A few years ago, I worked as an editor for a small publishing house. To the employees’ chagrin, the owners knew nothing about management—including the critical role of lifting up their team.

I collaborated with some talented people at that company—creative writers, cutting-edge designers, sales gurus. But they all slumped into a cesspool of negativity because their work accomplishments went without notice. They had no motivation to innovate or work proactively. Ultimately, several left the company in under a year.

Who can blame them? When you don’t feel valued—whether you’re landing a paycheck or not—you desperately want out.

The owners of that company made many mistakes, but one of the biggest was lack of recognition. Because they saw their team’s compensation as on par with the market average, they felt no need to offer any further incentive for jobs well-done.

They aren’t the only ones. Here are some interesting stats from the U.S. worth considering:

  • Nearly 75% of organizations have an employee recognition program, though only 58% of their employees think they do
  • Only 14% of organizations provide managers with the necessary tools for recognition
  • Organizations with strategic recognition programs in place exhibit 28.6% lower frustration levels than companies without recognition programs

Here’s where many companies are missing the boat: Anyone who spends 40 hours or more of their week building up another person’s company is going to want more than simply dollars in the bank. They want to feel as though they are a part of the business—a key member in an industry-changing movement. And while some business leaders may moan about the lack of cash on hand for EOY bonuses, there are other ways to give the most important players a serious nod.

When it comes down to it, you just have to make recognition a priority—not just in the workplace, but at home, too.

Keep these recognition tips in mind as you work to move your company forward—it is built on the foundation of a solid team, after all:

  • Host a holiday party. You don’t have to rent out a fancy restaurant or send your team on a trip, but be sure you set aside time (and a little money) to acknowledge the company’s wins. Be present for this celebration and be sure you give face time to your key players. Thank them in person for all of their hard work and let them know the company would not be as successful without them. (Oh, and consider having parties or celebrations quarterly. Even an in-office pizza party would do wonders for morale.)
  • Schedule regular one-on-ones. This is more of a general personnel management tip, but during your one-on-ones with your employees, be sure to tell them what they’re doing well and HOW they’re moving the company in the right direction. Start with the praise upfront; don’t just stick to task lists and criticism.
  • Save company services/products for year-round kudos. Whatever your company does—from carpet-cleaning to accounting—set aside some of your products or services for your employees. Even if your portfolio doesn’t make sense for gift-giving, spend a few dollars on branded t-shirts, hats, and bags. Give these out to top performers or those who go above and beyond.
  • Give your team more downtime. Sometimes, time off is more valuable than money. Consider giving your team extra days off when they hit milestones.
  • Give credit where credit is due. If a specific project’s success is owed more to an employee than you, let your client know. If you’re publishing materials about your company (or recent achievements), acknowledge your team in writing. You can also send them a thank-you email or card.  This will let them know you’re thinking about them, and that you know your success is not owed only to your hard work.
  • Let them take the lead. Smaller companies don’t often have a lot of room for formal promotions. But that doesn’t mean you can’t appoint employees as leads on bigger projects. Pay attention to your employees’ strengths and interests and give them a chance to succeed at a higher level with these new project challenges. The mere act of trusting them with a bigger task sends a strong message—that you believe they can perform at a high level, and appreciate their hard work.
  • Encourage continuing education. Be sure to recognize not only work done well, but a desire to improve one’s skills. If you see an employee who shows such interest, give them an opportunity to expand their expertise. Subsidize an online course or allow them to shadow a non-competing colleague. The experience will be far more valuable to them than a few bucks in their pocket.
  • Say “thank you.” A no-brainer, right? But as leadership guru Kevin Kruse has often said, this simple way to acknowledge employees is often forgotten. Just say thank you—to employees and well as higher-ups. The appreciation will go miles.

You might be asking, “Well all of this sounds good, but how do I fit the bigger conversations and recognition into my schedule?”

Like anything else, make time for it. In January, block out a couple of hours every quarter for your team party. Work with your employees on scheduling weekly or monthly meetings. Order your t-shirts and schwag at the start of the year and dole them out as opportunity presents itself.

When it comes down to it, you just have to make recognition a priority—not just in the workplace, but at home, too. Take time to appreciate those who lift you up and do the same for them. The more appreciated your employees feel, the likelier they are to stay with you—even in times when money is tight and growth is stagnant.

So make this your 2018 resolution: Prioritize recognition—and don’t discount the value of loyalty it engenders.

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Jeff Steen

Jeff Steen is the Associate Editor of Early to Rise. Previously, he worked in food and hospitality journalism, but is currently focused on bringing unique, insightful content to the ETR world.

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