Appreciate Team photo from ShutterstockI’ll say it again: Recognition is not the same as appreciation. It really isn’t.

The focus in past years with employee recognition is on rewarding good performance. This could be in the form of verbal praise or tangible reward, and its purpose is to spur the employee’s actions to continue working at that high level. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding good performance, it’s only that doing this has little effect on making an employee feel valued. The recognition is given when employees are observed doing something well, and this often occurs infrequently.

Recognition based on performance is a good starting point for a small business owner looking to develop a culture of appreciation in their workplace. To really add value in a genuine and authentic way, consider appreciating the person and their unique abilities that they bring to their position and to the company.

The focus is to genuinely communicate that you appreciate them for being there and for their input towards the success of the business. When your team doesn’t feel the appreciation is genuine, this manifest in increased absenteeism, tardiness, internal conflicts arising from anger and distrust, apathy towards work and management, and reduced productivity. These negative aspects trickle on to customers, who in turn will begin to express their dissatisfaction at the business and its products.

Appreciate your employees

For employees to feel valued and appreciated, four key aspects must be maintained:

Regularity. Showing appreciation once a year at the performance recognition ceremony is not going to get it done. Rather, frequent communication about how you value the team members is the way forward.

Appeal to the individual person. In this case, forget the “one-thanks-fits-all” approach that many utilize to appreciate the team. A general “thank you for your hard work” means little to the team member who sometimes slept at the office to make sure clients got their product orders in the morning.

Authentic and genuine. The biggest gripe employees often have with recognition programs is they feel management doesn’t “mean it,” but rather “it’s a ceremony that they have to get out of the way because it’s on the company calendar.” If your team doesn’t believe your efforts to be genuine, you are wasting time. Authentic gratitude also doesn’t have strings attached. A “thank you” is not followed up next with a request to get something done. Nor, is it of such little value that after something nice is said today it’s followed by poor to even abusive treatment..

In the recipients appreciation “language.” Individuals have their own special way of feeling appreciated. Tangible gifts don’t appeal to everyone. Perhaps spending quality time with a team member is what works for them. For others, offering to help on a project communicates that you value them.

The different ways people value appreciation are known as the “languages of appreciation.” (tweet this!)

Getting through the tough times

Effectively communicating appreciation makes working together more enjoyable, and increases your chances of getting through the rough patch in good shape. It also makes good business sense to cultivate a culture where people value each other’s unique characteristics. Lastly, it’s a sincere way to retain the good people you already have on board.

Remember, individuals’ value appreciation in different ways, and as the leader of your team or as the business owner you’re charged with learning what languages apply to your team. Strive to communicate appreciation genuinely, and do it from the heart. Focus on the individual person when you do it. Through this example, you will teach your team how to do this themselves. In turn, they will feel appreciated and use the skills they observed in you to make sure your customers also feel genuinely appreciated.