The Power of Employee Appreciation

It’s Human Nature to Want to be Valued

John is the lead graphics designer of Company ABC. Just few months ago, he was assigned to a very big project, an arduous task that pushed him to go the extra mile.

Full of enthusiasm for the work ahead, John stepped into his role and did everything he could, putting hours of blood, sweat and tears to the project. The deadline was very tight. And in order to meet the demands of his boss, he brought his work at home and he performed beyond his typical job roles.

After seemingly endless months, the project finally came to fruition. He delivered it seamlessly. But as I watched him walk out of the boss’ office, I did not see a smile nor satisfaction on his face. Is there something wrong? Yes there is.

For a job that warrants a praise, John never received recognition nor a simple “thank you” for his efforts. I spoke to him and in everything he said, this is what struck me the most:

“If they’ll give me another project to work on, I will never put the same amount of enthusiasm and effort as the last one. They’ll get what they deserve.”

How many Johns are there in your company? Is there any way you can make John happy and satisfied at work? Fortunately there is! Just do the exact opposite and trust me, you’ll see John walking out of your office with a big smile in his face. That’s the power of employee appreciation!

Defining Employee Appreciation

Employee appreciation or recognition is the timely acknowledgment of a person’s or team’s “beyond normal” effort, result or behaviour that uphold the company’s goals and values. It can be formal or informal depending on the situation.

Appreciation is not learned overnight. In order to be more effective, you need to understand the psychology of praising others and apply it on yourself too. If done right, employee appreciation can be catalytic, causing dramatic positive changes that affect your entire company’s culture.

Why do employees need to be appreciated? Kelly Mannard, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer of Northern Trust, puts it clearly this way:

It’s human nature to want to be valued!

Most employees respond positively to appreciation because it confirms that their efforts are valued. It gives them that sense of achievement for a job well done — a “pat in the back”.

Benefits of Employee Appreciation

If done right, employee appreciation comes with many benefits.

Here are some of them:

#1 Increased Productivity and Performance

When I was working for a non-profit organization, a colleague of taught me a very valuable lesson: “Happy employees are more effective and more productive employees.” This is true. Motivated and driven workers invest more effort and enthusiasm in their work. They have a purpose — an important part to play in the company’s goals.

#2 Improved Work Culture

What would be Jane and Paul’s reaction when they saw John walk out of the office frowning? What would be their reaction if they saw John happy and motivated? As what I pointed out earlier, employee appreciation is catalytic, fueling even greater positive change in the workplace.

Employee appreciation creates an environment where employees want to work and to continue making a difference on the company and on their colleagues.

#3 Lesser Turnovers

Studies and even common sense can tell us that happy, engaged and well-appreciated employees stay longer in the company than those who were not recognized at all. Turnovers can be detrimental to your business’ success.

It affects morale and costs the company millions of dollars from employee investments and lost business opportunities. According to a recent research by Forbes, companies who invested on employee appreciation experienced 31% less turnovers.

#4 Better Teamwork and Cohesiveness

Most employee appreciation programs allow not only managers but employees at all levels to nominate their co-workers for recognition. And the result? Teamwork improves significantly producing even greater results because this time, employees understand their efforts are not only recognized by their supervisors but by their friends and team members as well.

This benefit is clearly summarized by Northern Trust’s Chief Talent Officer, Mark Welch, through these words:

“We are at our best when each other is at their best.”

5 Best Practices in Employee Recognition

#1 Employee appreciation should be based on specific behaviours and results

The problem with many companies is that they focus recognition on tenure. Would you like to stay for 10 years in a company just to receive a loyalty pin? Absolutely not. Recognition should be focused on specific results and behaviors that uphold the company’s values and goals.

For example, instead of recognizing an employee for being the “employee of the month”, why not give an award for an outstanding customer service when a problem arises? Doing this creates a culture of “doing the right thing” in your company.

#2 Focus on peer to peer recognition

Do you know that peer to peer recognition has more impact on most employees than the traditional top-to-down approach? Your peers know how much effort and enthusiasm you are putting in your work every day.

Hence, any recognition from them is genuine. Conversely, many employees view recognition from their bosses as “political”.

#3 Spread the word

So someone showed an exemplary performance lately? Tell people about it! Mention his or her story in you company blog or newsletter! “Story telling” is one of the most powerful practices in employee appreciation.

Doing this will create more engagement and learning among your workforce and if the word goes out, will tell the world how awesome your company is!

#4 Keep your recognition programs simple yet frequent

There’s no need to complicate things. Make it easy for your employees to recognize and appreciate each other. Frequent recognition puts a “great job” stamp on your employees’ performance, motivating them further to give their best every day.

#5 Recognition programs should be aligned with company goals or values

Employee appreciation is more meaningful and effective when it’s given in the larger context of your company’s goals or values.

For instance, when an employee closes a big contract by going the extra mile, he needs to know and feel that you appreciate his efforts in ensuring further business success. Random affirmations are less impactful when not tied with things that really matters most.

Northern Trust – An Appreciation Organization

Northern Trust, an international financial services company, has been pioneering on employee appreciation programs over the past decade.

Here the results of their efforts:

  • 96% of their employees feel appreciated
  • 87% say that their employee appreciation programs have improved the company’s culture
  • 85% of their employees are satisfied with their recognition experience
  • 86% said that their recognitions are connected their contributions to Northern Trust’s goals, values and strategy

Northern Trust understands the importance of their employees to their business’ success. Because of genuinely appreciating their employees, Northern Trust produced an exemplary performance worthy of recognition.

For 8 consecutive years, the Fortune Magazine hailed Northern Trust as one of the most admired companies in the world. Also Last 2014, Financial Times Group recognized the company (for the 6th time) as the best private bank in the United States.

Can you see what your employees can do for your business?

It’s Employee Appreciation Day

The United States celebrate this unofficial holiday every first Friday of March. During the Employee Appreciation Day, many companies all over the country spend enormous amount of resources showing their employees how important they are.

While the motive is nice, I’m not 100% convinced by it. Employee appreciation is the timely recognition of your employee’s outstanding performance. It is more effective and more genuine when given in situ instead on a one-time big shot affair

While the motive is nice, I’m not 100% convinced by it. Employee appreciation is the timely recognition of your employee’s outstanding performance. It is more effective and more genuine when given in situ instead on a one-time big shot affair.

Every day is employee appreciation day!


Written By

Lenmark Anthony Baltazar

I have been living a life of HR for as long as I can remember. My experiences helped me realize that true happiness comes from being a blessing to the lives of others. I hope my skills and talents will be a blessing to you as well.