Tomorrow (March 1) is Employee Appreciation Day in the U.S., which provides a perfect opportunity to engage and motivate your employees. According to research by OGO, 82 percent of employees think their supervisors don't recognize what they do for the company, while 40 percent say that they would put more energy into their work if they were recognized more often.
While gifts and bonuses are nice – and important, investing some of your limited time and attention could mean much more. Your employees want to be heard, recognized, and understood for the unique human beings they are. Let these ideas get your creative juices flowing. All of these suggestions take a little time and in some cases a little cash, but the rewards of improved workplace morale will be worth it.
Take the time to conduct a private, 20-minute meeting dedicated to discussing their 5-year and 10-year goals. By listening carefully, you'll show your appreciation for their contributions plus gain priceless information on their individual strengths that will help when assigning projects. At the end of the meeting, be sure to voice your gratitude for their service to the company, mentioning specific facts to reveal you know of, and appreciate their work.
According to Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, Millennials want work that fulfills their desire for meaning and purpose. Take a simple written survey of suggestions for improvement in the workplace, but don't stop there. Ask about charities they would like to support, either in volunteer hours or as a fundraiser, or events such as a 5K your team could attend as a group. Don't forget to follow up to let your people know the results of the survey, and then take action.
Sometimes the best way to ensure your employees are being provided with the incentives they really want is to simply ask! Start by creating a simple contest for employees to submit their ideas for how they would like to be rewarded or incentivized. Narrow it down to the top 3 or 4 suggestions that are feasible for your organization and then put it to a vote - don't forget to shout out the employee who originally suggested the idea!
Are your cloud developers and Linux administrators moonlighting as graphic artists, yoga instructors, or musicians? Let their talents shine for all to see by setting up appropriate showcases, such as a group talent night. Or, publish an "employee newspaper" with photos and articles featuring each member of the team at their best.
Find a print-on-demand website and create a special mug for each member of the team, with a name, photo, funny icon, or individualized quote (“World's Greatest Network Engineer") on one side and the company logo on the other.
Find free online software that can be edited to include the person's name, photo, and a description of their best work and finest efforts that you appreciate. Post them as a group on a wall in a break room or hallway.
Appreciation doesn't just have to come from you, the employer or manager – according to OGO, 43 percent of Millennials want more recognition from fellow employees. During a staff meeting go around the table and ask each person, “What is one thing you appreciate about the person on your left?"
Take a cue from holiday "secret santa" and have each person write their name on a slip of paper and put it in a jar. Then each one takes out another person's name and surprises them with an appreciation gift, (limited to home-made, used, or under $10). Provide small forms with space to write out special notes of appreciation to use as gift tags.
Show your true appreciation by rewarding employees with the opportunity (time off and funding) for professional development – even if it means they might use the skills they gain to leave your group or company. A Gallup study found that 87 percent of Millennials feel that professional development is important for a job. Helping your employees set career goals is one of the most valuable ways to show your appreciation.
Take some time to write your employee a thoughtful recommendation or endorse their skills on LinkedIn. While (at least you hope!) they may not be actively seeking new employment opportunities, a social endorsement from a leader in their workplace may be of high value to them outside of primary job opportunities.
Whatever you do to celebrate and appreciate your employees, make it meaningful, respectful (and fun). They will respond with greater respect for you as a person and for the company.
And remember, don't confine your displays of appreciation for employees to one special day each year. You may discover that demonstrating sincere appreciation for those who work for you becomes a gift that you give yourself.