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Show ’em Some Love!

heartsThree Strategies for Creatively Recognizing Employees

Valentine’s Day is for lovers. Usually we stay away from the topic of ‘love’ at work but we’re talking about positive recognition here, not the stuff that gets you in a sexual harassment lawsuit!

Smart leaders and managers know that it’s a good time to show your employees some love as well. In other words, let them know how much you appreciate their hard work toward achieving your organization’s goals. (You did set the goals in January, right?)

Recognition doesn’t have to be big, time-consuming, or expensive. In fact, the most meaningful recognition often comes simply from saying “thank you” for a job well done. But there are times when the situation calls for more than just a simple verbal acknowledgment. There are a lot of things that get in the way, but you do need to do it.

Here are three strategies for letting your employees know how much you care.

1. Start small.

Start by saying “thank you” on a regular basis. Over time, change what you say and how you say it so that it doesn’t become routine. Be specific. Instead of, “Nice job,” say, “Nice job on the quarterly audit. I know you worked incredibly hard to get it in on time.”

Recognize individual accomplishments with a short e-mail note or comment in a team meeting. Send the employee a handwritten note of appreciation, and send a copy to your boss. How many of us have those handwritten notes saved away because they are so rare and really do mean something? Leave a sticky note with a snack thanking the person for his or her efforts. Leave a message on their desk that the employee will receive first thing in the morning.

Give small gifts such as cards, desk toys, picture frames, gift cards, or chocolate. To make sure your gift will truly be appreciated, check out the employee’s work area to see what types of things they display. Or find out where they go for coffee in the morning or lunch at noon. A gift card to a favorite coffee shop or restaurant shows that you are observant and thoughtful.

2. Get Personal.

For performance that requires more than your basic pat on the back, orchestrate a thank-you letter or e-mail from senior leadership. Have the company leader call the employee with personal thanks. Make sure the employee is recognized publicly perhaps in a company e-newsletter, on the intranet, or at an all hands meeting. Send flowers or a gift basket on behalf of the company to the employee’s home.

Offer the employee an assignment or project that will stretch their current skill set. Give them an increase or change in responsibility and authority. Offer them an opportunity to shadow someone in a job they want to have next. Increase flexibility of work hours and/or occasional comp time (hint: employees really like this one).

Give employees a relevant book inscribed with a message from leadership recognizing their accomplishment. Allow them to observe a team or project that would represent a big promotion (and thus a learning opportunity to observe). Arrange for your manager or a senior leader to take your group out to lunch or dinner to celebrate a team accomplishment.

3. Use Peer Recognition

It is just as important for employees and teams to recognize each other as it is for leaders and managers to acknowledge good work. One good way to recognize a team, department, or organization is to establish a “Caring Credits” program.

At the beginning of the month, give everyone three cards. Employees write notes acknowledging their colleagues for going above and beyond their job requirements, and submit the cards to a designated individual (someone in HR, the team leader, etc.). At the end of the month, the person with the most cards written about them earns some sort of recognition. Distribute all the cards collected to employees acknowledged so people can see the praise they received from co-workers. That way, everyone gets recognized, not just the winner.

Another good strategy involves setting aside some wall space for public recognition. Pick a Friday afternoon to engage employees in creating their own (and your own) “What’s Great?” wall boards.

Employees use the boards to write a brief note about something great that occurred during the week. Notes can include professional or personal achievements or events. Encourage people to contribute to each other’s boards as well as their own, and watch how easily they begin to add to the boards without weekly prompting. The different handwritings and colored markers will brighten up the workspace. And others will stop by just to see what’s new on the boards.

So take a few moments this Valentine’s Day to show your employees some love – the legally appropriate kind! Then look for simple and effective ways to do it throughout the year. A little bit of recognition goes a long way toward maintaining a happy, motivated workforce. Remember, recognition doesn’t have to be big, time-consuming, or expensive. It’s not brain surgery…sometimes it’s harder!

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