The research is in, and when it comes to employee engagement, recognition is a key factor. During strong economies or when companies are experiencing great success, most leaders feel that they have the wherewithal, resources and ability to invest in recognizing and rewarding the work their people do. This includes pay increases, bonuses and other merit-based incentives. It also includes indirect compensation – such as training programs, events, offsite meetings, and career development.
When times are tough, however, companies tend to cut back in all these areas, and employees become frustrated because they (and their work) are not being recognized.
However, in both tough and successful times, there is a goldmine of appreciation that most companies leave untapped. It’s the practice of deliberately and explicitly recognizing, appreciating and thanking the people around you. This doesn’t cost a penny, and it creates a very nurturing, productive and exciting environment for our teams.
Gratitude is a particularly powerful tool when used by managers, as well as between peers. But it’s of no use when you keep your appreciation to yourself. Instead, we must acknowledge our appreciation and have a conversation that highlights the other person’s greatness, values and achievements.
Acknowledgement requires courage and generosity on the part of the person providing it. Unfortunately, most work environments are rife with politics, silos and people trying to survive – which typically creates a challenging “us-or-them” environment. People fear that highlighting other people’s greatness will somehow take away from their own achievements. I have seen this play out again and again – especially in high-achieving, competitive environments.
However, if leaders create an organizational culture where the paradigm is “We’re in this together; we have each other’s backs and stand as one,” then the logic changes. People understand that the more giants they have around them, the bigger they are, and the more powerful their teams can be.
You can always find reasons to appreciate and acknowledge the people around you. Don’t assume they already know how you feel. There’s no reason to be stingy or lazy with your praise. You can acknowledge people for:
- Their spirit, heart, attitude or energy.
- Their actions or efforts towards going beyond the call of duty.
- What they have done or created (i.e., their accomplishments and achievements).
To make gratitude viral in your organization, start practicing it yourself on a daily basis. Simply make it a point to acknowledge one or two people around you every day. You could also open team meetings by saying: “Hey, we’ve all been working so hard the last 30 days. Who would like to acknowledge someone on the team for his or her contribution?” Then spend 10 minutes or so letting your team praise each other. With enough repetition, gratitude will become a part of your culture.