Recognition is a basic human need. Inside and outside of the office, introverts and extroverts alike, we crave acknowledgment and appreciation from our fellow human beings. This innate desire means that employee recognition is more than a box checked in a survey or a box of candy given out amidst winter holidays. Employee recognition is a big deal! And it is best accomplished in small gestures.
It might be natural to jump to giving a free lunch or a pay increase - everyone loves those! However, consistently connecting your employee recognition efforts with monetary incentives or gifts gives the impression that your people are only appreciated in dollar amounts (and usually very little...we're talking $10...). There's a better way.
Start with Communication
To be seen by another human being is to be noticed and acknowledged. To be recognized is to be appreciated - perhaps in front of other people or in a one-on-one setting. Employee recognition, at it's core, is communicating your gratitude for a teammate and the value they bring. All you need is to carve out a little time. No candy boxes. No huge bonuses. Just communication.
Opening up communication, especially for a team or company where it's not a big part of the culture, can be new. There are a few tricks to inspire and encourage the change.
Keep the Taking Going
What are a few ways to embed communication into the culture? Simple. Create opportunities to talk to one another and give thanks.
#1 Share Stories
At the beginning of each staff meeting, have each person come prepared with two stories to share:
1. A project, personally or professionally, they're working on
2. A time in the past week that a co-worker did something they are grateful for or proud of
By simply starting with sharing about a project or task, an environment of reciprocity is created. You now feel you're in a safe space to share how your MBA classes are going, or adding another half-mile onto your daily walks, or that your kid made the school play. You can celebrate the small stuff and bring your heart and mind to work with you. You can be your real, authentic self with your co-workers.
#2. Be Grateful
Reflecting on the people you appreciate helps you seek out opportunities to be grateful. Our brains - as a sing processor - can only focus on one emotion at a time. If you are focused on appreciation, there isn't a lot of space for frustration, anger, or anything else. The more you practice being grateful, the easier it is to be grateful. In a study where researchers picked random volunteers and trained them to be grateful, the following occurred:
- Became more optimistic
- Felt more socially connected
- Enjoyed better quality sleep
- Experienced fewer headaches
Expressing gratitude for co-workers creates a vocabulary and context for a culture rooted in employee recognition. All of which leads to a better, happier, better performing employees.
60% Likelihood of Better Work
When your employees feel valued and at home - and subsequently do their best work - your culture has arrived. After all, employees who report feeling valued by their employer are 60% more likely to report they are motivated to do their very best for their employer, says a Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, “American Psychology Association Harrison Interactive,” Workplace Survey.
True culture shifts happen with small habit changes. Remember - employee recognition magnifies with small gestures
Small Gestures, Big Results
There is so much value when your people celebrate each other, acknowledging and appreciating each other on a day-to-day basis. The structure of the pre-meeting discussion points will bleed over into everyday communications. Don't be surprised if you hear your people recognizing each other for small accomplishments in the break room or bragging on their teams to others at your next picnic!
As a leader, listening to your people share their personal successes and what they are appreciating about their co-workers provides you with an organic track record for topics you can connect with them on and activities you can support them in.
Employee recognition starts and continues with communication.
Express your gratitude for your own life and for the good work you see in your teammates and you will feel the subtle yet incredible shift in your company's culture.
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