Your organization’s leaders care about their people. And as empathetic professionals, they likely put effort into growing as mentors and coaches to help their direct reports flourish.
Because they invest so much time into becoming effective people managers, leadership may assume employees feel appreciated. But that might be an incorrect assumption — they could be falling prey to the illusion of transparency*, which is the misconception that our feelings about others are more apparent than they really are. Team leads might also mistakenly believe their direct reports value constructive criticism more than praise, leading to imbalanced feedback.
Whatever form it takes, workplace appreciation needs to be positive, consistent, personal, and aligned with company values. And that’s not always easy to accomplish.
That’s why on Employee Appreciation Day, we’re talking about:
- What workplace appreciation is and why it matters
- Five best practices for workplace appreciation
- Common mistakes to avoid when it comes to workplace appreciation
*American Psychological Association, 1998
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Leapsome’s Instant Feedback module makes it easy to show appreciation — with detailed comments about recent projects and initiatives.
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What is workplace appreciation?
Workplace appreciation is the practice of acknowledging and celebrating employee accomplishments and contributions both publicly and one-on-one. And staff appreciation can sometimes, but not always, come with tangible rewards.
Organizations can show team members gratitude with monetary awards like raises, promotions, and bonuses, but they can also demonstrate appreciation with non-monetary benefits like extra time off, special professional development opportunities, or company-wide events.
Why is employee appreciation important?
Appreciating team members makes the workplace feel more fulfilling and positive. And with 82% of professionals planning to change jobs within the year, now’s an important time to recognize this.
But the way organizations show gratitude matters even more. Meaningful employee appreciation can take many forms, notably:
- Transparent performance review processes that are consistent, psychologically safe, and incorporate meaningful, actionable feedback.
- Fair compensation and benefits packages that reward employees for their experience, effort, and contributions.
- Authentic training opportunities and development methods that help individuals advance their careers and achieve their goals.
- A positive work environment and professional community that encourages team members to live a fulfilling, balanced life.
And it’s hard to overlook the benefits that appreciation can bring to your organization, such as:
- Boosting workplace satisfaction — Prioritizing staff appreciation can lead to a 47% increase in morale.
- Higher retention rates — Devoting more time and resources to staff rewards and recognition is key to holding on to your top people. According to Gallup, it can increase the likelihood of retaining employees by 56%.
- Increased productivity — As morale and engagement increase due to your focus on appreciation, so will your output. According to Gallup, companies prioritizing engagement and appreciation see a 23% increase in productivity.
“Effective employee appreciation is about more than just office snacks and free swag. It’s about creating a culture of respect, openness, and growth where employees feel valued and supported. By taking the time to understand each employee’s unique needs and preferences and providing opportunities for growth and development, you can create a workplace that fosters productivity, engagement, and success.”
— Tara Furiani, CEO, Keynote Speaker, Author, and Host at Not the HR Lady
5 best practices for appreciation in the workplace
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Showing appreciation is one of the easiest ways to make your people feel valued, but it’s not as straightforward as it seems. Here are five best practices to keep in mind when showing employees how much you value them.
1. Connect appreciation with company values
Appreciation needs to be specific to make a positive impact. Team members want to understand how their accomplishments and efforts support the company mission, so it’s a good idea to show them how their contributions embody your organization’s values.
Structuring praise around company values also leads to appreciation that’s based on results and metrics rather than an affinity for certain individuals.
So, instead of a manager saying, “Thanks for taking the lead on that recent project,” it would be better to say, “You really demonstrated our value of taking initiative when you took the lead on that project. Not only did you jump in without being asked, but you also put together a great team and got excellent results for our client.”
2. Build appreciation into the review process
In our 2023 State of People Enablement Report, 77% of employees cited a poor performance review process as one reason they wanted to leave their current organization.
Team members may feel that their company’s reviews are plagued by unconscious bias, leading to a lack of transparency and recognition. And even if managers express appreciation in performance reviews, it might rarely lead to tangible rewards like bonuses, raises, promotions, or special training opportunities.
To keep employees engaged and motivated, your organization needs:
- Structured performance reviews that discuss strengths and opportunities for growth — Make sure team leads follow the same agenda and pre-established framework, so all assessments are consistent.
- Monetary or non-monetary incentives for a job well done — Equip leadership with the tools they need to offer tangible rewards. For example, use Leapsome’s Compensation module, which allows team leads to recommend employees for a raise or bonus during their next salary review after a great appraisal.
“Employee appreciation in the workplace needs to run deeper than thank yous, non-monetary gifts, or ’public emails.’ So much of the work employees complete goes unrecognized and unrewarded financially. A better system would be to build a clear process where ’above and beyond efforts’ get genuinely factored into promotion and merit raise decisions and are valued for the impact they have on the workplace.”
— Dannie Lynn Fountain, Senior Software Engineering Sourcer at Google
3. Set up a rewards & recognition program
A major reason why organizations design employee rewards and recognition programs is to formalize their strategies for boosting engagement and motivation. Rewards typically include monetary and non-monetary incentives like merit increases, promotions, or development opportunities. And recognition often takes the form of verbal or written praise in response to a specific accomplishment.
