Valuable employees need to know their work makes a difference, so it’s important for managers to remember to thank their people.
Letting people know their work matters is a great habit that takes a little bit of forethought and effort, and doesn’t have to cost a lot.
It’s really all about keeping them engaged.
A simple “thank you” goes a long way with making people feel valued. The return on investment is huge for this gesture. These two words can have a significant impact on motivation and morale.
When saying thanks to your good employees, acknowledge the hard work they do, and tie it in to how it’s helping your organization meet key goals. This reaffirms their work is vital to the company’s success.
Top 4 ways to thank good people
When thanking employees, there are several approaches to take.
Here are the most effective:
- A hand-written note. Thank-you notes may sound a bit old-fashioned, but there’s no better way to express gratitude than with a note. Employees will appreciate the gesture, and it provides a personal touch.
- A face-to-face chat. Looking employees directly in the eyes and saying “thanks for all you do” is a real motivator that makes them feel valued as people.
- A phone call. Can’t talk to them face to face? Take a few minutes to give an employee a call and thank them. Verbal thanks are always appreciated.
- An email. If there’s no time to pursue other methods, a quick thanks via email is good way to recognize an employee for a job well done.
Praise specific efforts
When praising employees for their work, be specific. Tell them exactly why the work stands out.
Research shows simply telling employees they’re doing a “good job” isn’t enough. Reason: They won’t know what they’re doing right, so they won’t work to maintain their progress.
Instead, mention what they’ve done well in no uncertain terms.
Example: “You always hit deadlines.” “Your research is detailed.” “I never have to correct mistakes on reports.”
This feedback not only makes people feel their work matters, it’ll motivate them to continue performing to top standards – it’s a win-win for everyone.
Besides recognizing employees for specific efforts, managers should also keep in mind four other guidelines when it comes to doling out praise:
- Recognize workers in the moment. It’s best for managers to make note of employee accomplishments as soon as possible. This helps reinforce top performance by acknowledging employees’ good work right as it’s completed.
- Keep praise in context. The best way for managers to recognize their employees is to let them know just how their hard work benefits the company’s bottom line. If workers are told that what they do is essential to the company’s success, they’ll feel motivated to keep it up.
- Avoid praising work too much or too little. If managers praise their employees enthusiastically for every little thing, the words will lose their meaning – and their effectiveness. The recognition given should match up appropriately with the employee’s results.
- Make the words meaningful. Thanking employees on auto-pilot out of obligation doesn’t promote results. Managers’ words have to be heart-felt and sincere. Inauthentic praise can actually demotivate employees, so praise should be reserved unless they mean it.
It’s key to note that for these methods to be effective for employee recognition, managers need to promote a culture where workers feel valued in general. Everyone should be treated as an essential part of the team.
If employees feel their managers care about them as people, and don’t just see them as cogs in the machine, praise will be more meaningful to them. Workers who feel valued by managers will be more invested in the company, which inspires them to do their best work.
Give more responsibility
Another way for employees to feel like they matter is to give them a bit more authority and responsibility as a reward for exceeding expectations.
Feeling challenged by assignments is key to employee satisfaction, as reported by over a third (35%) of participants in the CareerBuilder survey.
So to this end, assign best performers some challenging or interesting tasks. Let them have a say in their next assignment. Suggest they mentor or help train another employee.
Or, allow them to take the lead at the next company meeting or training seminar. Stretching a person’s role outside their job description and giving them more responsibilities can be its own reward.
Some managers may even wish to change the person’s job title to better reflect his or her responsibilities and role in the company. With or without a raise, a more authoritative job title can make an employee feel like his or her work is being recognized.
As another reward, managers can offer to take on their least favoritetask for one week to get it off their plates. In turn, they can take on a manager’s task and really get an idea of what it’s like to be the person in charge, if only for a day.
When rewarding people, it’s a good idea to not only focus on their raw accomplishments, but also on the effort it took to get there. After all, managers want to encourage hard work and innovative thinking, even if the end result wasn’t as planned.
Acknowledging a person’s efforts in pursuing an interesting idea promotes an environment where employees aren’t afraid to try new things.
That could pay off in dividends for the company. Also, rewarding loyalty is key to retaining good people. Managers want employees to feel invested in the company because it encourages them to stick around and continue doing a good job.
That’s why it’s a good idea to celebrate anniversary milestones with the company.
For every five years employees spend at their company, recognize the time they put in. Hold a special ceremony for these employees, or tie it in to a general employee appreciation celebration. Handing out pins, ribbons or plaques are all good ideas.
Keys to recognition ceremonies
There are other ways to thank employees that won’t hurt a company’s budget. Have a monthly or quarterly recognition ceremony where managers take time out to acknowledge the people who have gone the extra mile with their work, and present them with certificates for achievement.
Although it doesn’t take much to plan these ceremonies, the ones that are the most effective:
- Fit in with the company culture. If you have a more casual work environment, a black tie gala isn’t the best bet to honor your employees. Consider your culture and work from there.
- Have specific personal touches. At many companies, honorees are encouraged to invite guests. And besides work achievements, accomplishments like birthdays and anniversaries are also highlighted.
- Incorporate unique company elements. Using a cookie-cutter ceremony likely won’t have an impact on your people. Add some fun and excitement to the festivities.
The award for ‘big thinker’ goes to …
Often employers reward their people by naming them “Employee of the Month” or “Employee of the Quarter.”
While these are great for highlighting general good work, try honoring employees for more specific behaviors to encourage it in the company.
Specific categories to incorporate include:
- big thinker
- best idea
- most hard-working
- life saver (complete with a package of the candies).
- ultimate team player
- mountain mover
- Mr. or Ms. Above and Beyond.
Even awards for things like “best attendance” can encourage positive behavior and motivate your people.