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Cultivating a Culture of Appreciation at Work


A culture of appreciation can make your workplace a stronger, more positive working environment for your entire team. Through ongoing effort, you can begin to cultivate and then work to maintain a culture where employees feel valued, seen and excited about the future.

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What is a culture of appreciation?

A culture of appreciation describes a workplace where employees know their employer appreciates their talents and hard work. The term culture refers to the fact that demonstrating appreciation for employees is a part of the employer’s DNA.

When you make fostering a culture of recognition and appreciation a priority, you take into consideration how policies, procedures and key business decisions affect your employees and what messages management sends to their team every day. Companies with a strong culture of recognition mean it when they say they put their employees first.

9 Ways to support a culture of recognition and appreciation

Your organization can’t create a culture of appreciation overnight, and taking just one step likely won’t be enough to establish one. Typically, a combination of programs and management practices is necessary to create a true culture of recognition in the workplace. Use the following ideas as a starting point for shifting your corporate culture.

1. Start an employee recognition program

Employee recognition programs allow managers, supervisors and coworkers to easily recognize the contributions of employees. Create a simple form for employees to complete to nominate someone. You can then send personalized emails to thank nominees and company-wide emails to recognize all nominees at the end of the month. Present certificates to recognized employees or provide some type of reward, such as a gift card or a free lunch.

Read more: 7 Examples of Employee Recognition Programs to Try

2. Encourage supervisors to give praise

Employee recognition doesn’t have to be formal. Simply receiving praise can have a powerful impact. Coach supervisors to spot opportunities to praise their teams, and help them explore ways of communicating praise that match their management styles. For example, some people may be good at providing verbal praise on a one-on-one basis, while others might prefer to send an email to the department or deliver praise at the start of a daily huddle.

Encourage supervisors to set individual goals and check back in to see how well they’ve achieved them. Model praise by recognizing them when their efforts are successful with a written or verbal thank-you.

3. Choose employees of the month

An employee of the month program is a popular form of employee recognition program where the company selects one or more individuals to recognize for their contributions. Recipients may receive a desirable reward, such as a few extra hours of paid time off, a bonus or a gift or a prize. Your company can hang photos of each month’s winner on a wall and/or have a page on your internal or external website that displays the names and photos of winners.

4. Recognize service milestones

Loyalty to your company deserves recognition, so make celebrating employment anniversaries a tradition. Distribute lists of upcoming service anniversaries to all supervisors monthly, so they can find ways to observe the occasion. For example, they could get a cake or order lunch for their team. Posts lists and/or send company-wide email blasts to recognize anniversaries company-wide.

For major anniversaries, such as five years, 10 years and 20 years, plan bigger celebrations. Consider awarding employees with a plaque or a keepsake gift, such as a refillable pen or a watch. You can make these milestones even more meaningful by providing an additional week of paid vacation or a larger employer match to retirement plan contributions for employees who reach them.

5. Reward wisely

Rewards can be a great way to recognize employees, but think carefully about what to offer. Put yourself in the employee’s position and think about how a reward might make you feel.

For example, let’s say your company earned record profits for the year. You want to share the good news and thank all employees for their contributions. Offering a reward might be a nice gesture, but the wrong one could undermine your efforts to foster a culture of recognition and appreciation.

Think about how it would look if you announced that your company made profits of $20 million this year and then you simply bought pizzas for every department. Employees may feel slighted, as a simple meal doesn’t seem to match the size of the achievement.

Giving a small monetary bonus or even a minor salary increase may be a better way to say thank you in this case. If budgets prohibit extra compensation, you might organize an event such as a picnic to celebrate or even provide everyone with an extra day or half-day of paid time off.

Related: Salary Increases: Best Practices for Leaders to Consider

6. Announce achievements

When an employee or team makes a big achievement, such as exceeding expectations on an audit or winning a new client, share the news with everyone. Start a success stories page on your website and encourage supervisors to submit write-ups to include.

Smaller successes also deserve celebration. Encourage supervisors to send out Win of the Week emails that identify one accomplishment. Things that might qualify as big wins include solving a difficult problem, completing a project successfully or meeting an important deadline.

7. Share beyond your company

Recognize key achievements of your employees through your company’s social media feeds. Think beyond your company when identifying opportunities to acknowledge employees publicly. You might announce when an employee receives an advanced degree, earns a high-level professional certification or wins an award for professional achievement or community service.

Be sure that whoever manages your social media account gets the employee’s permission before posting. Some employees may appreciate the gesture but wish to keep their achievements private.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Social Media Strategy for Your Small Business

8. Encourage work-life balance

Encouraging work-life balance is important for reducing workplace stress and keeping morale high, and it also contributes to a culture of appreciation. Offering perks, such as flexible scheduling and the ability to telecommute, sends a message to your employees that you know they have lives outside of work and that their happiness and well-being are important to you. On the other hand, employees may feel undervalued when their employers expect them to be all-in and always put work first.

Learn more: How (and Why) to Support Employee Work-Life Balance

9. Keep criticisms constructive

Most employees will need to receive criticism from their supervisors at some point because everyone has room to improve in their roles. How managers and supervisors approach criticism can either help or hinder your attempts to create a culture of recognition and appreciation.

Constructive criticism that’s direct, empathetic and well-delivered face-to-face and followed up with advice to improve performance allows employees to walk away feeling appreciated, rather than reprimanded. Coach supervisors to frame criticisms from a place of appreciation.

Let’s look at an example. Imagine a call center employee’s call times are below standard. A supervisor might say, “I appreciate all you’re doing to provide service to our clients. I can tell you want to handle their issues professionally and to explain their needs thoroughly, but your call times aren’t in line with our standards. What challenges are you facing that keep you on the line beyond our target times?” From there, the supervisor can explore the causes of the long call times and give tips and recommend resources to help the employee shorten their call time.

In the above example, the employee doesn’t feel as if they’ve gotten in trouble or been reprimanded. When the conversation ends, they feel like their supervisor appreciates their work and wants to help them become even better at their job.

Learn more: 10 Tips for Giving Constructive Feedback

Culture of recognition in the workplace FAQs

What are the benefits of cultivating a culture of appreciation?

Cultivating a culture of recognition and appreciation is beneficial in a few ways. When employees feel valued, they’re more likely to be motivated to go the extra mile, boosting productivity and efficiency. Appreciation increases employee morale, which can improve retention and reduce the costs associated with recruiting. In addition, a culture of appreciation can become a selling point for your company. You can promote the ways in which you recognize employees to attract quality candidates for open positions.

Where should I start with fostering a culture of recognition and appreciation?

Your employees and management team are good places to begin with your efforts to establish a culture of recognition in the workplace. Have honest, frank conversations with employees about how appreciated they feel now and what would make them feel more valued. Ask managers and supervisors to evaluate how well they currently recognize employees. These discussions can give you a feel for how far you’ll have to go to create a culture that expresses ongoing appreciation for employees.

How do I assess the effectiveness of efforts to change our culture?

Data can help you assess the effectiveness of your efforts to foster a culture of recognition in the workplace. Conduct anonymous employee surveys to assess attitudes and get a snapshot of current morale. Repeat surveys quarterly and see how responses change over time. Gather data through exit interview questions, and examine trends in employee retention from month to month and quarter to quarter.

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