Employee Appreciation: How important is it?

A question that I have been asked over the years is “How important is Employee Appreciation?”. This is a question that I find stunning – especially when asked by a business leader!  Numerous research papers that have been written on the subject that all answer this question in the affirmative – that is, VERY IMPORTANT!

In their book ‘The Carrot Principle‘, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton state that “79% of employees who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as the key reason for leaving”.  This is supported by Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Ashley V. Whillans who states that “more than 80% of American employees say they do not feel recognized or rewarded”.

A 2016 analysis by Gallup found that only 1 in 3 US workers strongly agreed they have received recognition or praise for doing good work.  Gallup consultants recommend that “… recognition should be given weekly in broad terms to those who deserve it – and in a timely way so the employee knows the significance of their recent achievement and to reinforce company values”.

Whichever way you look at it the research is clear – appreciate your employees.

Those of us who have studied business management are familiar with the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs pyramid.  The basic premise is that once an individual’s basic needs have been met then they can begin to self-actualise which is where motivation increases as they endeavour to become better as a person.  Growth doesn’t necessarily stem from a lack of something, but rather from a desire to grow as a person. That desire increases as the individual achieve lower tiers of the ‘needs pyramid’.

Appreciation will help achieve an individual’s ‘esteem’ requirements and move them closer to the ‘self-actualisation’ or ‘self-fulfilment’ needs.  This is where an individual’s intrinsic motivation will come into play.

The point here is that employees who feel appreciated will be more loyal to the organisation and more satisfied in their job.  They are inclined to continue to perform at higher levels.  What employees crave even more is to feel that their managers appreciate them and aren’t afraid to show it, not only in paycheck terms, but in other ways such as flexible work-at-home schedules, gift cards for pulling off impressive projects, or even just by saying “thank you” for a job well done.

Make recognition public!

In the recent ‘Compensation & Benefits ReviewarticleWinning the War for Talent: Modern Motivational Methods for Attracting and Retaining Employees‘, co-writer Whillans (who researches what makes people happy) writes “Cash matters in people’s lives, but it’s not all that matters – what really matters in the workplace is helping employees feel appreciated.

There are many ways to demonstrate Employee Appreciation and help employees feel appreciated and motivated. You could:

  • Publicly acknowledge their work on a project or achievement towards a company goal.
  • Acknowledge personal achievements such as completing undergraduate or postgraduate study.
  • Acknowledging personal milestones such as the birth of a child or a work anniversary.
  • Celebrate an outstanding employee with an award or symbol of excellence.
  • Here is an even longer list from the HR Daily Advisor.

Work milestones are a great place to start your recognition program.  Whereas we would celebrate a 10-year or 25-year milestone of employment, today the average staff turnaround is 2.5 years.  We should move with the times and celebrate a 1-year work anniversary with our employees.

Implementing a recognition program is a low-cost option for managers to improve employee output and lower staff turnover.  Work anniversaries, awards for excellence, and project milestone recognition are used by many companies today with outstanding results.

The world continues to change.  People today are more independent and less tolerant of uncaring management styles of the past.  They will not commit to an organisation if they feel that they are unappreciated.

In short, if you are a ‘command and control’ or micromanaging-style manager then I guess this advice is not for you. If, however, you are a modern manager who is empathetic and care about your company and people then you understand Employee Appreciation and should put this advice into practice.


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