12th January, 2021
Before we dive into the year ahead, it’s a good time to reflect on how you and your team work together on a professional, and personal, level.
Appreciation among colleagues is a key ingredient of all high-quality workplaces, and it needs to be fostered in a top-down approach. After all, research has shown positive reinforcement boosts morale, instils productivity and ambition, and nurtures a sense of confidence and comfort in the workplace.
After a challenging year like 2020, finding ways to help others get on board and remain engaged in their work is an ongoing challenge, but it’s also something that can resolved with ongoing care and attention.
While employee appreciation is something that should ideally be practiced year-round, a natural slowdown period (such as the beginning of the year, for many small-to-medium businesses) is an ideal time to remind your tribe how valuable they are. In turn, you’ll have the opportunity to gain benefits from an uplift in engagement among team members.
Appreciation can take many forms. For instance, it can be a physical gift, an experience, extra time off or public recognition. Irrespective of how you choose to package it, if you want it to be truly effective, the mode of delivery needs to be right too.
Placing thought into the tone and underlying messaging of the whatever gestures you intend on showing is a crucial part of delivery. When given over right, expressions of gratitude are meaningful and long-lasting. If you miss the mark though, your efforts are likely to remain one-dimensional.
To help get you started, below are three key components to delivering worthwhile and long-lasting positive reinforcement to your team, whether you’re the boss or the new starter.
Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg once said that leaders should strive for “authenticity over perfection”, and authenticity in appreciation gestures comes down to how personal and tailored they are.
Demonstrating appreciation needs to reflect an employee’s individual achievements to work effectively. The moment handing out rewards and recognition turns into a routine or thoughtless process, it begins to lose authenticity and purpose.
When considering your regular workplace routines or behaviours, take time to critically think through the unique aspects of the work you and your colleagues produce, the customers you serve and the problems you solve. These shared experiences are a goldmine of information that can be used to tell a story about the heroes in your place of work.
For example, if one of your employees worked especially long hours throughout the course of the year, giving an extra couple of days leave during the summer period will show them that you noticed their hard work, appreciated their efforts and are rewarding them in a commensurate fashion.
Not only should we seek to behave with authenticity according to each individual’s contributions to your work, there should also be some consideration given to company values – the set of ideals the entire organisation has subscribed to.
According to Kayla Medica from Perkbox Australia, appreciation is best delivered with the backdrop of a company’s values and overall mission statement, always tying it back to the work at hand.
“Where possible, let the people in your team know which values they’ve demonstrated and that you’re appreciative of, this will ensure the employee feels like an individual rather than a number,” Medica said.
When employees are shown appreciation that highlights how they’ve successfully upheld workplace values through their efforts and have played an important role in helping their organisation achieve its mission statement, everyone benefits. This is how a positive cycle of gratitude and fulfilment that is aligned to company values can be fostered within an organisation.
People have an inherent aversion to inequity, and studies have shown that this dislike for unfairness doesn’t only appear when the inequity experienced is to a person’s disadvantage, but can also exist when the inequity falls in their favour. In a business setting, while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and individuals may interpret gestures of appreciation differently, the most important thing it to keep things fair and equitable.
So before you go headlong into your new plans to boost morale, make certain your gestures are going to be delivered fairly across the board.
Striking the balance between fairness and individualised appreciation keeps employees from feeling resentful or jealous – which is key for workplaces looking to thrive.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you’re new to an organisation or the long-term leader – fostering a culture of gratitude in your business can only make for a more cohesive team, and better outcomes for all in 2021.