Appreciating your employees is an important part of engagement, because it lets them know that you notice all the hard work they’re doing.

You don’t even need to spend any money in order to appreciate your employees, most of the things that matter most to employees are free. They might take up a bit of your time, but trust me it’s worth it.

According to research by Deloitte, companies with effective recognition programs have 31% lower voluntary turnover than companies with ineffective programs.

Their research also found that senior leaders are out of touch with how often employees are recognized. Almost 80% of senior leaders believe employees are recognized at least on a monthly basis, but only 40% of managers and 22% of employees report that they’re recognized monthly or more often.

This is a huge problem, and shows that we all need to learn how to appreciate employees.

The Psychology Of Motivation

Before looking at the psychology of motivation, let’s discuss employee engagement. For managers, the main goal of recognizing employees is for them to be more engaged at work.

To understand what that means, we need to look at how engagement is defined. Gallup defines engagement as employees that are “likely to invest discretionary effort in organizational goals or outcomes.”

So then the question you need to ask is, what would motivate an employee to invest discretionary effort?

The answer is in the psychology of what motivates people. There are two theories that I’ll discuss today, one of them you’ve heard me talk about many times.

The first, is from one of the oldest and most well known theories of motivation, from the famous psychologist, Abraham H. Maslow, and the Hierarchy of Needs.

  1. Physiological: air, food, water, sex, sleep, excretion, etc.
  2. Safety: health, personal well being, financial and employment stability, security against accidents, etc.
  3. Belonging: love, intimacy, friendship, family, social cohesion, etc.
  4. Esteem: self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respects, etc.
  5. Self actualization

maslow hierarchy of needs

We have a psychological need to be appreciated, and to feel like we belong. These needs are met through appreciation from our managers, and more importantly, our peers.

The second, is a theory of motivation that I talk about frequently, from Dan Pink, that he talks about in his book Drive and TED talk The Puzzle Of Motivation.

The basic theory is that now that our society is much more advanced than it was when Maslow created his hierarchy of needs, for the most part, we’re satisfied with the lower levels of the hierarchy and are now interested by intrinsic motivators.

These intrinsic motivators are what you see at the top of the hierarchy of needs (self-actualization).

The three factors he focuses on are:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Mastery
  3. Purpose

5 Simple Ideas

The key thing for everyone to understand, is that showing employees you care will make them happy to invest that extra discretionary effort.

This is something that can’t be faked, you need to honestly and genuinely want to appreciate your employees, and recognize them for their hard work, it will have huge effects on everyone’s productivity, and the entire company culture.

Here are a few simple things you can do to show your employees that you care.

1. Be Transparent

Transparency breeds trust, and trust is the foundation of great teamwork. – Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer

Be honest with your employees, they’ll appreciate that more than anything. When they see that you’re being genuine and honest with them, they’ll be happier and more engaged.

2. Send Personal Emails

One of the nicest things my boss did for me was send me a personal email over the holidays to thank me for my hard work and to mention he was excited to work with me in 2015. He did this for all 100 employees at our parent company, GSoft, which is even more impressive.

3. Encourage Others To Appreciate

Research from Deloitte shows that recognition and praise means more when it comes from coworkers, which makes sense, because they’re with you on the day-to-day, so their recognition is more relevant.

Create an environment where employees are encouraged to praise one another. It will create a stronger, more collaborative team.

4. Create Opportunities For Growth

This is more about showing them that you care about them than anything. If you show a genuine interest in helping them grow as people, that will make them feel appreciated and they’ll work harder for you.

If there is a skill that you know interests them, help them learn it, and even have the company subsidize any training lessons if necessary, but chances are you can find a free course online.

5. Care About Their Personal Life

Without being too intrusive, you should definitely show an interest in their life outside of work. It shows employees that you value them as people, not only workers. If there’s anything you can do to make them happier outside of work, do it, because it will translate back into them being happier at work.

How Do You Appreciate Your Employees?