In case your direct reports haven’t sent you enough subtle reminders, today is Employee Appreciation Day.
But while it’s great to have a day dedicated to giving your employees a little extra love, we think of it kind of like we think of Valentine’s Day: Shouldn’t you be telling the ones you appreciate how much they mean to you every day?
OK, every single day might be a little excessive—but making sure your employees know how much they mean to you should be far more frequent than a once-a-year affair. Not sure where to start? Here are eight simple things you can give your employees that will show how much you appreciate what they do every day.
1. Your Ear
Set up casual, one-on-one coffee meetings with each of your direct reports, but instead of spending the time talking about their performance, take some time to ask them a little more about their careers, hopes, and dreams. Ask them what their goals are, and think about how you can help them. Get their thoughts on how their jobs are going, and see if there’s anything you can do to help them work better. Give them an opportunity to give you feedback.
By spending some time listening to what your employees want (and then, to the best of your abilities, following through or at least following up to let them know you’re doing your best to help), they’ll understand that you’re not just there to make them do work, you want to help them succeed.
2. Very Specific Compliments
Sure, you know giving your employees compliments is a good thing. But do you know what kind of compliments are the most valuable?
Our management expert Katie Douthwaite suggests that it’s important to be super specific with your compliments:
For example, let’s say you had an employee who went the extra mile to land a new client:
Good: “Thanks for your hard work, Cathy!”
Better: “Thanks for putting in so much hard work to win over that new client, Cathy!”
Best: “Cathy, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your hard work to land the new Smith account. We’ve been after that account for several months, so you really stepped up to close an important deal. This is a huge win for you, our team, and the entire company.”
In this example, the “good” version is just too general—that compliment could be aimed at any person or task. “Better” mentions the specific accomplishment, which is an improvement, but “best” is the obvious winner. Not only does it mention the particular achievement, but it explains why it was so important and who benefited from it.
Finding opportunities for your employees is a great way to show that you've really got their backs. From the fun (attending cool industry events in your place, letting them use your office with a view for the afternoon) to the seriously career-boosting (getting them company tickets to a conference, setting up a meeting with a higher-up) your employees will appreciate that you’re doing what you can to help them grow and get the most out of their jobs.
Showing employees that you trust them is always a huge compliment. It means that you think their work quality is high enough that you don’t feel the need to worry about them. And the easiest way to show trust in the workplace? Give your team members a little extra ownership over something. Whether it’s a task they no longer need to run by you (“I think you're ready to send the client emails without me looking at them moving forward”) or a new project or process you can hand over (“I want to pass the responsibility of managing freelancers over to you—I think you’ll do a stellar job!”), try and think of something you can entrust your top employees with.
(A quick disclaimer here: If they already have too much on their plates, shifting work to them without talking about what they can de-prioritize might leave your employees feeling a little less than appreciated.)
5. An Open Door
It’s easy to get stuck in the daily grind and never really interact with your employees outside of asking when you’re going to get that report you assigned. But showing your staffers you appreciate them as people can be almost as important as proving you appreciate them as employees. And a great way to do that is to chat with them sometimes about things going on outside of work.
Try leaving your door open (and maybe putting a candy jar on your desk to entice people to come in) and casually chatting with people as they pass by. Ask about their families, their hobbies, and the like. Getting to know your employees—and remembering some the details to ask about again later—will show that you know they’re more than just workhorses.
6. Outside Feedback
Depending on your employees’ positions in the company, they may not get to hear the fantastic feedback from customers or higher-ups that pass through your desk on the regular. So, make it habit of forwarding these things along. Did your boss particularly enjoy Joe’s latest presentation? Tell him! Did a customer write in raving about her experience with Sarah? She’ll love hearing about it!
Another way to do this is to foster positive feedback among your team. Try to create easy venues for your employees to recognize each other. Maybe at the weekly meeting, everyone has to share an example of when they noticed someone going above and beyond. Or, as Douthwaite suggests, you could put up a public whiteboard as a wall of recognition, where employees can jot down their co-workers’ accomplishments for the rest of the team to see. (Start by writing a few of your own to get people going!)
7. A Treat
This one is kind of obvious, but an easy way to appreciate your team members is by getting them a little treat. Surprise everyone with some mid-afternoon donuts and coffee, order in lunch for the group today, or get a happy hour with your employees on the calendar (and make sure they know you’re footing the bill).
Sometimes, just saying a hearty “Thank you!” is all your employees really need to hear. It shows you’re paying attention to the work that they’re doing and that you know how much it matters to the company.
And, well, there’s not much that’s more appreciative than that.