Little Things Matter

Contributed on August 10, 2021, by Cheryl Viola, MBA

Creating and maintaining a good work culture should be a top priority for all businesses all the time. Have a good work culture helps with employee attraction (current employees will tell others why they should work for your company) and it helps with retention.

Many conversations have centered around the employment crisis we are facing. Most businesses are desperately needing employees so they can keep production up. Some people still have not returned to work post-pandemic. Others fear going to work and being laid off again with the current uncertainty of COVID.  There is not a shortage of job opportunities and job seekers have many options to choose from.

I have had the opportunity to speak to businesses in a variety of industries about their work culture as we brainstorm ways to increase and retain their workforce. Local businesses have implemented a variety of things including, pay increases, bonuses, referral incentives, paid leave, celebrating milestones, etc.  The one common thing among all businesses is that everyone wants to feel valued. One company told me they did better during the lockdown because they had to take each employee’s temperature at the start of each shift. This meant that management spoke with each employee daily.  That simple, hello and smile made the difference each day for the staff.

People need meaningful appreciation. They need to feel valued. When employees experience gratitude from their managers they are more productive. If the answer is this simple, why do we struggle to give sincere praise and appreciation to people regarding their talents and contributions to the building and success of a business?

Surveys have shown that 69% of employees say they would work harder if their efforts were better recognized. The best employee recognition programs address employee wants, and needs, and align with company values. People can tell when appreciation is a checkmark on a manager’s too do list and when it is truly heartfelt. The company I discussed earlier having personal contact with each employee with the temperature checks at the start of each shift allowed the manager to have a conversation with each employee. The employee felt valued and knew that the managers knew them by name.  We discussed ways to shift some of the manager’s desk responsibilities so that they had the time to again walk the floor to speak to everyone.  The little things mean the most.

1.            Do not assume that people know how much you appreciate them.

The gap between managers and employees comes from overestimating how visible our emotions are to others.  You may think that the other person knows you are grateful for their work but most people do not read the body language correctly. Years ago, I learned the importance of telling people. When a person’s name popped into my mind, I trained myself to listen and act. I would send a quick text, make a phone call or stop by and visit them.

2.            Touch base with employees early and often.

Taking time to say hello to employees and checking in might seem like an unnecessary drain on your productivity, but these interactions are valuable connections for your employees.  During the lockdown, managers greeted every employee when they took their temperature. That simple daily act of saying hello and thanking the employee for being there made the employee feel valued.

3.            Give balanced feedback

Most people want to learn, grow and improve.  Giving positive and development feedback helps employees feel valued. Do not sandwich negative feedback between two positive comments, this confuses employees and they only hear the negative.

4.            Make it a habit

Build a regular routine to tell your employees regularly what specifically you value about their contributions. Do not use sweeping generalizations. Be personal and specific. Write a personal thank you note. One company does a social media post celebrating milestones and company anniversaries. I have had the privilege to get one employee, even when faced with tremendous challenges in their personal life, they always have a smile on their face. I expressed my gratitude for their positive outlook. Someone else recently told me to keep my chin up. When we face those mountains, whether professionally or personally often it is the kind word that helps lifts us to the next step to keep going.

Staff Appreciation Ideas:

  • Celebrate birthdays
  • Cheers from peers
  • Ask employees what they would like
  • Have a trophy
  • Reward staff based on individual interests
  • Handwritten personal thank you notes
  • Have a wall of fame
  • Put your staff on social media and your website.
  • Party all the time.
  • Creative rewards:
  • Celebrate work anniversaries
  • Take staff out for lunch
  • Encourage Continuing Education.
  • Create a staff appreciation holiday
  • Recognize non-work achievements
  • Have great swag.
  • Make it easy to volunteer
  • Bring on the food trucks
  • Have fun competitions between teams.
    • When I worked for higher education, one Christmas when the students were all on break, we had an office chair race down the hall.
  • Say Thank You

The job of creating a strong work culture is the responsibility of everyone. Employees and managers. As an employee, you can go say hello to fellow team members and managers. You can even ask the managers what you can do for them.

Everyone needs to cultivate the habit of sincere gratitude and appreciation to the staff and team members. Most people do not leave a company because they think the company is bad, they leave poor management.  The little things mean the most and it doesn’t take long. The more you show genuine care to others, the easier it becomes. Find fun creative ways to show appreciation and improve the company culture so that your employees will tell their friends that they want to work for you and so that you will retain your workforce.