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Welcome to Cooleaf's Employee Recognition Guide

Creating a space where your employees feel valued is one of the most important things you can do as a leader. In this guide, we'll discuss how to ensure that your employees know how much you appreciate them and how to maintain their loyalty long into the future.

Introduction

There’s big value in valuing employees.

Happier employees have a direct impact on productivity, processes, and profits. Organizations with a solid employee experience strategy tend to use employee activities, initiatives, and incentives to improve employee engagement.

And employees who feel appreciated and valued at work perform better and prove more productive.

A less obvious benefit of appreciating your employees, however, is an increase in frank and open communication throughout your company. Employees who feel appreciated and valued in turn feel empowered to share important information with their bosses in an open and non-judgmental manner.

This has critical implications for your company culture writ large. When you treat your employees with respect, you create an environment that encourages continuous professional development, growth, engagement, and a general, long-term commitment to the organization — all of which make for a healthy and productive company.

Such management style engenders a working environment where employees are inclined to stay put, and grow with the company. This is opposed to seeking new opportunities based on dissatisfaction, lack of appreciation, and insufficient company culture. From employee engagement activities, to simple communication and transparency, to the simplicities of company culture – valuing employees doesn’t have to be a chore. As experts in delivering employee engagement solutions that work, Cooleaf has put together the top ways to make your employees feel valued.

Chapter 1

Be Transparent

Transparency in the workplace is key to creating a positive culture and strengthening employee engagement and loyalty. It builds trust and leaves employees feeling like they’re working for an organization where their opinion is valued.

When employees believe leadership is not upfront with them, morale can suffer and productivity can drop. Including transparency as a cultural pillar and core value helps employees feel they’re a part of the organization’s mission and vision. They’re invested in its goals and ideas, and are inspired to be creative in their approach to achieving desired objectives.

Spend Time with Your Employees

They say the best gift you can give a child is your time. The same can be said of your employees. Some employees gain a great deal of satisfaction from a simple shout-out, however, people tend to feel most valued when time is spent with leadership outside the typical work routine. For example, once-a-month birthday celebrations, Taco Tuesdays, or other casual events give employees the chance to be themselves and see their leaders in a different light.

Sitting down together for in-depth conversations about their job, their career goals, or their personal interests leaves a positive impact, and shows them they are not just merely a replaceable staff member.

Encourage Effort

It usually takes a lot of time, hard work,  and effort before an organizational goal is reached. With this in mind, become your team’s biggest fan and applaud their efforts along the way. Rewards are rightfully earned with accomplishments, but when an employee’s efforts are acknowledged in their own right with positive feedback—before results are seen—they feel valued and become more engaged.

Give Recognition

Until recently, people tended to equate job satisfaction with how a person feels about completed tasks. But research shows a culture of recognition is a top driver of employee engagement and most people who quit their jobs give “lack of recognition” as their reason for leaving. The benefits of employee recognition are vast and it is a powerful way to show appreciation that costs the company nothing.

Express Care

Employee happiness should always be a top priority. Best-in-class companies go above and beyond the usual benefits packages and air hockey tables by adopting initiatives that show they care for an employee’s entire being and embed these company values into the company culture.

Letting employees know you care about who they are as a person isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also good for business - and prevents burnout. When employees feel motivated from the inside out, they’re driven to be the best they can be. Positive outcomes include higher engagement, increased job satisfaction, and elevated self-worth.

Mentorship is another terrific way to show you care. Pairing new hires with more seasoned employees gives newbies a support system from day one and tells them you value what they’re bringing to the table.  

Chapter 2

Get Creative with Employee Benefits

Raises, bonuses, and employee health care are also essential, but building morale through fun and exciting experiences are non-traditional benefits employees say they also value. the opportunity for long weekends, a surprise day off, mystery trips, educational field trips, and training and development summits are just some of the perks companies are using to show employees they’re valued and prioritize employee retention. Not sure where to start? Employee surveys are a great way to determine what would work best for your team.

How to make employees feel valued can differ from one organization to the next, but an approach many successful companies share is the adoption of gamification. If you’re looking for new and exciting ways to show employee appreciation, gamification can be a a terrific recognition platform.

Gamification is a great creative way to play your way to better employee engagement. Gamification helps employees reach goals and objectives while giving them staff recognition, status, and rewards as they improve their skills and increase their accomplishments.

If you hear the word “gamification” and envision people mindlessly interacting with an app, you’re in for a surprise. Gamification may have “game” in it, and it may be fun, but it’s also business and goal-oriented. A digital reward system is superior to other approaches in many ways:

  • Everyone can play with the click of button, even remote workers.
  • It’s much more cost-effective when compared to physical rewards.
  • The rewards displayed are long lasting.
  • It provides instant feedback.

Prioritize Wellbeing

2022 is the “year of health and wellness,” without any doubt. Companies whose primary aim is to retain their workforce in the post-pandemic period will need to prioritize their employees’ overall wellness.

When we talk about wellness, we don’t mean only the physical wellbeing aspect. We are talking about the holistic wellbeing of your employees, and this includes their mental, physical, and financial health as well.

Here are a few measures that you can adopt to be more inclusive of your employees’ needs:

  • Hold virtual wellness events that promote the need to be active in a safe way.
  • Offer subscriptions to wellness apps for meditation, workouts, etc.
  • Hold virtual fitness classes for yoga, stretching or Pilates.
  • Sponsor online or in-person seminars for nutritional advice.

Flexible Work Schedule

When it comes to employee morale, we now know that one of the most important things a company can do is make its employees feel valued. And one way to do that is by giving them a flexible work schedule. A study by FlexJobs found that 85% of employees said they would be more likely to stay at their current job if it had a flexible work schedule policy.

