Recruiting & Hiring

A Little Appreciation Goes a Long Way

I have interviewed thousands of individuals through employment interviews, employee surveys, and exit interviews.  Looking back at these interviews, I’ve learned what employees want more than anything else is to feel valued. 

How do you demonstrate to your staff that you value and appreciate them?  I suggest you do the following:

Be grateful, be specific, and be attentive.

Be grateful.

  • Never underestimate the power of a hand-written note.  Employees appreciate when a company or team leader takes the time to write a thoughtful note to express appreciation  Often they hold onto that note for years, proudly displaying it on their desk or showing family members.  Have you ever received a hand-written note from a supervisor?  How did it make you feel?
  • People are often willing to go the extra mile when they know they are valued.  Did someone stay late to help with a particular project?  Did they overcome several hurdles to take care of a client?  Take the time to look them in the eye and thank them for a job well done.
  • Public expressions of gratitude can also be very powerful, for not only the person receiving the praise but the rest of the audience as well.  Others are more likely to go the extra mile when they know they will be recognized.  An important caveat: this can backfire if the praise is not genuine or if you’re showing appreciation to someone who really doesn’t like public attention (see below on being attentive).

Be specific.

  • Which message would you rather receive:

“Thanks for all you do”


Thank you for the way you so carefully handled the Jones account.  It was a really difficult renewal and you communicated clearly with all involved every step of the way.  I appreciate your diligence in making sure our client’s needs were met in such a professional manner.

A little specificity goes a long way.

  • When you are clear about what behavior earns your appreciation, you reinforce the behavior you’d like to see.  Even when an employee doesn’t always make the best choice, when they do, make it clear that’s how they’re meeting your expectations.

Be attentive.

  • Employees feel valued when their supervisors pay attention. When you know an associate has a son or daughter who is a high school senior, ask what the student’s college or work plans are for the next year.  When someone loses a parent, touch base periodically to see how the other parent is doing.  It doesn’t take much time but it can have a tremendous positive impact.
  • Should you decide to give an employee a gift, choose carefully!  Baseball tickets don’t mean much to someone who doesn’t care about the game, and a cheese set is meaningless to someone who is lactose intolerant.  This is the same reason you wouldn’t want to thank publicly someone who will be embarrassed by the attention.  On the other hand, choosing a gift card for a restaurant you’ve heard the employee mention as a favorite really speaks volumes about how much you care.  In some cases, the best demonstration of appreciation might be an early dismissal on a summer Friday!
  • Pay attention to how people respond when you show appreciation.  Some people will be delighted with a gift card while others just want to be recognized verbally for their efforts.  A demonstration of
    appreciation is a gift; note how the recipient responds to the gift you give.

When people feel appreciated, morale rises, retention increases, and performance soars.  Make a point to be grateful, specific, and attentive. 

How do you show appreciation?

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