natural staff appreciation

How to Make Staff Appreciation a More Natural Interaction

By George Dickson on December 21, 2016

You know staff appreciation is important to your organization's success — there's really no debate or controversy on that point anymore.

So you decided to implement some employee appreciation ideas you found in a guide.

Maybe you brought the team some donuts one day with a deliciously clever note about how you "donut" know what you'd do without them, or announced an employee of the month during an all-hands meeting.

Despite all that effort, you're still not seeing the cornucopia of benefits you were promised, and only a handful of employees even seem like they want to participate.

Why is that? 

In most cases the staff appreciation initiatives we put in place feel like initiatives, and that's why they're less effective than we hope they'll be. Even if they are well-intentioned, many of these initiatives are just another thing you're asking everyone to do at work.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

We've teamed up with hundreds of companies of all sizes over the years to help build sustainable, naturally recognition-rich cultures. We've designed tools and strategies based on psychological research, and successful real-world implementations.

Along the way, a few things stood out  things you can do in any organization that are more effective in developing a staff appreciation program that acts less like a program, and more like a culture.

I'd like to share those with you.

So what does it take to evolve from employee appreciation games to an employee appreciation culture?

You need a solid foundation.

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To succeed in this endeavor, you need a solid foundation; and at the base of that foundation, you need your organization's leadership.

It shouldn't end there, but it's crucial for staff appreciation to emanate from the highest office, and maintain consistency throughout the organizational hierarchy.

It sends a strong signal regarding organizational values if a CEO regularly and openly shows appreciation for the work of individuals and teams. It sends an even stronger signal when that ideology follows through to senior managers, department heads, team leads, and individual contributors.

Nobody's going to pay attention to a staff appreciation initiative if their leader isn't participating and no matter how you approach chain of command, that sentiment likely follows.

So start building and strengthening that foundation. Show your appreciation for a contribution someone made that impacted your day. 

The best part about doing this? It's easy, it feels good for both parties, and costs nothing. OK, that's three best parts.

Just do it right now — it'll only take a minute, and this article will still be here when you're done.

You're probably overthinking it.

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If you're spending your time and bandwidth pondering creative ways to show employee appreciation, you're missing a huge opportunity.

Time spent looking up lofty thank you quotes for staff appreciation could be better spent developing and environment that encourages and empowers everyone to show appreciation for their colleagues' daily contributions.

Just like the smile on a candid photo shines in a unique way that's almost impossible to reproduce in a pose, the most impactful "employee appreciation quotes for managers" are the genuine moments of praise that come naturally.

Why is that?

Because they're both genuine, and genuineness is in equal parts powerful, and difficult to manufacture. This doesn't mean the recognition you give shouldn't be thoughtful — just that it should come from you, naturally.

Does that sound like a challenge?

The trick is to practice giving genuine recognition and showing your appreciation on a regular basis. You'll get better at it, and it will continue to feel more natural each time you do it.

Your team doesn't need a Zig Ziglar or Winston Churchill quote to keep them motivated. They need an honest and genuine piece of recognition from you  from their leaders, and colleagues.

If you prioritize giving genuine recognition to your colleagues every day, you'll get good enough at it that maybe someday people will look up your inspirational quotes for employee appreciation.

Don't spend hours scouring Pinterest for the perfect, most creative and unique employee appreciation gifts. Staff appreciation won't fit in a Mason jar.

Those are hours that could be spent giving your team a gift far more valuable: a sense that their work is priceless to you, to their other colleagues, and to their organization.

A simple, genuine, and timely show of appreciation can be incredibly powerful.

It's too big for one day.

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Have you ever caught yourself on the first week of March, scrambling to find some staff appreciation quotes that might resonate in anticipation of National Employee Appreciation Day?

You're too late.

As Bob Nelson, the founder of Employee Appreciation Day explained to Business Insider:

"By no means is Employee Appreciation Day meant to be this one day to thank people or this one day to bring in doughnuts..."

But that's OK. You're actually right on time to focus on and nurture your new always-on employee appreciation culture.

Just close your browser window, think of something large or small that someone did that impacted you in a positive way, and thank them for it publicly.

Now rinse, and repeat.

Empower everyone to participate.

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Here's a really important question you need to consider: Are you asking the team to participate, or are you empowering them to participate? There's a huge difference between those two approaches. 

One is an obligation, and the other is a gift.

At best, asking (or worse, demanding) that everyone participate might result in compliance. But is compliance what you're really after?

Is compliance going to get you to that promised land of a happy engaged workforce?

Instead, focus on empowering everyone to participate. Although it's the same outcome you're hoping to achieve, the way you frame the input really matters.

Empowering your team to participate in recognizing and rewarding great work gives them the autonomy to determine what contributions they find impactful, and the voice to express that.

Amplify it.

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The key to making all of this work most effectively is visibility. In order for staff appreciation to become a natural part of everyone's daily experience at work, it needs to be ubiquitous. 

There's a simple reason advertising agencies and multinationals spend millions of dollars to stay "top of mind." It works. 

Similarly, appreciation becomes more natural when it's top of mind.

Dedicate less time coming up with creative staff appreciation event ideas. Instead, continue to focus on integrating appreciation into the foundation of your organizational culture.

Support and showcase the examples of appreciation that culture inspires, and make every day employee appreciation day

The time you spend interacting with your team becomes a staff appreciation event with no end date.

In conclusion

If you want to see the maximum benefits of staff appreciation, it's time to evolve from developing employee appreciation initiatives to developing a genuine culture of appreciation.

You can get started building it at any time, and finding success is simpler than you might think.

If you're ready to take the next step in building an extraordinary organizational culture that recognizes, celebrates, and rewards success, check out our latest guide:

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Written by George Dickson

George Dickson

George manages content and community at Bonusly. He's dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures through thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition.