Appreciation could possibly be the single biggest reason we enjoy work, there’s nothing more precious than feeling that we truly matter. Overcoming challenges, working hard, solving problems, and receiving praise for our efforts; not just having the knowledge that we are contributing and making a difference but receiving a token of gratitude, in the form of a gift or words. This form of appreciation is very powerful to motivate employees and to ensure that they are happy. Actually, appreciation goes beyond recognition and can (and should) be used to show that you value the *person*, not necessarily what they have recently accomplished at work. Something as simple as talking and listening to co-workers can show appreciation. Appreciation is an undervalued thing in our workplaces.
First, appreciation given is *much* more effective when it is individualized and specific. A $20 gift card given to all employees is not an effective form of appreciation. Neither is “great job team”. It is much better to say “your keen eye for detail and finding those last minute bugs really helped the team deliver a quality product”. Second, express appreciation in different forms. Learn to be a good listener. It’s useful in and outside of the workplace as it shows a genuine expression of interest in that person, which is a form of appreciation. Another form of appreciation is to ask someone if they would like your help. Staying late to help a co-worker finish a project can be viewed as hugely appreciative. If you are a manager, another form of appreciation is in gifts, whether it is a physical gift, monetary gift, an experience such as tickets to a game, or even a paid day off. There are many ways to show appreciation. Finally, while appreciation starts with management, it should become part of the company culture that not only co-workers give appreciation to each other but also employees to their managers. Appreciation should be ingrained in the company culture.
It is important to note that everyone appreciates differently. Do *not* assume that people will (or should) feel and act the way you do with appreciation. Like the 5 Love Languages a la Dr Gary Chapman, appreciation of employees and co-workers is most effective if you speak their “language”. Not only do people like to receive appreciation differently (verbal, gifts, acts, time), but each form can have nuances. Some people like to receive verbal praise announced in a group, while others may find that horribly embarrassing and much prefer to receive verbal praise in a one-on-one setting. Everyone is different. You may prefer a day off work, while I prefer my manager to show a genuine interest in me as a person. While showing appreciation, especially individual appreciation, is likely never bad, it can be much more effective if it is given in the correct “language”.
Most people leave companies not because of money or location or simply a change, but because of low job satisfaction and because they don’t feel valued. The single highest driver of engagement is whether or not workers feel their manager is generally interested in their well being. In sum, happy, engaged, enthusiastic employees are employees who are appreciated.