People like to feel appreciated by others. Sadly, the positive effect of being appreciated seems to be like a drug that loses its potency over time. In order for appreciation to keep people feeling great, leaders must keep coming up with new ways to deliver it.
As I wrote in March, research supports the idea that appreciation makes organizations more effective. There, I summarized a New York Times study that found that appreciation results in "lower turnover, fewer days missed, even a reduction in on-the-job accidents." Most interestingly, two-thirds of people who don't feel appreciated are more likely to quit.
To keep that idea new, here is more evidence. Microsoft -- whose users have sent over 9 million "Praise badges" since May 2021 -- did a study that found employees with "strong colleague relationships" reported higher productivity and are more committed to their employers. Some 61 percent said they weren't likely to switch jobs in the year ahead (far more than the 39 percent of their less-connected peers), according to the Wall Street Journal.
If a company has already been showing appreciation to its people and its rivals are doing the same, then the benefits of higher productivity and greater loyalty to their organization will fade unless the company comes up with innovative ways to show appreciation.
Here are three such ways that strike me as innovative now -- but could become less so if other companies copy them.
1. Make complimenting co-workers into a game.
People appreciate compliments from their co-workers. One way to encourage more such compliments is to count the number of compliments each worker gives out to their colleagues and reward those with the highest compliment counts.
One company that uses this approach is Northborough, Massachusetts-based Esler Companies, which installs windows and doors. Jacob Coite, one of Esler's schedulers, has given out a whopping 2,745 compliments -- such as "Your empathy is like Kool-Aid, the way it adds flavor to a boring call" -- in the last year, according to the Journal.
Esler shows its appreciation for Coite's compliment count. The company gave him a trophy with that number emblazoned next to his name for being the company's "top cheerleader." He displays the trophy on his desk, which keeps him motivated, according to the Journal. In the meantime, he is ahead of the company's No. 2 by 1,845 compliments.
In theory, this approach to gamifying appreciation could be an effective way to motivate people. I am curious whether the recipients of all the compliments at Esler feel appreciated or whether turning them into a game currency somehow cheapens their emotional benefit.
2. Circulate a stuffed monkey to reward the month's top performer.
Rather than calling out a top employee each month, one company -- Webfor, a Vancouver, Washington-based marketing agency -- decided to do something a little "less antiquated and a little more fun," CEO Kevin Getch told the Journal
Webfor has a unique idea of fun -- it purchased a stuffed monkey and named it the Monkey of Awesomeness. Each month, the employee who is awarded the monkey gets to decide the lucky recipient for the next month based on their judgment of who was the top team performer.
Getch likes this approach because it "democratizes recognition." Webfor has changed the way each month's recipient receives the Monkey of Awesomeness. Remote colleagues used to mail the monkey to each recipient. That became too cumbersome -- so now they receive pictures of the money via Slack.
While I might pick a different stuffed animal -- for example, a tiger -- this sounds like a fun idea, and it could be effective if the winners feel appreciated.
3. Turn employee appreciation points into gift cards.
While the first two ideas could generate good feeling among co-workers, I like the idea of adding cash to the bundle of rewards. One way to do that is to convert points for compliments into more than acknowledgement and praise.
A case in point is Atlanta ticketing platform SeatGeek, which displays a leader board which tracks the employees who give and receive the most points each month. The company offers the ability for its people to "trade points for gift cards -- or even cash, such as Visa cards -- [which] makes it easy to generate staff enthusiasm," the Journal noted.
One employee, Phil Banze, said that in 2021 he was able to save a "nice little nest egg" of points that he used to buy Christmas presents. Banze topped the leader board in a recent month, which gave him bragging rights and reinforced in him "the strong millennial belief that we thrive off acknowledgment and praise," reported the Journal.
Business leaders must keep coming up with new ways to keep their people feeling appreciated. These three might help.