So if you’re looking to keep your best employees happy and content, consider implementing a flexible work schedule policy. As a company, you should always be looking for ways to improve the employee experience, and schedule is a large part of that.

Encourage Peer-to-Peer Appreciation

We highly recommend creating a culture of belonging and encouraging employees to help each other become more creative, flexible, and collaborative by providing ways for employees to give each other praise and recognition. This will help  management and leadership see efforts they may have overlooked and can foster better working relationships. Peer-to-peer recognition also enriches company culture and improves engagement. If you have remote team members, a robust virtual recognition infrastructure keeps employees connected to each other regardless of where they are. (Cooleaf is a great example of successful employee recognition software, via a robust mobile app, that delivers the type of recognition your employees are looking for - and it’s fun!)

Chapter 3

Create a Strong Value Culture

Everyone defines a strong value culture differently, but it’s important to create a work environment where:

  • Employees share in shaping processes.
  • Dependence on “that’s the way it’s always been done” is relinquished.
  • Streamlined, employee-identified solutions are embraced.

Your employees are your company’s ambassadors. Listen to their suggestions and thoughts on how processes can be reimagined and redefined and be open to revising current practices. Finally, cultivate diversity on every level. Every chance you get, show your employees how much each one of them matters as an individual, and how the business outcomes are directly related to their great work.

Foster Positivity

Enthusiastic leaders make for enthusiastic employees who create an environment of good will and become role models for their peers. Building a positive company culture is an integral part of doing business, and it affects nearly every aspect of your organization. Companies with strong, positive cultures that help employees feel and perform their best are often found on “Best Place to Work” lists. Positivity is also known to boost employee wellness, and has been linked to numerous health benefits - helping you secure and retain top talent.

Allow Employees to Make Decisions

Autonomy in the workplace allows employees to shape their environment so they can perform their best work. Based on trust and respect, autonomy does not replace guidance. Autonomy shows employees you’re confident in their ability to set goals and develop processes to achieve them.

Want a surefire way to make an employee feel valued and create a successful employee recognition program? Hand them the reins to a project close to their heart and expertise. Even better is to greenlight a project based on an employee’s idea. Not only does it empower an employee to grow and succeed, but other employees will be inspired by seeing their peer’s interests taken seriously.

Create Opportunity for Growth and Development

If you’re an employee at a company, it’s important to feel valued. And one of the best ways to feel valued is to have opportunity for growth and development. That’s why companies should invest in their employees and give them opportunities to learn and grow. It makes employees feel appreciated and as if they’re part of something bigger than themselves or the organization itself - and this is felt from the top-down.

Keep in mind that there are a myriad of things that make employees feel appreciated at work. Some may value flexible hours, others might desire paid time off, and still others may appreciate opportunities for growth and development - or all three! Employees who feel valued are more likely to be productive and loyal - and happy employees are good for business.

Pay Attention to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace isn’t just a slogan. Almost every HR manager and leader is now looking for the best ways to incorporate this holistically in the workplace, because DEI has a direct connection to how employees feel at work. True equity means ensuring equal and fair opportunities for all to excel, and inclusion implies the sense of belongingness for creating a healthy work culture.

Employees understand what authentic embracement of DEI looks like, and recognize when an organization is just paying it lip service. It’s imperative that DEI is woven into the very fabric of the company to ensure all employees feel valued and appreciated.

Chapter 4

Bonus Tips

In addition to recognizing your teams’ value, the following ideas can help you nurture them on a daily basis.

1. Say thank you. Whether your employees are submitting a weekly report or have just returned from a customer delivery, don't forget to articulate appreciation.

2. Encourage risk taking. Micromanaging your employee's every word after you granted permission to test-drive a new sales strategy or hovering as they try out a new application will only serve to erode trust.

3. Be flexible. Your office hours may be sunup to sundown, but perhaps others need just a little more time away to be their best when at the office. An extra hour in the mornings may enable your top performer to spend time with their family or to work out at the gym, thus powering them up for the day. Permitting a tailored schedule may in turn empower work performance, and ultimately, the bottom line.

4. Remember their birthday. Likely, your employee's friends and family will take the baton here, but it would add value for their boss to acknowledge the event with a simple "Happy Birthday" wish.

5. Speak favorably about other employees. If you criticize one co-worker to another, your employees will soon realize their reputation is being marred behind their back, as well. Maintain a positive vocabulary when speaking of one staff member to another.

6. Follow through. When you ask an employee to invest hours on a research project, only to ignore the results - or worse - scrap the project altogether with nary a follow-up, then morale is scarred. Be committed to closing the loop on your goals, and particularly those in which you have engaged your staff.

7. Offer comp time.Whether you've asked your employees to invest weekends on a special project - or they simply offered - working weekends is no small deed. ​​If you have the option, offer comp time, or ​grant ​some other form of reward for those who go above and beyond what's asked or expected.

8. Be open. While disclosing the full P&L may not be in the cards, bringing your team up to speed on key initiatives versus keeping everything cloaked in a veil of secrecy strengthens trust within your company.

9. Offer invitations for employee growth. In addition to listening and responding to your employee's goals as discussed earlier, be proactive on their behalf. In other words, invite them into stretch projects, promotion opportunities, networking events and such before being asked to do so.

Take-Aways

When employees get stuck in routine and stop learning or they feel under-appreciated, their enthusiasm and feelings of possibility wane. This can lead to productivity and retention decline, which in turn impacts a company's bottom line. Offering your energy through small daily actions as well as responding to their aspirations on a larger scale and creating robust employee recognition programs will not only make your employees feel valued, but also can propel your company to new heights.

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