Small business owners often have innate entrepreneurial skills, but successfully running a company requires a much larger skill set. One skill that owners should regularly practice is giving — and receiving — appropriate appreciation to and from employees.
Employees as Humans
Many business owners, as well as corporate executives, regard employees as plug-compatible units. If you don’t like an employee, “unplug it” and replace with another. This might work in some businesses, but it has a few unfortunate downsides:
- It demoralizes your employees, which means you won’t get their best efforts
- If reinforces your image as an unthinking, uncaring petty tyrant, or worse
- It increases your recruiting and training costs
- It might encourage passive aggressive behavior, if not outright sabotage
- It wastes opportunities for business owners to develop skills that, in the long run, create a more successful and pleasant environment
- Appreciation Isn’t Expensive
The U.S. Department of Labor says that lack of appreciation is the primary reason for employees quitting their jobs. It beat out other contenders, including salary, benefits and bonuses. If you’ve trained an employee who then quits in despair, you’ve just lost a valuable asset. That’s expensive. Compare that to the expense of a handshake, a smile and a kind word. This is a no-brainer.
Showing sincere appreciation is a skill that you can develop. The proper way to deliver praise is to be specific and enthusiastic. This means you know the employee’s name, what she did and why she deserves praise. Here’s an example of the wrong and right ways to acknowledge a great effort from Betsy:
- Wrong: “Nice job today, Betsy”
- Right: “The graphics on your presentation were great, Betsy”
It’s more convincing when your comment is targeted and you use the employee’s name.
Don’t Blow It
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t praise mediocre performance, but don’t berate it, either
- Acknowledge the full team, not just its leader
- Don’t appear rushed or distracted when delivering appreciation
- Praise in public, rebuke in private
- Encourage your employees and your managers to be freer in acknowledging special efforts
- Don’t worry about overpraising, as long as it’s well-deserved
Tangible Tokens of Appreciation
Raises, promotions and bonuses are great, but they’re also annual. What can you do on the other 364 days to tangibly show your appreciation? Here are some of the most cost-effective ways to boost employee morale:
1. Grant flex hours to those who need it. Betsy may be raising three children and might benefit from doing some work at home. This perk provides a lot of gain without much expense.
2. Write something for the employee’s file. We mean write, with a pen (you do remember how to use pens, don’t you?). For an extra touch, write the note on a $2 bill. We bet the employee will never spend it.
3. Add some fun to the workweek. Maybe a weekly surprise catered lunch, or a special meeting to exchange baby pictures. Socializing adds a little spice to the job and helps keep employees motivated.
4. Bring key customers, senior managers and suppliers into the back rooms and introduce them to employees. This works even better if you can remember your employees’ names and jobs.
5. Dress for success. Unless an employee has to have contact with the public, encourage casual dress. Maybe not too casual, but in most circumstances a tie or stilettos may be a little much.
6. Celebrate birthdays, weddings, and baby showers. Provide some food and let the employee leave an hour or two early.
7. It used to be common for coffee carts to roam the office halls. We say, bring them back. One or two rounds a day of the coffee and donuts cart will send employee morale into the stratosphere. Especially if its free.
We can go on for pages, but you get the idea. Use your imagination, be sincere, and gosh darn it, have a little fun with your workers. It’s good business.