by David Friedman |

A record 4.3 million workers left their jobs in August, continuing a trend in 2021. Reasons for quitting vary, but as one recent survey shows, a lack of appreciation from employers is a common driver.

Appreciation is an especially important factor to a large segment of the workforce – millennials and Gen Z. In a poll taken shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic began, 79% of millennial and Gen Z respondents said an increase in recognition and rewards would make them more loyal to their employer.

With companies losing talented people and struggling to fill open positions, leaders need to know how to make employee recognition and appreciation a more consistent part of their work culture, says David Friedman, author of Culture by Design: How to Build a High-Performing Culture Even in the New Remote Work Environment.

“Recognition is the best way to boost employee engagement, productivity and profit while significantly strengthening your culture,” Friedman says.

“It may seem intuitive that employees who are thanked and recognized for their work are happier and, as a result, perform better. But unfortunately, managers may be busy with other tasks or have an attitude of ‘If you don’t hear anything, assume you’re doing a good job.’ That approach loses good people who were very valuable.”

There are benefits to company leaders praising teams as well as individuals. A Gallup survey shows giving kudos to teams can encourage collaboration, inspire trust, clarify organizational goals, improve quality, and reinforce a team’s sense of purpose.

“Praise for a job well done should flow across all levels of the organization – peer to peer, manager to their direct report, and direct report to their manager,” Friedman says. “Remember your remote workers – they may already be feeling disconnected from the workplace, so remind them that you notice and appreciate their contributions.”

Friedman offers these thoughts on giving recognition and showing appreciation in the workplace:

It should be authentic and individualized. Friedman observes that employees are savvy and can see through an “everyone gets a trophy” mentality. “Saying ‘great job’ is nice, but it’s much more meaningful if you detail the specifics of the person’s actions and how they helped advance the company’s objectives,” he says. “And if their efforts merit more than a compliment, or such efforts are a trend for them, then leaders need to figure out a fair tangible reward. Promotions with pay raises and increased responsibilities go the next step to show consistent high performers that they are truly valued.”

Tailor recognition to the recipient. Some people enjoy being the center of attention, so a formal public recognition is ideal for them, Friedman says. Others avoid the spotlight and prefer a one-on-one acknowledgement. For a team acknowledgment, a company-wide or departmental meeting might be a fitting forum. “That’s a great way to show the link between the team’s accomplishments, company objectives, and the importance of working well together,” Friedman says.

Convey your appreciation in person. Friedman notes this may be difficult with remote workforces, and sometimes a phone call or email will have to do. “But the in-person touch has a lot more impact,” he says, “especially when it comes from an executive with whom the employee has very little exposure.”

Create a culture of recognition. “Culture change starts with identifying the specific behaviors that drive success in your company,” Friedman says. “One of them should be showing meaningful appreciation. That means regularly recognizing people doing things right, rather than frequently pointing out when they do things wrong.”

“Recognition leads to happy employees, better retention, and better business results,” Friedman says. “When your people know they are appreciated, really valued, it will make a huge difference in your day-to-day culture and in your growth as a company.”

David Friedman is author of Culture by Design: How to Build a High-Performing Culture Even in the New Remote Work Environment. He also is founder/CEO of CultureWise®, a turnkey operating system for small to midsize businesses to create and sustain a high-performing culture. He is the former president of RSI, an award-winning employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm that was named one of the best places to work in the Philadelphia region seven times. Friedman has taught more than 6,000 CEOs about work culture and led more than 500 workshops on the subject. With Sean Sweeney, Friedman formed High Performing Culture, LLC, based on the culture methodology Friedman created at RSI.

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