by Jon Hainstock, co-founder of ZoomShift
As a manager or leader, it’s easy to take your own agenda into your employee appreciation efforts and ignore what your workers want.
Certainly, you do need to be intentional about appreciating your employees. You also need to think about how you intend to achieve this end. But for appreciation and recognition to be effective, you need to make appreciation days about your employees. If it’s not about them, it’s just about you, and that’s not going to do anything for your culture. Build your team and they will support you in building your culture.
Here are several practical steps you can take to leverage your employee appreciation efforts into culture-building:
Share your philosophy and values.
Large or small, all companies have values and a guiding philosophy, though it’s entirely possible that you haven’t put it into words and documented it just yet. If this describes you, it’s something you should consider doing before your next employee appreciation event. You’ll find this to be a worthy exercise in other ways too.
Once you’re clear on your values, it makes it easier to plan how you’re going to show appreciation for your team members. You could invite a guest speaker you resonate with to share their perspective. Or, if you value creativity, you could have your workers collaborate on a vision board (have them cut out pictures to put on a whiteboard). Letting your team members in on corporate goals keeps them involved in making them a reality.
Culture is built through repetition – consistently reminding your team members what you value and stand for. But do resist the temptation to make the day all about business, because then your employees might not feel appreciated. Also, don’t compromise your values once you’ve defined them.
Encourage teamwork through games or exercises.
Relationship-building is an important part of instilling your company culture. You don’t want to get too deeply entrenched in other people’s personal lives, but if you’re so impersonal that you don’t know anyone’s name, that’s also a problem. There is a healthy balance in between.
Appreciation day is a good opportunity for your workers to bond among themselves. This encourages more teamwork and collaboration, which can give them a sense of belonging and increase fulfillment in their careers. It can also boost productivity.
Together, you could play a game that involves splitting up into teams and problem-solving or completing a fun project together. This is a simple way to unify your team.
Recognize outstanding achievements.
Recognition is simple to do, but that doesn’t mean employers and managers are necessarily in the habit of doing it. It often requires a bit of forethought, and if you don’t have any prompts or notifications to remind you, you might forget altogether. There might be a tip in that – you could set reminders for yourself in your digital calendar and be notified on your computer or smartphone.
Recognition is typically best when it’s immediate, personal, and specific. But you can also use employee appreciation days to recognize outstanding individual and team accomplishments. You can even use trophies, plaques, or gift cards to make it more concrete. This reinforces the same behavior in the future, which is one of the reasons why it’s so powerful. It also demonstrates to your employees what you value in their work.
Just remain aware of any employees you’re failing to recognize over a longer period of time. They may become resentful of those who always seem to be getting more attention and choose to move on and find new opportunities.
Show your employees you care by holding an appreciation day for them. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, nor does it require a lot of planning if you keep it simple. Your team members work hard, and they deserve to be rewarded. Make appreciation a part of your culture, and your culture will build itself. But don’t allow your employee appreciation efforts to become halfhearted or generic. Appreciation will fail if it becomes rote. Make sure you know what your employees want. Make it personal.
You need to be personally invested in your employee appreciation efforts. The greatest investment isn’t necessarily monetary – it’s the time you spend with your employees, getting to know them and recognizing them for their contributions.