Imagine being part of an organization where you don't feel valued. How would you feel when you show up to work, and more important, would you even want to show up for work? Spending time in these organizations can cause employees to hate their employers. Typically, feeling appreciated is more relevant to a specific project or tasks, and feeling valued is the overall and ongoing feeling that employees have. So, if you feel regularly appreciated, then you will in turn feel valued.
Value can be quite subjective--we are all unique creatures with different beliefs, aspirations, values, and expectations. The best way to understand what your employees value is to ask them and get to know them personally. However, there are some things we all care about and three areas organizations can focus to help everyone feel valued in the workplace.
Compensation and Benefits
Depending on the reports you read, compensation and benefits is either one of the most important or the least important things employees care about. One study found that compensation and pay ranked number two when it came to overall job satisfaction, but another study done the same year found the compensation actually ranked last on the list of variables that employees consider when reporting their overall job satisfaction.
Even when looking at organizations such as Netflix, it's clear that although it does offer all sorts of fun perks and rewards, it's also explicit in acknowledging that it pays employees well. I have found this to be the case across all organizations that are interested in exploring and designing employee experiences. It's very hard for employees to feel valued if they don't believe they are at least being paid what they are worth.
Having Employees' Voices Heard
The typical organizational structure is a pyramid where information, decision making, and power flow from the top down. Although we are starting to see this break down and flatten out, this shift will naturally take time. When it comes to the voice of the employee, there are four approaches I've seen organizations take:
Organization doesn't ask
This is sad but true. There are still organizations that simply don't ask employees for feedback or ideas or encourage them to share their opinions. Oftentimes when employees in these types of organizations do speak up, they get squashed by bureaucracy and office politics. The organizations that don't value the opinions of their people are not coincidentally places that also are having financial troubles and are poorly rated online.
Organizations asks but does nothing
There are, of course, organizations that ask for employee feedback and encourage employees to share their opinions, but then do nothing with them. From the employee's perspective this is pretty much the equivalent of not encouraging feedback and opinions at all. Don't ask employees to share anything with you if you aren't prepared to actually do something about it.
Organization asks and acknowledges
Next we have organizations who encourage employee feedback and acknowledge when they get it, but they still don't do anything with the information they receive. Instead, employees receive a "thanks for your feedback" email, the kind you would get when submitting a customer service request. Of course, it's great to acknowledge the feedback that your employee are giving you, but what's more valuable is actually acting on it.
Organization asks, acknowledge, and acts
This is what is missing from many organizations today: asking, acknowledging, and then acting on the ideas, feedback, and opinions that employees are willing to share with you. And it's not just taking action but also doing so transparently within a reasonable timeline.
Employees are Recognized for the Work They Do
Recognizing employees for work they do should be a common practice, and there are many ways that this can be done. Sadly, we have spent so much time turning everything we do into a process or a formula that recognizing employees for their hard work doesn't even feel special anymore, or even human for that manner.
The key distinction here is that just because an organization has a program to recognize employees doesn't mean that they actually feel recognized. This doesn't mean all rewards and recognition programs are bad, but companies should think more about the people being recognized and less about the processes being used to recognize them. How about a personalized, handwritten note? A special project for them to work on? A round of applause in front of their peers and other leaders? Remember to look at recognition from not just a monetary standpoint but also from an emotional perspective and remember that you're dealing with people, not robots.
Clearly, making sure employees feel valued takes a lot things into consideration. To best find out what your employees value, spend time talking to them about non-work things. Try to move beyond the typical processes and get creative with making employees feel valued. Making things more human means employees are more likely to feel valued and satisfied. I explore this further in my latest book.