One of the most challenging aspects of being a leader is constantly motivating your team while limiting turnover. It may seem like an impossible feat, but it's achievable -- just by recognizing and thanking them for all they do.
Employees frequently feel unappreciated. According to a 2016 Gallup analysis, only one in three employees feels she's been recognized for her work in the past week. And Gallup found that those who don't feel appreciated are twice as likely to leave their jobs in the next year. That means recognizing employees has a huge payoff.
You don't have to spend endless amounts of time and money to see a big impact. However, to really show your gratitude, you can't just go through the motions. You have to show your appreciation by doing things your employees have never had a boss do for them.
1. Reward people based on their individual interests.
No disrespect to handing out team swag and monetary rewards to thank your team -- they'll definitely be grateful. But how many times has a superior surprised you with something you truly cared about?
The reason this stands out and is so powerful is that it shows you've taken the time to get to know each team member beyond her contributions at work. Better, you've taken that knowledge and gone out of your way to find a thoughtful gift that relates to her specific interests.
For example, if one team member is an American history buff, you could give him a new biography of Teddy Roosevelt. If she's a huge baseball fan, you could snag her tickets to an upcoming game. Is another into music? Get him Spotify Premium. Has she expressed interest in learning to cook, garden or strengthen her leadership skills? Buy her a DIY book or sign her up for a workshop or online course.
Finding the right reward for the right person goes a long way toward building rapport. I guarantee your team members won't forget the time you got them the perfect gift -- which, in turn, will motivate them to keep churning out their best work.
2. Leave handwritten sticky notes.
Handwritten notes are, sadly, becoming a thing of the past. When was the last time you received a handwritten letter from someone? I bet you were pleasantly surprised.
You don't have to write a lengthy letter or purchase a fancy thank-you card. Simply using a sticky note to jot down some words thanking an employee for a job well done can go a long way. You can leave it on her monitor or desk, showing you were thinking about her hard work even when it wasn't directly in front of you. This is really simple, but it's also effective and unforgettable.
3. Write a letter of recommendation.
This may seem a bit out there. After all, why would you want your top talent to leave your organization? Having such talented employees that others want to add them to their teams is actually a big compliment -- and writing a letter of recommendation is a great way to show a teammate how much you appreciate him before he leaves.
Down the road, when there's an opportunity to go elsewhere, he may turn down the offer because he already knows you sincerely value him. If he does leave, he's more likely to boomerang back into your orbit.
4. Give the gift of wellness.
Exercise, eating healthy, managing stress and getting enough sleep don't just make you feel better inside and outside. They also help maintain your productivity at work. Unfortunately, we often put our health on the back burner.
Address this by providing your team with gym memberships, healthy office snacks or weekly guided meditation sessions. You could even suggest teammates download apps that assist with their wellness, such as Headspace, or gift everyone weighted blankets to help them sleep more soundly.
5. Give them a shout-out.
Even the shiest individuals want to be recognized. That doesn't mean embarrassing them and forcing them into the spotlight. But name-dropping them and their accomplishments on social media and company newsletters is one way to acknowledge them publicly but modestly. You could also mention them at conferences, meetings and networking events.
And bring them up when they're not present. Years ago, I discovered a colleague had mentioned me to a group of people at a conference. It may not have led anywhere, but I was flattered that he spoke so highly of me, and I've never taken that for granted.
6. Encourage development.
People, particularly Millennials and Gen-Zers, crave leaders who provide them with development opportunities. Accommodate them by becoming a mentor, paying for their continuing education courses or bringing in a third-party consultant.
Even better, focus on specific areas where they want to grow. For example, if an employee has expressed interest in coding so he can troubleshoot his own problems or start building his own apps, enroll him in a coding course. It directly addresses a need and offers a personalized token of appreciation.
7. Stop saying you don't have time for them.
We've all been guilty of this: Someone asks if you have a minute, and you reply that you're swamped. Enough of these instances, and people will stop asking for your guidance.
I know we're all busy -- but everyone has at least five minutes to spare. It could be a quick email or Slack notification steering a teammate to a resource that could help her complete a project. A short five-minute call to catch up could mean the world to a stressed employee. You could also periodically wander out of your office to have lunch with your team.
This may not mean much to you, but it shows you're carving out time specifically for your team.
8. Recognize achievements outside of work.
Did a team member complete a 5K over the weekend? Did another welcome a newborn to her family? Did a third earn a new certificate or degree? Whatever they've accomplished outside work, recognize these achievements. It shows you not only know what's going on in their lives, but you're also interested in what's going on with them outside work.
There are probably a million different ways to thank your team. But if you really want to connect with your teammates and make it meaningful, you need to think beyond standard perks and benefits. It may take a little effort, but it will have a big payoff -- and build a strong bond between you and your team.