In today’s climate, post pandemic, mid economic recovery, and with Help Wanted signs on every corner, it’s more important than ever for employers to focus energy on retention strategies and exercise the art of appreciation. It may sound simple and too obvious to be strategic, but showing appreciation is often a missed opportunity, largely unprioritized, and at times, when done incorrectly, perceived as insincere causing damage to relationships.
Using the art of appreciation as the foundation to workforce retention and recruitment strategies is critical. Today’s workforce has options, and the ability to continue their employment search until they find the opportunity that best meets their current needs, their future needs, and is the best match to their value sets.
Here are the top 12 ways to show employees appreciation:
- Tell them: Stop by or pick up the phone and thank them personally. Share with them what exactly it is that you appreciate about them and what they bring to your organization by providing specific examples. Send a thank you note in the mail. Write an email sharing your employee’s positive impact to top leadership and copy the employee in. One simple sincere act can be all it takes to cultivate loyalty in your workforce.
- Communicate: Have regular 1 on 1 meetings with your employees. Ask them what they think and listen actively to their responses. Are there processes and procedures that can be improved upon? Are there resources and tools that need to be made more useful? How do they like their position? Is there anything that would make their role even better? How can you best support them? Show them that you care by engaging in conversation with them, actively listening to their answers, and following up on what they have shared with you.
- Be transparent: Your workforce will often know when times are tough. When your employees are invested in the organization, they will gladly rally for the greater good if they are clear on what is needed of them. Be open and honest with your staff when you are able to be. Sugar coating the truth, when there are obvious reasons to believe otherwise, breeds mistrust. People feel appreciated when they are trusted with the truth.
- Provide opportunities: Reward good performance with opportunities. People want to know that their employer values their hard work and dedication and that they will invest in them in the same way. Gain a solid understanding of your employee’s career path goals and provide them with opportunities to advance towards those goals through projects, training, practice and positions.
- Provide and Receive Feedback: Build a culture of feedback. A company able to give and receive constructive feedback is better positioned to be solution oriented. Focused attention and feedback on your employee’s strengths ensures you are actively assessing whether your organization is best utilizing those strengths. An employer’s willingness to receive upward feedback ensures that you value their perspective. If improvement coaching is necessary, provide training, support and guidance for those areas of growth.
- Pay them: Ensure you are paying a competitive wage and provide financial rewards through bonuses or extra time off when able. If you are not able to increase your wages, find out what is important to your employees that you are able to provide: more time off, flexible schedules, training, ability to provide community service, special projects, etc.
- Offer flexibility: Offer a variety of scheduling options. Part time, on call, flex time, multiple shift options, remote work, spilt shifts, school hour shifts or even open shifts. Be willing to think about how you can do work differently to ensure the varying needs of your workforce can be met. Considering alternative scheduling options lets your workforce know that you also prioritize their life outside of work.
- Celebrate milestones: Never turn down an opportunity to celebrate milestones—both work related and non-work related. Work anniversaries, promotions, project completions, resolution to a problem, new babies, birthdays, retirements, weddings or other important work or life events are just some examples. Celebration and acknowledgment of these milestones can be big or small. A good practice would be to ask new employees how they like to be recognized and celebrated when they start with your organization. Some people might prefer a simple note to a cake and announcement.
- Encourage time off: Your employees feel appreciated when you ensure that they are able to take time away from work. Ensure that you are offering a competitive paid leave package and a culture that encourages your employees to actually use it. Establish a system that provides coverage for while they are out of the office to minimize overload upon their return.
- Feed them: Sometimes it’s the little things. Build community through lunches, potlucks, chili cookoffs, or even a “trip-around-the-world” buffet style meal to celebrate cuisines from all of the diverse cultures in your workplace. And don’t forget the donuts, everyone loves donuts.
- Take action: People feel heard, respected and valued when they see evidence that constructive input shared has caused incremental change. Implementing changes suggested by your workforce shows them that you not only want to know what they think, but that you also are willing to do what needs to be done to make things better for them – and for your company.
- Build a culture of appreciation: Invest in creating a culture centered around inclusion and appreciation. This starts at the top. Leadership at all levels need to be invested in appreciation culture and consistently model opportunities to show their appreciation for their staff, partners and communities.
Jess Miller is the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development's Workforce Strategy Consultant for South Central & Southwest Minnesota.