The Art of Employee Appreciation: Six Simple Strategies That Reap Real Rewards

By Lisa Ryan

How would you react if someone suggested that you get to know your staff by taking one of them to lunch every day until you met with everyone in your department? Would you be willing to meet with your employees one-on-one for at least fifteen minutes to get to know more about them? What about simply showing interest in the people that work for you? These are some of the approaches that are utilized by successful leaders with the benefits of greater loyalty, engagement, and commitment from their employees.

Sound crazy? Are you thinking that you just don’t have the time to invest in this? Well, what are your options? Think about it, people don’t leave their jobs – they leave their bosses. When your employees feel that they are a valuable part of your organization, they stay. When they don’t, they leave, and you risk losing your best and brightest talent.

By implementing a few simple strategies, you and your organization will receive huge payoffs in your employee retention, satisfaction, and performance.

Here are six ways you can take your T.H.A.N.K.S. to the bank:

T = TRUST is the foundation of a productive work environment; without it, nothing else matters. An organization’s leadership team builds employee confidence by emphasizing mutual goals, sharing corporate missions and values, and treating staff members as partners. Getting feedback and buy-in from employees when implementing new processes also plays an important role in developing confidence in management.

Creating a trusting environment is as simple as the leaders of the organization doing what they say they’re going to do. Telling the truth or admitting fault is hard, but it’s a big part of building employee trust. When situations come up where they can’t follow through with their original commitment, managers needs to honestly share what happened, and let the employee know how the situation will be resolved.

H = HELP your staff envision their career path within the organization. Often times it isn’t until a worker gives their two-week notice that management decides to take care of that employee’s career aspirations. Be proactive. Ask your staff about their professional goals within the organization and develop a plan for them achieve it. When you provide opportunities for training and development, you not only have a more skilled workforce, you also increase their dedication to your organization.

A clear and concise career path is one of the biggest factors for improving employee retention. Instead of waiting for their annual review, schedule regular meetings with your employees to find out what’s working for them, and what’s not. Create a safe environment for them to openly share their feedback with you. The first time you get defensive or find fault with their opinions, you destroy whatever goodwill you intended to build. Care about your staff’s careers, and they will care more for your company.

A = APPLAUD the efforts of your team members. This strategy is the least expensive, easiest, and most effective way to create a more harmonious work environment. By sincerely uttering those two magic words – “Thank you” – you inspire your team to put forth their finest work. What gets recognized gets repeated, so make sure to be specific in your praise. Let your employees know how their individual actions are beneficial to your firm. A handwritten note goes a long way in giving your employees tangible “proof” that they can refer to when they are having a bad day. Keep in mind that many people do not like public approbation, so thank your employees in the manner which THEY want to be recognized.

Positively affirming an employee’s actions is a powerful practice, and if done sincerely, will never be seen as “too much” appreciation. When you are congratulating a staff member for an accomplishment, it’s a great idea to copy upper level management on the email. It makes an employee feel even better about the organization when they see that their work is recognized by leadership.

N = NAVIGATE the work/life balance. Our lives all seem to be busier than ever – and your team members are no exception. Whether your employees are dealing with young children, aging parents or anything in between, look for ways you can accommodate how the work gets done. Pay more attention to the outcome than the means of finishing the job. Working within your employees’ timeframes helps them to be more productive; they are able to focus on the job at hand and not be distracted by all that is going on in their personal lives.

A little known fact is that navigating work/life balance also plays a role in worker safety on the job. When an employee is preoccupied with issues on the home front, they may not pay as much attention to their job, increasing the risk of serious injury.

K = KNOW your staff. When you show interest in, and listen to your team members, they feel more connected to the organization. Meet them where they are: if they are open to sharing, pay attention to what they’re saying; if they want to keep their personal lives personal, don’t pry. The point is that you are treating your employees the way they want to be treated. Simply asking a few general but somewhat personal questions, in a safe environment, makes a positive impression and creates a more open culture.

There are many icebreaking activities you can bring to your team to open up the conversation. One is called “Two Truths and a Lie.” Each person shares three things about themself, two of the statement are true, and one is a lie. The others at the table get to vote on which statement is the lie. It’s a lot of fun and you’ll get to learn a lot of interesting tidbits about your staff. (Keep it Rated G, of course!)

S = SERVE your team. Look ways to provide reinforcement for your staff. If you see someone struggling with an assignment, pitch in and assist them. Once the leadership team shifts from ignoring employee issues to jumping into the trenches with them, management generates a spirit of collaboration that permeates the organization. Encourage, energize, empathize, and most of all, lead with your heart.

Robert K. Greenleaf first coined the term “Servant Leader” in 1970. He says, “The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being met. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those aided grow as persons? Do they, while being attended to become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” By asking these questions, your management team can discover if they are truly serving their staff in the most supportive way possible.

When your employees TRUST you, they will perform at a higher level. When you HELP them envision their career path, they engage. When you APPLAUD their efforts, they are proud to work for you. When you help them NAVIGATE work and life balance issues, you reduce their stress. When you get to KNOW them, you make your employees feel significant. And, when you SERVE them, they feel included in the process. Harness the power of T.H.A.N.K.S. and your organization will reap the rewards.

About the author

As Founder of Grategy, Lisa Ryan works with corporations, associations, and non-profits. She inspires her audiences to discover the power of gratitude for stronger relationships, improved health and increased profits. She is the author of five books, and her proven gratitude technology (Grategy) is featured in two documentaries: the award-winning: “The Keeper of the Keys,” where she co-stars with Jack Canfield, of Chicken Soup for the Soul and “The Gratitude Experiment” with Dr. John Demartini.

Learn more about Lisa Ryan at