Appreciate Internal Customers to Keep Top Talent

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'Tis the giving season. While children are making wish lists for Santa, working grown-ups have something on their lists that might surprise their employers. It doesn’t come in a box. It’s so simple that many employers just don’t think it’s important. But a Mood Tracker survey from Globoforce found that 55 percent of employees would rather quit their jobs than go without this priceless gift. What is it? According to a Fast Company article, “Affordable Ways to Make Your Employees Feel Appreciated—Or Else,” it’s appreciation. A simple thank you once in a while makes all the difference in making employees happy. 


If you’re an employer, you may think you show appreciation all the time. You stuck a note on the break room wall thanking everyone for a great job this year. You passed out turkeys at Thanksgiving.  Heck, they get paychecks, don’t they? They still have jobs, right? What’s not to be happy about? Unfortunately, the down economy has made some employers think having a job is a reward in itself. But companies depend on every employee to do his job, produce quality products and services, satisfy the customer and keep the doors open. Showing appreciation to employees is the magic ingredient that encourages them to give their all every day.


Lack of appreciation may not cause a rash of resignations and stampede for the door, but it takes its toll on productivity, focus and quality. The article suggests five ways to show appreciation. Good suggestions, but there are some cautions to make them produce the desired affects and keep employees working.


1.     Say “thank you.” Just saying “good job,” giving a high-five or thumbs up isn’t the same. The two words “thank you” are a more personal appreciation, since it directs the appreciation directly at the person. It also conveys the person did something to enhance the company, department or another individual. Now, just a string of “thank you’s” can lose their punch without specifics. Mention the specific task or project and some details of the person’s work, skills and how it impacted the company or work team. Specifics give authenticity to a compliment. 


2.     Make it personal. Get to know your employees and their preferences so you can customize your appreciation. Be careful with this one. With privacy such an issue these days, too much involvement may make employees feel uncomfortable. Managers need to keep a “professional distance,” so the lines between personal and business relationships are clearly defined. Showing appreciation for an employee who is into vampire novels by rewarding her with the latest book in the Twilight series may be embarrassing in front of her co-workers. Sending personal notes to an employee’s family member may be appreciated or seem intrusive. It’s difficult to remain fair and equitable when employees may take the size or cost of a reward to indicate the level of appreciation. 


3.     Give the gift of time. Everyone appreciates a little extra time off (paid, of course) during the holidays. The article suggests giving “random time off” by surprising an employee with a half-day off. With kids and busy schedules outside of work, the ability to plan time off may be more effective. With so many companies struggling, an employee may take a command to just leave the office without notice as a prelude to termination, causing more stress than appreciation. Allowing employees to schedule some extra time off during the holidays shows appreciation and consideration.


4.     Give a gift they really want. One company used to hand out frozen turkeys to all employees at Thanksgiving. It was a company tradition. A nice gesture, but a lot of employees traveled on Thanksgiving and didn’t cook a Thanksgiving turkey. Some were vegetarians or vegans and didn’t eat poultry. Others were single and didn’t really want a 20-pound frozen turkey. After listening to feedback, the company started handing out gift cards to a major supermarket chain. Employees could get what they wanted or needed. Sometimes giving people control over choices is the best appreciation.


5.     Break the rules…sometimes. This is a slippery slope. Breaking a rule and letting one employee off the hook or making exceptions sets a precedent. Read up on your employee handbook, union contract or policies and procedures to be sure your attempt at appreciation doesn’t backfire into a discrimination case. 


Verbal, specific, personalized appreciation goes a long way to making employees feel valued and important. Use it liberally during the holidays and every work day. 


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