12 Ways to Create a Culture of Appreciation

by Diane Berenbaum

When was the last time you felt really appreciated? Or, when someone went out of his/her way to thank you for something you've done or something you've said? Remember the feeling?

When was the last time you appreciated others? Remember their reaction?

So why do we do tend to express appreciation for just "special occasions"?

O.C. Tanner, a human resources consulting company that designs employee recognition programs, believes that employees have "discretionary input"; this is the additional effort they may (or may not) contribute to a task, depending on their motivation. According to David Sturt, vice president of Marketing and Business Development, "Most people have this dormant talent that isn't awakened unless you engage them. We've identified what drives people and we're calling that out. That's ‘Appreciateology.' It's like recognition but at a deeper, more long-term level."

In essence, there is a science and an art of appreciation. And, appreciating great work generates great power. Research supports this concept:  the number one reason why people quit their jobs is because they don't feel they're appreciated. In fact, the training and consulting company, Appreciation at Work, reported that 70% of employees say they received no praise or recognition at work.

According to Allyson Willoughby, senior vice president of People and general counsel of Glassdoor, the online career community, "Everyone wants to be appreciated and everyone values a simple ‘thank you.'" But, "this doesn't happen enough in the workplace." Their Employee Appreciation Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, found that 53% of employees would stay at their company longer if they felt more appreciation from their manager. Plus, 81% said they're motivated to work harder when their manager shows appreciation for their work.

But some managers spend more time highlighting what people did wrong, as opposed to what they did well. White and Whitcomb's book, The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, notes that 88% of employees leave their company, not for money, but for not feeling trusted and valued. And, this lack of appreciation causes a productivity loss estimated at more than $300 billion in the United States.

Taking time to express gratitude in the workplace is not only the ‘nice' thing to do; it is also the right thing to do. It creates a culture of collaboration that fosters teamwork and retention. Willoughby notes that it can also go a long way in motivating employees to work harder and be more productive, especially in high-pressure and stressful environments.

Genuine, heartfelt appreciation is a gift, yet many don't know how to give or receive it. There are many ways to express your gratitude and show you care. Here are some on the top of employees' lists:

1.  Share Monetary Awards and Equivalents (e.g. gift cards)
  • As you might have guessed, these types of awards were the most preferred option, according to the Glassdoor survey. Plus, three in four employees say a pay raise is a very motivating and valuable form of appreciation.
2.  Deliver Unexpected Treats and Rewards
  • According to Willoughby, "thank you notes and lunches are fairly easy and inexpensive ways to show appreciation, and employees love it." That's good news for employers of any size. Any treats with chocolate are very popular here at Communico!
3.  Share Compliments and Say "Thank you"…Often
  • According to David Shindler, author of Learning to Leap and founder of The Employability Hub, "employee surveys continue to show that people value a simple ‘thank you' from managers.  Compliments put people in a good mood and make them more receptive to new ideas."
4.  Engage Associates in Decision-making Processes
  • When involved in making decisions, associates feel valued, and 93% say they are motivated to do their best work. They also have a greater sense of commitment to the organization, which leads to improved morale and increased productivity,
5.  Offer Opportunities for Growth
  • Employees want to improve their skills and broaden their knowledge. Researchers at the Harvard Business Review highlighted the motivational power of progress and acquiring useful new skills.
6.  Provide Additional Training that Benefits them Personally
  • Training improves business performance, profit and morale, but it can also enhance associates' altitude, skills and knowledge. They can learn new skills, increase their confidence and help them make a bigger impact on the organization.
7.  Take Time to Laugh
  • Author, Shawn Hunter, noted that fun environments rank higher in terms of reasons to stay with a job than money, gifts, and even recognition. Humor and creative thinking builds trust and an engaging culture that yields inspired results.
8.  Write Personal and Specific Notes
  • A personalized note will be remembered. So, instead of a "template" email, send a genuine "Thanks for your help," and include details such as "Thank you so much for input on the ABC Project.  Your support helped us meet the deadline and exceed client expectations."
9.  Ask Questions that Show you Care
  • "What can I do to help?" "What support, tools/resources do you need to be more effective?" "How can I support you?" Just the asking sets the stage for a more collaborative relationship and more powerful results. You may also be amazed at what you learn and what your associates can do.
10.  Take Time to Get to Know your Associates
  • Schedule one-on-one chats/meetings to connect and touch base. Show interest in your associates and what they do. Everyone likes to know that others in the organization care about them.
11.  Acknowledge Associates' Contributions and What Makes Them Special
  • Demonstrate that you appreciate and respect effort on projects. Recognize and praise associates individually and publicly. Share personalized encouragement, verbally or in writing, especially during complex projects.
12.  Encourage the Expression of Gratitude
  • Expressing genuine gratitude can make a profound impact on productivity and associates' emotional health. Celebrate your associates and their contributions. This practice will not only improve relationships, but also ultimately shift a culture.
In this crazy, hectic world of non-stop, around-the clock calls, emails and texts, we all need a little appreciation once in a while. So, consider creating a "Culture of Appreciation." It will be evident in all your interactions, and it may rub off on others too!

 To help you get started, you can sign up for O.C. Tanner's "Weekly Appreciation Tip." Think of it as a reminder to "make someone's day." Your associates will appreciate it.

And, to all of you who took the time to read this…thank you! I appreciate your interest and support!
"Make it a habit to tell people ‘thank you,' to express your appreciation,
 sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return.
Truly appreciate those around you, and you'll soon find many others around you.
 Truly appreciate life, and you'll find that you have more of it."
—Ralph Marston, author of Living the Wonder of it All
and publisher of The Daily Motivator
"There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread."
—Mother Teresa
Diane Berenbaum is a long-time contributor and former editor of the MAGIC Service Newsletter. She has more than twenty-five years of experience as a consultant, coach, and facilitator. Diane is the co-author of How to Talk to Customers: Create a Great Impression Every Time with MAGIC® .
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