Friday is Employee Appreciation Day, and sure, you should do something. Buy everyone lunch. Send brownies to me. (I realize I don't work for you, but I do love brownies.) Say thanks to everyone, but the reality is, it's far more important to show your employees you appreciate them every day. Here are 10 ways to show your employees you appreciate them every day-and they won't cost you a penny
1. Dump a stupid rule.
You have a stupid rule. I almost guarantee it. What kind of stupid rule? How about a doctor's note for every absence? How about making your exempt employees (who aren't billing time to clients) track every minute? How about docking PTO time from exempt employees for every hour they aren't in the office, but not giving them additional PTO when they work more than 40 hours in a week? These are all dumb rules. Dump them.
2. Fire the horrible employee.
You probably have one. For whatever reason, you haven't dealt with this person. Maybe she's a slacker, maybe he's a gossip, maybe she's a bully, maybe he's simply incapable of the work. Whatever the problem is, getting rid of your problem employee makes your other employees feel appreciated.
3. Acknowledge your employees' extra efforts.
For whatever reason, we decided that a 40 hour work week was standard. Lots and lots of exempt employees work a lot more than that on a regular basis. It's expected in many industries. That doesn't mean you shouldn't say thank you. Non-exempt people get overtime for their extra efforts. Thank your exempt employees for going the extra mile.
4. Listen to an idea.
Sure, you're the boss, but you hired people because you needed their ideas. So, listen to them. Encourage them. Consider implementing them. Your employees feel appreciated when you consider their ideas and hard work.
5. Don't play favorites.
Personalities exist, and you like some personalities better than others. Don't let your like or dislike of the person determine the work and rewards you assign. Instead, look at the performance and productivity. Reward success, not similar personalities. And remember, while it's legal to prefer people based on their personalities, it's not legal to shower goodies on people because of race, gender, or other protected classes.
6. Give people some breathing room.
Don't hover over someone who hasn't messed up before. Sure, guide that new employee, but stand back and let people do their best. Unless you're a complete idiot who consistently hires poorly, your employees are capable of doing the job you hired them to do. (Everyone makes hiring mistakes-even experts, but if you are consistently making hiring mistakes, that's a problem.) Let your employees do their job and let them know you're available if they need help. That's it.
7. Take responsibility for your own mistakes.
I will never forget when I repeatedly warned and cautioned the head of compensation that his plan for pay raises would fail. He insisted he was right. When it collapsed on his head, he blamed me as the person who was responsible for carrying out the plan. While he wasn't my boss (thankfully), I never, ever trusted him again. If he had been my boss, that would have been the moment I started looking for a new job. He screwed up. I didn't. Don't be like him. Say, "Yes, Suzanne warned me, and I overrode her. This is my fault."
8. Have their backs.
Look, your employees will make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. Got it. But, if the mistake is an honest one, support your employee. Give her the tools to fix it; don't let it be career ending. You want employees who are risk takers. If you punish any failed risks, you'll soon be out of people who are willing to try. Let your employees know that you'll reward their efforts and support them, even if things go poorly.
9. Give deserved raises and bonuses.
I know I said these were ideas that wouldn't cost you a penny, and here I am talking about money. Do you know how much a 3 percent raise on an employee earning $50,000 a year is? Quick, do the math: $1500. Do you know how much it costs to replace an employee earning $50,000 a year? Estimates vary wildly but are more than $1500. It costs you less to reward a good employee than it costs you to replace them. In your head, count on the cost to the business for replacement at 25-50 percent of salary for regular employees and 100-200 percent of salary for executives. Reward wisely.
10. Be honest.
There are some things you can't tell your employees. They know and understand this, but these things are few and far between. Most of the stuff that management keeps secret are simply because it's easier not to have to explain yourself to your employees. This makes employees feel as if they can't trust you and that you don't trust them. How can you have a positive work environment where you don't trust each other? Just be honest about what's going on. If you truly can't say-like you're int he middle of contract negotiations-say so, "Right now we're in the middle of negotiations and we'll let you know when things are resolved."