Most business owners would say employee recognition is something they want to do, but it’s often overlooked because it is an important but not urgent priority. Production deadlines, customer demands, financial targets and other business activities scream louder and demand your attention, so you tend to focus on putting out the fires and keeping the business afloat.
Meanwhile, your employees are either helping or hindering your progress. Knowing how to motivate them to contribute to your business success lies, in part, in recognizing their efforts.
Recognition needs to be a sincere and genuine desire on your part. Your employees will know if you are doing it for the sake of another business strategy, or if you genuinely appreciate their efforts. A happy, invested team will always outperform a team that is discouraged, demotivated or feel taken for granted. Here are some subtle no- cost ideas to educate, motivate and inspire your team.
- Keep them informed. Many managers make the mistake of keeping business information to themselves. Sharing information with your team empowers them to make informed, confident decisions that not only benefit them, but your company. Tell them how your company is doing, what the future holds and how they can play a part in it.
- Trust them to do what you’ve hired them to do. No one likes being micromanaged. Employees value independence, so give it to them. When you provide the proper training and support to employees and then let go so they can do their jobs, you increase their independence and ability to take increased ownership of their role. They will be more accountable, more productive and happier in their jobs. This leads to better retention, which is more money in your pocket.
- Be a flexible boss. Everyone appreciates flexibility in their work, whether it’s working flex hours, working from home or something else. In today’s increasingly complex workplace, this is a must, and if you don’t give it to them, employees will find someone who will. Flexibility is motivating and shows you trust your employees. If your workplace is one where flexibility around hours or location is not possible, find ways to be flexible within your required business parameters and watch your employees respond positively.
- Invest in training and development. Not every business can afford personal or professional development for employees, but this doesn’t mean it can’t be part of your business plan. Significant and important training and development can happen on the job, with little or no cost to you. Provide your employees with lots of opportunities to grow and learn by trying new things, or taking on more responsibility. Invest in their development by allowing them to set goals that stretch them and give them opportunities to grow – then set the stage for them to achieve those goals. You’ll be rewarded when they perform at higher levels with each opportunity.
- Give them decision-making autonomy. Sometimes business owners make the mistake of making all the decisions themselves, without consulting or taking into account the fact their employees are closer than they are to the work – and may be in a position to make the best decisions. If you ask them what they think and recommend, you may be surprised at how much more involved they’ll be in the process and invested in the outcome.
- Let your employees evaluate your performance. Your employees expect that you will evaluate their performance – check in with them to ensure they are on track and performing productively, so why not give them the same respect and opportunity to do that with you? In an employee evaluation, you take the time to share what they are doing well and what could use some work. Ask them to provide you with feedback on how you are doing in supporting them to be more productive and fulfilled in the workplace. The more feedback you give your employees, the more they will be equipped to respond to the needs of your organization. The more you know about the impact you’re having on your employees, the better you will be able to promote creativity and productivity in your workplace.
- Celebrate with your employees! It’s possible to cruise through the year without taking the time to celebrate your employees’ contribution to the success of your business. Taking time to have a lunch together and bringing in pizza or Chinese food, knocking off an hour early on a Friday and sharing a bottle of wine, doing an activity together on a weekend or after work (laser tag, paintball, or an outdoor adventure) can all be ways to celebrate your team. If you celebrate often, you’ll get more back in return and foster a culture of recognition.
Employee recognition doesn’t have to cost you much, but if you do it well and often, you’ll reap great rewards.