retention. People become fiercely loyal and employee turnover is low.
3) People are focused on their learning, growth, and contribution, thereby doing the best work of their lives and feeling deep fulfillment along the way.
Fundamentally, great companies come from great relationships. We build them with our investors and our customers. We build them with our co-workers, managers, and direct reports. Appreciation allows people to rise above unhealthy team dynamics like the excessive competition and the withholding of information that stifle growth.
Ultimately, employee appreciation leads to stronger teams that are better at accomplishing the organization’s objectives.
The more you do these practices, the more easily they will come. You will create a culture anchored in appreciation:
1) Develop and strengthen a habit of noticing.
Begin with your environment. Look around you and see if you can find one thing or one person to appreciate. Train yourself to look for things that inspire gratitude instead of just seeing problems.
2) Create rituals to share the things that you appreciate.
Attach this to something that you do already. A great example is during meetings, since you will inevitably have at least one this week. Try ending a team meeting with a round of appreciations.
In the earlier days of 15Five, appreciation rituals were not yet baked-in to the culture. On a leadership retreat, following a strategy session, Shane recommended a round of appreciations. At first people were uncomfortable to vulnerably share gratitude for others on the team. But once people jumped in, the entire energy and mood shifted to pure positivity. In a matter of minutes, relationships had been strengthened.
Watch the 45 minute webinar above for more detail and for informative Q&A about refining appreciation at your company. Then anchor what you’ve learned by doing two things:
1) Think about three people at work or in your life, and share what you appreciate about them.
2) Determine the appreciation practice you are going to put in place, whether that’s a round of appreciations at the end of a specific meeting, or setting a weekly team quota of giving high-fives.
Before long, you’ll find that a culture of appreciation has emerged at your company. Feel free to give yourself a pat on the back.
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