download (1)From my years of experience managing people and teams, I’ve learned a simple but important lesson: when you show love to your employees, you get love back in return. It’s not the fact that they work harder. The real reason is that they’re happier and love coming to work – and that leads to productive teams, lower turnover and ultimately better products and happy customers.

In her book, Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy, Dr. Noelle Nelson wrote, “An appreciated employee is a happy employee. And happy employees translate into making your company more money.” The book cites a Jackson Organization study, a survey research consultancy, since acquired by Healthstream, Inc., which shows, “companies that effectively appreciate employee value enjoy a return on equity and assets more than triple that experienced by firms that don’t.”

Ranked #1 for the last four years in a row on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, Google is the undisputed king of employee perks. For managers who do not have the budget of an Internet giant, there are still many ways to make employees feel special.

In the spirit of Valentines Day, I’d like to share six relatively easy ways to show you appreciate your team’s hard work.

  1. Keep a stocked fridge and pantry. Keeping employees well fed results in both a grateful and energized staff. The four o-clock hour has been reported as key to healthy snacking in order to maintain optimal energy levels. In addition the occasional lunch for the entire office is a great way to show appreciation.
  2. Share company awards. Company awards look great in the office lobby, but look even better spread on every desk of the hard working employees who helped make it happen. Either frame copies for everyone or have “mini” versions made for everyone’s desk.
  3. Treat your employees with respect and like adults. This seems like such a no brainer but in many cases the divide between the executive level and its workers is sometimes impregnable. Relationships matter. During communication, it is best to listen first, ask three questions, then say it. I often remind myself it is always harder to do than to describe what should be done.
  4. Trust your employees. In my opinion nothing builds mutual respect more than granting employees autonomy built on a solid foundation of trust. Your employees want creative freedom and offering it opens the door to professional growth.
  5. Invite the entire team. Try to make company events open to all employees, and if appropriate, to spouses, friends and family members. This works within the office as well. Be sure to send company goal emails to everyone. If giving out Valentines, give them to the entire team, not just your favorite department.
  6. Empower people to get it done. When you run across a good book, why not share it with the team? I’m an avid reader, and I’m always running across interesting books that may add value to what an employee does. For example, if you read an informative book on SEO – get a copy for your head of SEO.

I’m a believer in professional development and try every day to learn new things to improve our team. I’ve listed some of my favorites, what have you done to show love to your employees? Any new ideas for 2013?