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As we demonstrated earlier in the week, one of the common threads uniting top-performing companies across industries is that they often make employee appreciation a key piece of their strategies. When leaders and managers take the time to regularly recognize and reward their employees for jobs well done, the bottom line gets a boost.

But perhaps you’re a leader or manager at an organization that hasn’t put much thought into employee appreciation. You don’t have a formal appreciation protocol of any kind, nor is casual recognition part of the culture. Yours is a keep-your-head-down-and-just-do-it kind of workplace.

If that’s the case, our “Employee Appreciation 101″ article may have dimmed your spirits instead of boosted them.

“Oh geez,” you’re thinking. “Employees should receive appreciation at least once every seven days, but our employees don’t get anywhere near that much recognition. We’ve been totally ignoring a simple and profoundly effective way to boost overall company performance.”

I’m happy to say that today, we have some good news for you by way of the recognition and engagement experts at O.C. Tanner: Even if you only appreciate your employees once a year, you still stand to gain significant benefits.

After surveying 3,400 working professionals around the world, O.C. Tanner discovered that even yearly recognition, as opposed to the recommended weekly dose, “can dramatically impact engagement, motivation, pride, well-being and work results.”

Let’s take a closer look at the numbers:

Percent of Employees Who Are Engaged:

- Employees who received no recognition in the past 12 months: 16 percent

- Employees who received recognition once in the past 12 months: 26 percent

Percent of Employees Who Are Highly Motivated to Contribute to the Success of the Company:

- Employees who received no recognition in the past 12 months: 46 percent

- Employees who received recognition once in the past 12 months: 67 percent

Percent of Employees Who Have ‘Excellent’ Well-Being:

- Employees who received no recognition in the past 12 months: 5 percent

- Employees who received recognition once in the past 12 months: 11 percent

Percent of Employees Who Are Proud of Where They Work:

- Employees who received no recognition in the past 12 months: 45 percent

- Employees who received recognition once in the past 12 months: 63 percent

Percent of Employees Who Are Innovating:

- Employees who received no recognition in the past 12 months: 10 percent

- Employees who received recognition once in the past 12 months: 12 percent

Percent of Employees Who Produce ‘Excellent’ Work Results:

- Employees who received no recognition in the past 12 months: 11 percent

- Employees who received recognition once in the past 12 months: 13 percent

Seize the Day

partyTomorrow is Employee Appreciation Day here in the U.S., which presents underappreciative employers with an ideal opportunity to get back on track. Seize the day. Plan something nice for your employees. Show them you care.

Then stand back and watch as they grow more engaged, excited, productive, and loyal.

Of course, you shouldn’t stop there. Yearly recognition yields rewards, but regular recognition throughout the year will generate even greater returns. If your company doesn’t have a formal appreciation protocol yet, lobby for one. If the culture in your team or department doesn’t encourage informal recognition between peers or between supervisors and subordinates, do what you can to set a new tone. Start practicing appreciation yourself – people will follow your example.

Some Guidelines for Appreciating Your Employees

Not sure how, exactly, you can “set a new tone”? David Sturt, executive vice president at the O.C. Tanner Institute, has a few tips:

1. Make It a Big Deal

Sturt says: “Whether it’s on the designated day or not, make a fuss over how much you value your employees. Some organizations hire on-site car washers or even a couple of chair massage therapists for the day. Go above and beyond to show you don’t take this day, and their work, for granted.”

2. Make It Personal

Sturt says: “Telling each employee why you appreciate them can go a long way. We often forget that a simple handwritten, personalized note can mean a world of difference. Make sure to be specific about their individual contributions and how you value their presence on your team.”

3. Feed Them

Sturt says: “Good food can go a long way. Encourage your leaders to spend time with their teams by taking them out for an extended lunch. Some companies do even more by giving their employees an extended lunch hour so they can spend the time with friends or family.”

4. Communicate

Sturt says: “While some companies will invest in ways to give back on Employee Appreciation Day, many don’t communicate as to why they’re doing this. It’s critical that companies address the reason for the celebration by expressing how much they appreciate the incredible work of their employees.”

The big takeaways here are that it’s never too late to start appreciating your workers, and even small amounts of recognition can go a long way. Don’t get overwhelmed by how far ahead your competitors might be in their appreciation efforts.

As they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Let Employee Appreciation Day be your first step in the right direction.



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