In my last article I discussed the benefits of establishing a culture of appreciation in the workplace. These benefits include:

  • Increased productivity through the unlocking of discretionary effort.
  • Elevation and enhancement of the employment brand, which assists with the attraction and retention of top talent.
  • Improvement organisational engagement and wellbeing.
    • Those being appreciated feel valued and not taken for granted
    • Showing appreciating increases the happiness of those giving the appreciation

The return on investment for establishing a culture of appreciation is huge.  Showing appreciation doesn’t cost the earth and the return is immeasurable. In this article I look at how to start a culture of appreciation.

Commit to being appreciative

A culture of appreciation is leader led, which means leaders must model the behaviour.  However, ultimately the goal is to get everyone in the team and organisation to regularly practice appreciation.  Gallup research shows the most ‘meaningful and memorable’ recognition comes from an employee’s manager (28%), followed by a high-level leader or CEO (24%), the manager’s manager (12%), a customer (10%) and peers (9%).

Noticing and showing appreciation requires commitment and conscious effort. One way of establishing the habit is to set a reminder in outlook.  But, it’s important to ensure that appreciation isn’t just a tick box exercise.  Showing appreciation should always be authentic and genuine.  You can’t fake appreciation!

Who and what to appreciate?

It’s easy to appreciate the high-profile, high impact things that the rock stars in the organisation do.  Often these are the things that directly improve revenue or significantly reduce cost for an organisation, so they get noticed.

Here are some of the people and things that are often overlooked for appreciation:

  • The consistent performer:  These people are the life blood of any organisation.  They may not be rock stars, but they are rock solid and always deliver when it matters. 
  • The team player:  This is the person who puts the team above self.   They’re ‘enablers’ who quietly go about their work and are often the glue that holds the team together.
  • The person who works to their potential:  This person is new to their role and not be fully competent.  However, they always work to their potential. 
  • The person who goes the extra mile:  This is a person who does what it takes to get the job done.  They work longer hours when required or take on tasks and responsibilities outside the scope of their role.
  • The rebounder:  Despite setbacks this person picks themselves up and stays the course, until the task or goal is achieved. They see setbacks as a learning opportunity rather than failure.
  • The values champion:  Sometimes in the quest to meet strategic objectives values can be conveniently forgotten.  The values champion always shows integrity and is uncompromising in upholding the values of the organisations.  They are also fearless in holding other to account.
  • The challenger:  This is the person who challenges the status quo and looks for new and innovative ways of doing things. They respect and learn from the past and are future focused.
  • Family: Often overlooked for appreciation by organisations are husbands, wives and partners. If employees are working long hours or spending a lot of time away from home, it’s family that bears this burden. Showing a little appreciation here can go a long way.

It’s important that when appreciation is given that it is ‘valuable’.  This means appreciation must be earned – it’s not something that is given without being deserved.

How to show appreciation

Gallup reports that when asked what types of recognition are the most memorable, employees favoured these 6 forms:

  1. Public recognition or acknowledgment via an award, certificate or commendation
  2. Private recognition from a boss, peer or customer
  3. Receiving or obtaining a high level of achievement through evaluations or reviews
  4. Promotion or increase in scope of work or responsibility to show trust
  5. Monetary award such as a prize or pay increase
  6. Personal satisfaction or pride in work

Appreciation can also include regular words of encouragement. Cheering on people in your team everyday is a habit worth cultivating.

The more personalised, individualised and timely appreciation is the more meaningful it is to the person receiving it.  Sending an email can be improved on by talking to the person face to face, or if they work remotely by phone.  A handwritten card is always appreciated.  When showing appreciation regardless of the method of communication, always be specific about exactly what the person did and how it made a difference. 

Everyone in the team is different, so leaders need to find out how individuals like to be shown appreciation.  For example, some people may find it embarrassing to have a big announcement made in front of the whole team.  Instead a quiet word, or a card, may be more appropriate.

In the final analysis appreciation is about showing kindness and compassion at work and there can never be too much kindness and compassion.  When we give and receive appreciation it creates goodwill and loads positive energy, which makes work and the world we live in a much better place.