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The benefits of rewards: Improve employee morale this holiday season

Jeff Haden
Business Journalist

Jeff Haden is a bestselling ghostwriter, speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, and LinkedIn Influencer

Jeff Haden
Business Journalist

Jeff Haden is a bestselling ghostwriter, speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, and LinkedIn Influencer

Coming to the end of the year can mean impending deadlines and a huge upturn in activity, especially for retailers. That means the holiday period might feel like it’s all about making the numbers.

This holiday season, there are some other numbers that should gain your attention. According to recent studies, when employees feel their company has strong recognition practices, 87 per cent feel a strong relationship with their immediate supervisor. And over 70 per cent of employees who receive some form of appreciation say they’re happy with their jobs.

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

But 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 recognised were shown appreciation.

And there’s even better news: you don’t need to implement a formal program, like identifying the “Employee of the Month.” Employees quickly sniff out the insincerity of 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:

A close up image of a person handing a present covered in red and white spotted paper

Make it immediate

The longer you wait to recognise performance or achievement, the less impact that praise has 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 precise

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 realising that what she really needed was…” is better.

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. 

Be 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 people 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.

Occasionally, 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 recognise less stellar performers, too

Recognising 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.

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 recognised 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 it, and they will soon meet those expectations – and your employees and your company will benefit.

But most of all...

Never forget that people are individuals. No two people respond the same way to praise. Some will appreciate being recognised 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 kind of recognition and praise makes the greatest impact on each of them. As you go into this holiday season – and the next year – work hard to find out how to make each of your employees feel appreciated, and recognised, and like an integral part of your team.

Staying on the same page as your employees can make work that much easier.

Read our 4 Ways To Foster Feedback

Find out more

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