A little more than thanks will do
A recent global study, conducted by Tower Perrin consultancy firm (North America, Europe) on employee engagement, revealed that companies which intentionally appreciated employees secured increased levels of engagement in the workplace.
Older studies on the impact of appreciation on employee satisfaction in western economies showed that being appreciated at work ranked as the number one factor leading to employee engagement. Money ranked number five.
A subsequent study by Linder in 1998 is more reflective of the primary concern in today’s economic environment. Linder found that while appreciation remained in the top three, good pay was perceived as a motivator and ranked at number two.
In the Perrin study, even companies that practised high levels of trust, open communication and opportunity for growth, experienced increased employee engagement by adding appreciation to the mix.
What we are left to infer from this research is that pay is important and may keep people satisfied at work. It may even, in the minds of some employees, drive them to perform well. We may also conclude that the sense of belonging, respect, efficacy and value that is derived from appreciation suggests that the way an employee is made to feel at work is very important to the employee and might impact his performance.
The quality of the relationships that are spawned by the agents of companies, namely bosses, tend to set the tone for the levels of engagement that employees exhibit in relation to work and in relation to their peers. It is said that people do not leave organizations, they leave people.
In this economic climate, this is a particularly invaluable piece of information to leaders. Many employees are being asked to feel grateful that they have a job and so the pay cheque is being viewed as sufficient thanks.
Why leaders should say thank you
What is also true is that in periods of crisis, employees are expected to carry heavier loads and as a result it is really a nice gesture to say “thank you” to employees even though they may have been spared the “cut”. The goal is to keep employees engaged. However, the ultimate prize is to engender heartfelt gratitude for the contribution your team and peers bring to table.
The purpose of saying “thank you” is to build harmonious and lasting bonds with employees. Appreciative managers have more influence. Engagement is the spin off from the attention paid to shaping these connections over time.
More than words
Nevertheless, appreciation is more than simply saying “thank you.” It involves developing trust, opening communication channels and showing respect. It also includes paying attention to people, valuing them and building their strengths and confidence by recognizing their efforts.
The words “thank you” can convey a leader’s acknowledgement of all the above but there are additional ways to inspire, encourage and appreciate employees.
Eight ways to appreciate employees
• Begin by acknowledging yourself for your valuable contributions. It is difficult to authentically appreciate others if you find it hard to appreciate your own efforts.
• Set aside a day each year for team leaders to personally thank their members; CEOs may call each employee in smaller companies. Highlight both personal and professional attributes.
• Catch people doing something right; focus on what is good about their performance.
• Use reward systems to influence confidence and to show the link between personal and company achievement.
• Provide employees with requisite equipment to help them accomplish their tasks.
• Be your team’s champion; work to earn the accolade of being a good boss for whom to work.
• Recognize workers publicly, reprimand privately.
• Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Do people even expect more than a pay cheque?
The long and short is that people want to know that what they do makes a difference and that it matters. The pay cheque comprises half of the economic contract between employer and employee.
However, appreciation is core to the unspoken and unwritten psychological contract. Therefore, people do expect to hear “thanks” and based upon the few tips given, it is neither very difficult nor expensive to demonstrate gratitude.
So, add a little appreciation to your company and boost employee engagement. Your employees will welcome it. Everyone will win.
• Cheryl Gittens is a life performance coach to professionals, and a lecturer at the University of the West Indies.