A rewards and recognition program provides guidelines to follow when you want to show appreciation to your people. You can create one by:
- Determining what employees need to do to earn specific rewards.
These could include meeting certain objectives or targets.
- Deciding how you’ll offer recognition.
With Leapsome’s Instant Feedback module, you can set up a company Praise Wall where colleagues can leave and read positive comments about each other. When using Slack or Microsoft Teams, our integration even allows you to set up a dedicated channel to share that praise.
- Specifying the rewards you’ll provide.
What mixture of monetary and non-monetary rewards will you offer? Will you include incentives like bonuses or profit sharing? How about learning and development stipends or extra days off?
- Telling employees about the program.
Make sure everyone understands how your system works and the criteria they need to meet to earn certain incentives.
“It’s important to ensure that the reward or recognition scheme is seen as fair and equitable by all team members. This means avoiding favoritism or bias towards certain individuals or teams and ensuring the criteria for earning rewards or recognition are based on objectives and metrics, such as sales targets or customer satisfaction ratings.”
— Natasha Maddock, Co-Founder and Non-Executive Director of Events Made Simple
4. Develop praise skills in leaders
Leadership may have a solid grasp of giving praise and appreciation. And yet, there might be a disconnect within your organization. We found that 95% of human resources leaders thought employees were somewhat engaged, while 63% of employees reported feelings of disengagement.
It could be that your team leads don’t show appreciation consistently. They may not understand the best occasions to give feedback, and if they do, they might not make it personal enough. It’s also possible managers only offer praise when team members end up working long hours and neglect work-life balance.
You can help team leads improve the way they give praise by:
- Training them to spot opportunities to share positive feedback — on its own or alongside constructive criticism
- Setting up role-playing scenarios where they can get input on making their displays of appreciation more effective
- Including positive communication and feedback among the competencies evaluated in their performance reviews
👏 Help leaders give better praise
Leapsome’s Instant Feedback module enables managers to provide meaningful praise and structured suggestions for improvement.
5. Get employee feedback
As the perception gap we discovered has shown, team member feedback may surprise you. That’s why organizations need to ask employees how they prefer to receive appreciation and recognition directly.
Run regular engagement surveys and:
- Ask employees to rate how appreciated they feel and how much appreciation affects their job satisfaction on a Likert scale
(from ”strongly disagree” to ”strongly agree”).
- Include open-ended questions. For example:
— How do you prefer to be recognized?
— Can you give a specific example of a time you felt appreciated at work?
— What role do you think managers should play in showing appreciation to their reports?
- Share the results with everyone. Explain the data and discuss specific ways you’ll take action on their feedback.
🔎 To improve staff happiness, you need to prioritize engagement. And to support you in making a meaningful impact, we’ve compiled a list of 33 creative engagement ideas.
Mistakes to avoid
Some leaders may assume that as long as they find some way to show employees appreciation, they’re doing a decent job. But praise can miss the mark and fall flat in several ways:
- Neglecting to make it personal — This is not to say you should avoid general rewards like company-wide holiday bonuses or events. But managers should also let direct reports know the difference their contributions make in team success. Otherwise, you risk employees viewing your appreciation efforts as generic or disingenuous.
- Waiting too long — If you don’t share praise promptly, you might miss out on the chance to encourage positive habits and performance in the moment and leave people feeling disappointed.
- Inconsistency — You may give new hires plenty of praise during the onboarding process because you know starting a new job is overwhelming and realize they may need extra reassurance. But if you stop demonstrating as much appreciation once someone has been with the company for a few months, they may assume it’s because their performance has declined.
- Misalignment with company culture — While it’s important to celebrate team members’ hard work, praising them for putting in long hours may, for instance, conflict with your value of work-life balance. Similarly, poorly thought-out rewards and perks can send the wrong message. For example, giving employees gift cards to a business many of them boycott for ethical reasons could backfire, leading to resentment rather than gratitude.
“If possible, partner with your inclusion advisor on any reward or appreciation program to ensure it doesn’t conflict with the overall corporate goal of an inclusive workplace culture.”
— Ashley T. Brundage, President and CEO of Empowering Differences
Improve company culture & engagement with Leapsome
Workplace appreciation can improve your organizational culture and boost employee engagement. The right software facilitates consistent, thoughtful appreciation, and with the cooperation of leadership and management, it helps build and maintain an authentic culture of gratitude.
Leapsome makes offering praise and recognition at every opportunity intuitive. With our Instant feedback module, everyone from C-level to junior team members can request and receive feedback on projects and initiatives. Managers can also rate how employees demonstrated skills or company values on dynamic scales and leave detailed notes to explain why their efforts were so impactful.
And because our Instant Feedback module is designed to work with our Goals module and Competency Framework, you can be sure your input will guide employees toward their professional aspirations.
🪴 Nurture employee confidence and help them thrive
Managers can use Leapsome’s Instant Feedback module to reinforce the goals and skills their direct reports are working toward.
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