By: Mohamed Abdellatif
The human mind is fascinating. Artificial Intelligence or A.I is yet to reach the level of emotional intelligence complexity or the speed of adaptation a human is capable of. However, as humans we have our own pitfalls, taking people for granted comes on top of that list; an obnoxious behavior that we unfortunately acquire as a by-product of habituation.
There are many times a person would miss an opportunity of saying “thank you” in a situation to someone who really deserves it. This happens equally amongst family members, friends and work colleagues. While socially; there could be a moral motive, a parenting duty or an emotional credit covering for any of those missed chances of appreciation, the story is different in the workplace. In a 2017 research by the organization Robert Half, it shows that two in three employees would leave their employers if they felt unappreciated. This is concerning, especially with the gap shown by the same research illustrating that managers, although relatively weighing the significance of employee appreciation, yet they may not be giving it the priority it deserves.
Not to mention it gets trickier with entrepreneurs. Unlike corporate managers who nourish and evolve while learning from advanced environments equipped with experience, tools and resources catering for employee morale; entrepreneurs are mostly those geniuses who initially have the passion and drive to transform their dreams into sizable businesses, then suddenly face the challenge of maintaining their employees who may not be equally psyched about work as the business owners but they would mostly need a place where they feel they belong to, where they are valued and duly rewarded.
In most business forums, online videos and blogs, you will easily identify an unlimited number of conventional and creative ideas for how to recognize and appreciate your employees. This article is not to give you another laundry list of bells and whistles, sure you can find that elsewhere. This is about investing time on the qualitative aspects of employee appreciation.
The Elephant In the Room…What Is Appreciation?
Many managers confuse recognition with appreciation. Certainly, the two linguistic definitions are not identically exchangeable, yet beyond the word-to-word thesaurus exercise, still mixing up what each really means is a common puzzlement in business communities. Simply, recognition should be conditioned to results, be-it quantitative or qualitative. Meanwhile, appreciation is making your employees feeling valued, acknowledging their contribution to the team for being who they are and what they do and how they do it. It is important to emphasize that recognizing good results is in itself founded on the principles of employee appreciation, hence one could say every recognition is appreciation but not every appreciation is recognition.
Recall a situation where you said to your team “Good job” although you really didn’t want to say it, results were not yet mature, or worse, the team already missed one of their periodic targets, however, empathizing with the hard work they exerted and the tough circumstances they went through; you basically wanted to give away few positive words. There you were still in trouble, because by saying “Good job” you might have given mixed messages for what is considered an “acceptable” level of achievements, what a pickle! Now, imagine that instead of saying “Good job” you said something like “I know we came close, but I want to take this opportunity and tell you that I really appreciate your hard work, you are an integral part of this organization, I will do everything in my capacity to continue supporting you and I am confident you have what it takes to turn things around.”
Narrowing our minds that recognition is the only tool we have to make our teams feel appreciated is really limiting our capacity to deal with tough situations like the one mentioned above. While recognition should be only tied to meeting and exceeding pre-set targets, appreciation has a broader situational range and may not necessarily be associated with a moment of success. Let me also emphasize that it would not be wise to only keep this tone of emotional appreciation for the tough times only, appreciating your employees is a skill that you can grow over time, bottom line, anyone in your team could need every now and then that affectional nudge, it is like a vaccine that requires occasional booster dosing to keep troubling thoughts away.
Keep Your Objectives SMART and Your Appreciation SMARTER
The concept of SMART objectives has been well established over the last few decades, not only in businesses but in all aspects of life. Since you are recognizing your employees for achieving their objectives while appreciating them along the journey, it would be convenient here to introduce a similar acronym for appreciation like that of the objectives;
S… for Specific… Specify the reason for appreciation to your audience, this will help reinforce what kind of behaviors and results you want to see more of.
M… for Measurable… Measure before you appreciate, it would be worthless if you appreciate something that has no significance or impact on the organization.
A… for Attainable… Make your appreciation accessible, so everyone in the team with the right attitude and effort can gain some of your appreciation.
R… for Relevant... Appreciate for what matters, this could be directly related to goals and objectives or intangible as in improving the work environment.
T... for Time-bound... Appreciation window has a short shelf life, so do it while it is still due, deferring it to a later time aiming of a “perfect-moment” might ruin the whole meaning and rips it off its true value.
E… for Enthusiastic… Do it genuinely with your full energy, avoid sounding repetitive, tiresome or generic. With little research you will be able to identify plenty of ideas to keep your appreciation refreshing and resourceful.
R… for Reviving... Always highlight for what comes next. Moments of appreciation should not dwell on the past, it is actually a great chance to stress this is an undoubtful signal for an even better future.
Inspiring for a Culture of Appreciation
Employee appreciation is not just a manager-to-subordinate token that gets redeemed when necessary. When you as a leader showcase for a solid pattern of meaningful appreciation to your team, you are actually facilitating for a warm and humane work climate that breeds for others to reciprocate. You will know you are successful when it becomes not only your job to help improve the overall morale. A highly effective team is the one where its members appreciate each other’s role and contribution. Appreciation can even go upstream from an employee to his/her manager, one of these days you might be surprised finding a junior member in the team coming to you and genuinely not-fishing-for-later-advantages thanking you for what you do and how you inspire and teach others to succeed, that sweet captivating remark could possibly be the best reward you ever received in your career.