Making sure your employees know how much they mean to you should be happening far more frequently than once a year on “Employee Appreciation Day” which occurs every year in March. If you want happy employees, it is critical to give them recognition for a job well done by showing them that what they do is important and appreciated — every job and every employee. Leaders need to be specific in expressing their appreciation so that it reinforces behaviors through positive feedback. Being specific also adds meaning and inspires the employee to further develop their skills.
Ways to show your employees some love . . .
1. Frequent Thanks – A small gesture, but thanking your staff regularly goes a long way whether done verbally or via a hand-written note. Just say it – the words “thank you” are extremely powerful and sometimes all you need to do is say it sincerely.
2. Make it Personal – Take time to have coffee with your employees. It doesn’t have to be anything formal or even out of the office, just sit down and chat with them. Take time to get to know them as people by finding out what their hobbies and interests are. It shows you’re interested and that you care about them as people.
3. Team-Building Activities – Choose a different event every quarter that brings your team together to have some fun. You can either get out of the office and go to a movie, or play a round of miniature golf or you can stay in and play a board game. Spending time away from work and deadlines even briefly will rejuvenate your staff and leave them invigorated.
4. Host an Annual Company Picnic – Plan a summer or fall barbecue to recognize employees and their families. Upper management can man the grill but ask everyone to bring a side dish or desert. Invite families to share in the festivities; giving significant others an opportunity to get to know who their family works with each week creates a bigger sense of connection among your staff.
5. Little Surprises – Bring in donuts or bagels or unexpectedly order in lunch. You can never go wrong with food! It’s the easiest way to bring people to together and is why the kitchen is the most popular room in any home. It’s a small gesture that packs a powerful punch.
6. Celebrate Personal Wins – Go beyond appreciating employees just for what they do for you at work. If they’ve achieved a milestone in their lives outside the office, celebrate with them in the office. Decorate their cubicle with balloons and streamers for their birthday, when they achieve a personal milestone, like having a baby, getting married, buying a home or even losing weight (if they’ve been public about their weight loss journey). These achievements are also a good time for cake or a hand written congratulations.
7. Flexible Work Schedules – Allowing your employees some say in their work hours is extremely powerful and if that simply isn’t an option offer a compressed workday and let employees come in late and leave early or occasionally offer them free time to use as they wish.
8. Training and Conferences – Provide training opportunities to enhance their current skills or send them to a conference or workshop they’d enjoy. Not only will it improve employee relations, it will build your staff’s sense of worth and skill-level.
9. Start a Team – It doesn’t matter if it’s summer softball, bowling or tennis but choose something the majority will want to participate in and let employees vote. The idea is to build relationships, camaraderie and respect among employees.
10. Employee of the Quarter – This can be a huge achievement to many employees, especially if you have their name engraved on an office plaque, and you can award a small perk such as a designated parking space for a period of time, gas cards or movie tickets for their whole family.
BONUS: Having a company committee that is run by employees for employees can also be hugely helpful. They’ll choose and coordinate monthly events based on the holidays or the season such as an Ice Cream Sunday in the Spring, Popcorn Wednesdays during the Summer or a Hot Cocoa Bar in the Winter. You still want to ensure you are present at these events though as it shows you’re never too busy to take time to spend with your staff.
The key takeaway is to leave your employees feeling valued and appreciated on a regular basis. All your hard work and appreciation of an employee can be destroyed in an instant if you disrespect or belittle them in any way. They won’t remember the 100 times you said you appreciated them but they will remember that one time you didn’t — so always show respect and be tactful in situations, and never let one bad incident destroy your motivation to show appreciation.
To learn more about employee appreciation and how it impacts the nonprofit workforce, download UST’s white paper: Nonprofit Employee Engagement and Retention Report