As leaders, there are a lot of things we can give our employees; our time, attention, loyalty, concern. It's easy to be left wondering if you're doing enough on these fronts.

But a study conducted this summer by analytics and research institute Workhuman shows that what employees most want their bosses to do more of isn't any of these things. It's something you can easily do more of--and it will have a disproportionately positive impact.

Employees want you to show more appreciation.

The study asked respondents what one thing they wished their manager did more of. Here are the results:

  • Show more appreciation (31 percent)
  • Focus more on my career growth (19 percent) 
  • Give me more independence (15 percent)
  • Focus more on my learning and development (14 percent) 
  • Have more frequent 1:1s and check-ins (8 percent)

Showing more appreciation is substantially ahead of the number two wish-for, "Focusing more on my career growth," which says something, as career growth is a pretty darned important topic for any employee.

Showing more appreciation isn't rocket-science. Even so, I want to provide you with rocket fuel on how to be a more appreciative boss. Here, I share some of the best the advice on meaningful appreciation that I discussed in my book, Make It Matter.

1.  Personalize so you don't trivialize.

The most powerful and meaningful appreciation a leader can give recognizes and incorporates what each individual values. You don't want to make employees feel like they're a number and that they're just being appreciated because they happen to be "the next in line." Knowing what they individually value and acting on it solves this issue.

It requires a personal investment from you to determine how your employees would appreciate being appreciated. For many, a genuine thanks behind closed doors will do. For others, it might look like more autonomy, new and challenging work, or a salary increase. You won't know if you don't ask.   

2. Get everyone in on the act.

My experience has shown me that peer to peer recognition is an incredibly powerful way to foster more appreciation for your employee. Appreciation from peers engenders goodwill among team members and inspires reciprocation, all of which can positively enhance performance.

When employees feel affiliation with one another, they're more likely to put in the extra effort to produce at even higher levels for their company. I've seen that play out over and over. One client I keynoted for even showed me "Appreciation Stations" (as they called them) that they had set up in their hallways--kiosks jammed with cards and gift certificates that employees could use to show one another the appreciation they were craving. The results these stations produced were astonishing-- the company saw more peer to peer recognition, all of which had a profound positive impact on employees.

3. Be frequent, but not frivolous.

Missed opportunities to show appreciation are missed opportunities to energize. But remember that you can overdo it. Ever had a boss show appreciation for something mundane, something that you honestly felt like was just a basic part of your core job? It feels as empty as not receiving any appreciation at all.

So be clear about what behaviors, attitudes, and type of accomplishments will be appreciated, recognized, and rewarded. This way, people are less likely to feel underappreciated because you've been clear on what the "rules of engagement" are for rewards and recognition. And be sure to show appreciation for results primarily, not just activity (the core of their job). Celebrate milestone results and the interim results that contributed and led up to the milestone results.

4. Deliberate the delivery.

How you deliver the appreciation matters. Don't kill the intent with a clumsy, poorly thought through show of appreciation. Be sincere. Carefully craft the words you share, being specific about exactly what it is you're showing appreciation for and why.

This is one case where you can easily give the employee what they want. It just takes attention to your intention.

Published on: Sep 28, 2019
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