When someone says thank you for something you’ve done, how does that make you feel? Saying thank you may seem like a very small thing to do, but we can all personally attest to the difference it makes. Genuine appreciation from leaders, family members or colleagues helps us enjoy contributing, and it helps us feel good about the people we are serving. That’s true even when the task is mundane, boring or repetitive. On the flip side, doing a mundane task and receiving no appreciation for it makes us feel resentful.
The difference isn’t in the task. It’s not necessarily in how challenging or enjoyable we find the job. Instead, the difference is that someone took the time to notice not only the work we did, but also us as people. Someone recognized that what we did mattered, and that means we matter, too.
At work, saying thank you is part of creating a culture that centers on people – a culture where employees feel valued and significant. This kind of people-centric culture is vital to the health of your workforce. In fact, a study by Josh Bersin found that companies with people-centric cultures that are rich in recognition experienced 31% lower voluntary turnover as compared with companies that didn’t emphasize recognition.
But how do you get there?
Let’s dive in.
Recognition Starts With Culture
A people-centric culture recognizes that your best assets are your employees. Your people are the ones who drive production, provide customer service, support and promote branding, make sales and accomplish every other task within your company. If your people aren’t happy in their jobs, that frustration will overflow into their daily work.
Companies with a recognition-rich culture have discovered the secret to helping people feel valued and appreciated. It’s not a top-down initiative, but rather an integral part of talent management that incorporates both peer-to-peer recognition and feedback from immediate managers. These organizations understand how to develop a culture that genuinely appreciates the contributions of others, and they take the time to tell them so. Here’s what that looks like practically:
- Continuous and ongoing recognition – Saying (and hearing) thank you should be a regular, routine part of daily life on the job. From a simple email acknowledgement for a job well done to tangible rewards to regular weekly and monthly activities designed to show appreciation (like a team lunch), recognition should flow freely throughout the organization from top to bottom.
- Social reward systems – Social rewards are those that encourage team members to recognize their peers. For example, you might use a technology tool that logs points every time an employee leaves feedback on your internal social platform. These social reward systems can help create a habit of recognition at all levels.
- Peer-to-peer recognition – Alongside social reward systems, peer-to-peer feedback is an important part of creating a culture that values recognition. Peer-to-peer recognition encourages collaboration and interaction, creating an environment where hard work and positive contributions are valued by the group.
- Connection with business values and goals – Ultimately, recognition isn’t just a program. It’s a strategy. Therefore, it’s important to recognize and reward behaviors and contributions that align with your business objectives. For example, reward for reaching a personal sales goal rather than for a tenure-based work anniversary.
Recognition Should Include All Employees, Not Just Top Achievers
One of the pitfalls of many recognition strategies is that they acknowledge only the top achievers within the organization. This sends a subtle message that only the star players are valuable and other employees aren’t worth celebrating. This can be devastating to the morale of a team, especially if you have a naturally gifted employee who is at the top of the leaderboard every month.
But what if you took a different approach? What if, along with recognizing the most productive employee or the person with the most sales, you found ways to celebrate wins for all employees? For example, you could recognize employees for:
- Reaching a personal best
- Completing a project
- Completing a certification or course
- Making a valuable contribution to a presentation
- Achieving a monthly or quarterly goal
In other words, look for ways to reward employees for making valuable contributions to the organization, whenever and wherever they happen.
According to Bersin, successful recognition strategies depend on developing a culture where recognition is valued and practiced at all levels. It’s not enough to leave recognition to the executives when it’s time for an annual bonus, but it’s also not enough to expect recognition to occur only within teams. A culture-based recognition strategy must start in the C-suite and flow through the organization, with every manager or supervisor responsible for practicing and promoting recognition within his or her team.
A culture like this forms the foundation for a healthy, engaging environment where people enjoy their jobs and do their best work.