giving flowersAs I write this it is Mother’s Day in the US. And that’s one day where you don’t hear very much complaining. Oh sure you hear tales of manufactured holidays some Valentine’s and well, pretty much every holiday. But Mother’s Day has a special place in the hearts of many.

But those who rail against the holiday make a valid point. They say that saving all your appreciation for one day misses the point and that true appreciation for mothers should be a year round occurrence.

Welp, the same goes for employees. The reason that most people don’t mind having a special day for mothers is that most (not all) are pretty great. They work hard, sacrifice and give what they’ve got to the job of motherhood. Sound familiar? With the exception of a paycheck and a 401K, this hopefully reminds you of the people that make up your corporation.

Employee Appreciation is something that should happen year round. It seems like an easy fix: make employees feel good and valued and they will in turn, be more loyal and work harder. So why are so many companies failing at this simple yet super productive way to revitalize their workforce?

Automation and Distance.While there’s nothing wrong with making sure that employee recognition doesn’t fall through the cracks with software like Epicor, TerryBerry, and Ultimate Software, studies show that employees prefer to get their acknowledgement face to face. (Kinda like mom…)

“Especially during tough economic periods, it’s important to give people face time and basic human appreciation on a regular basis,” says Debra Condren, a business psychologist and founder of Manhattan Business Coaching in New York City in this Inc article from 2009. “A plaque may be nice for 15 minutes, but once it goes on the wall, people tend to forget about it.”

The easiest solution isn’t always the best. Just ask your mother. Chances are she prefers the handmade gift or thoughtful breakfast more than the standard gift card that arrives just in time. Greg Harris from Quantum Workplace stated at the last HR Reinvention in Omaha that what shines in one workplace may not be the solution for another. In other words, you can’t crib your employee recognition strategy from someone else. In other OTHER words, you have to do the hard work and figure out your own.

Sometimes that means changing your mindset. Can March Madness be a team building exercise? Is lunch with the busy executive a better motivator than a standard plaque? How about  local perks? Flexible schedule? Technology spending account? There are lots of ways to make employees feel valued that aren’t the “candy and flowers” of recognition.

Replacing token gifts with a mindset is important. Why? Because the token gestures don’t work with Mom and they won’t work with your employees. Sure, Mama and employees will smile and say thank you, but tokens aren’t memorable and they sure aren’t inspiring.

Like all analogies, eventually this one has to end and here it is. Your mom generally has to put up with you, your employees don’t. If you are phoning in appreciation by:

  • Stealing another organization’s program for a quick fix.
  • Automating appreciation without regard to your company’s needs.
  • Using token gifts at designated intervals instead fostering a culture of recognition.

Then you might be looking for a new workforce by the time next Mother’s Day rolls around.

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