February 18, 2016
The Best Employee Perk Of All… And It’s Free

Open just about any business magazine and you’ll find lavish photo spreads depicting bean bag chairs, foosball tables, video games… all the perks conventional wisdom says employees care about.

Once again, though, conventional wisdom is wrong. The most meaningful perk is employee recognition.

According to recent studies, when employees feel their company has strong recognition practices, 87% feel a strong relationship with their immediate supervisor. And over 70% of employees who receive some form of appreciation say they’re happy with their jobs.

Contrast that with employees who don’t feel recognized: barely half report enjoying a strong relationship with their supervisor, and only 39% say they’re happy with their jobs.

But if that’s the case at our company, it’s not too late to turn things around: the same study found that the percentage of employees who feel satisfied with their job rose 31 percentage points once employees who did not feel recognized were shown appreciation.

And there’s even better news: you don’t need to implement a formal system, like identifying an “Employee of the Month” or some other regimented program. In fact, you shouldn’t; employees quickly sniff out the insincerity in canned recognition programs, causing your best intentions to do more harm than good.

To make your employees feel appreciated, and to give them the recognition and praise they deserve:

Jump in immediately.

The longer you wait to recognize performance or achievement, the less impact that praise makes on the employee’s morale and satisfaction. Don’t wait, don’t plan, don’t add it to your to-do list – say something right away. Right now is never too soon.

Be extremely specific.

General praise is good… but detailed, thorough, and specific praise is awesome. I appreciate when you tell me I did a good job, but I love when you tell me exactly what I did that made such a huge difference. “You did a good job handling that irate customer,” is nice, but, “You were very patient when that customer ranted about her problem. You let her vent, and then you showed that you had been listening by realizing that what she really needed was…”

That way your employees feel appreciated – and noticed – but your feedback will also indicate how you want them to perform in similar situations in the future. (Win-win.)

Be genuine and sincere.

I once had a boss who, like clockwork, walked around the plant at a specific day and time. He said nice (if generic) things to the employees he wandered near, but it was obvious he was doing something he thought he should do. It was a task he needed to complete, and he did.
You can imagine how we felt about that.
Only praise employees when you mean it. When you pay lip service to recognition and appreciation, everyone can tell.

Actively work to catch your employees doing great things…

I know: you’re a focused, on point, problem-solving machine. That’s great – but that also means you spend most of your time looking for things to improve.

Some of the time flip that around and look for things that are done well… and then praise the people doing them well. You’ll be surprised by how well your employees actually perform – and by how much better they’ll perform when they feel better about their jobs.

… and make sure you recognize weaker performers, too.

Recognizing superstars is easy; they’re constantly performing well. (Of course I could argue that one of the reasons they’re great performers is because they receive lots of praise.)

But sometimes praise and recognition is exactly what sub-par employees need to elevate their games. Instead of only providing “constructive” feedback, work hard to catch them doing something well, and immediately offer a quick word of praise. Everyone works harder when they feel appreciated; be the boss that genuinely appreciates.

Consciously seek to build a culture of recognition.

While it might sound cheesy, a boss of mine started our management meetings by requiring every supervisor to briefly share two quick examples of employees we had recognized or praised that day. I can’t say we loved it at first, but the expectation did change our behavior – and our attitude about praise.

It’s a cliché, but “you are what you measure” is also true. Start to measure the amount of recognition delivered by the people you expect to provide that recognition and they will soon meet those expectations – and your employees and your company will benefit.

And most of all…

Never forget that people are individuals. No two people respond the same way respond the same way to praise. Some will appreciate being recognized publicly. Others hate to be the focus of attention but enjoy a private word.

It’s your job to know your employees – and to know what form of recognition and praise makes the greatest impact on each of them. Work hard to find out how to make each of your employees feel appreciated, and recognized, and like an important part of your team.