Do you struggle to show your appreciation for team members?
Employee engagement remains top of mind for leaders today. While remote team members may not always be responsive to your messages or switch on their video cameras during meetings, one thing you can do to boost morale is to show a genuine appreciation for the work that they do and assure them that they’re valued.
A study by O.C. Tanner Institute found that a strong culture of recognition was four times more likely to result in a highly engaged workforce. Employees would also be three times more likely to have an exceptional employee experience. All of which are key to high retention rates and a happy workforce.
Despite this, whether done through a screen or in person, telling someone you appreciate them can be tough. In a quick poll online, almost half of leaders (54%) admitted that they struggle to do or say the right things when trying to show their appreciation for team members. About 12% said they just don’t know whether they’re giving meaningful recognition at all. Only about a third of leaders (34%) were confident that they’re doing it right. What can leaders do to ensure that employees feel valued and appreciated?
Read more: How do you keep your team happy?
Make the effort to know your team members
Sonya Brown, senior VP talent & culture at Accor believes you need to make things “personal” to build that meaningful connection. “It’s all about making it personal,” she said at a recent webinar by O.C. Tanner. “You can’t make it personal if you don’t know your team members.” From experience, she’s found that reward and recognition was a matter of personal preference. Some preferred public affirmations, while others would rather get a personal ‘thank you’ from their managers or co-workers. “You actually need to know your team,” she said.
It's not even something you can generalise based on someone’s identity or background, such as cultural differences. Brown often gets asked whether there’s a distinct difference between how employees from Asia and other regions reacted to recognition methods. To date she’s found that it’s not that simple to generalise across diverse workforces.
“I have people in my team, be it in Singapore or Thailand, who will often deflect recognition and [say]: ‘It was a team effort. I was only doing my job,’” she said. “You can read that as being an innate cultural piece, but I’ve had the same reaction from someone who’s Welsh. Once again, it goes back to really knowing your people.”
Ask what employees want
Besides getting to know your team members, another leader added that you can outright ask staff the question. Meghan Stettler, director at the O.C. Tanner Institute said leaders can just get straight to it and ask: ‘How do you prefer to be recognised? Do you love the publicity, or do you just want a small moment?’
Asking someone what they preferred is not only vital to meet an employee’s unique needs, but also, it’s helpful when there are so many ways to show how much you valued and appreciated your team member. “From a recognition standpoint, it is beyond just more shoutouts,” said April Wan, VP, global head of HR at Razer Inc. Recognising someone’s efforts and capabilities can include acknowledging their hard work through multiple channels, or even offering them development opportunities like the chance to head new projects or take up additional responsibilities at work.
Read more: : How to be a more compassionate leader
Enable a mindset change among leaders
Beyond the struggle to find the perfect way to say ‘thank you’, Razer’s head of HR found another issue among leaders: some find it hard to show genuine appreciation for their team members because “it’s just not me”. Wan has come across managers who’ve said that reaching out to employees was just not their leadership style. She dealt with those situations by helping managers understand that a little recognition can go a long way in terms of engaging the team in their work and enabling a sense of connection with the organisation.
You can also remind managers that it’s important to think of the recipient and how recognition at work would make them feel. “It’s the notion of empathy,” Stettler added. “What do my people need to succeed? What do they need from me? [It’s about] leading with empathy and generosity of spirit – to put your people in the best possible position to succeed.”
Support leaders to sustain the practice
Once leaders are on board with the practice, HR has an additional role to play to ensure that it’s embedded into the company culture. Allow managers to share their experiences and understand how you can improve the process, particularly what worked and what didn’t work with team members. “Sometimes managers don’t have that frank conversation,” Wan said. “[Sometimes] there are a lot of things left unsaid.” From a people perspective, she believes HR can be the bridge between managers and employees and sustain a culture of appreciation.