7 No or Low Cost Ways to Engage Your Employees Through Recognition

So, how hard is it to say thank you? In Corporate America (and at home), the answer to the question is “very hard.” These two little words are among the most difficult for people to express. Saying thank you is quickly becoming an extinct practice both in society at large and in the workplace.

In the workplace the problem usually begins at the top of the organization and doesn’t get much better as it works it way through the hierarchy. CEO’s and other top leaders often don’t take the time to say thank you and acknowledge the great work of their managers. These same frontline managers, who aren’t appreciated themselves, tend to pass on this bad behavior to their employees. Managers expect people to just do their jobs, and in theory that should be enough, but it isn’t.

Employees are motivated by achievement and also by recognition. There’s a reason why engagement and recognition are often talked about together. Isn’t it human nature to want to be acknowledged for doing a good job? It spurs us on to continue at a high level of achievement. In addition, if you spend every day doing your job well and get no positive feedback, you start to question why you are working so hard. Without consciously meaning to, people who feel underappreciated begin to disengage from the work and ultimately the workplace.

Recognition doesn’t necessarily need to mean money or gifts. It doesn’t have to be loud or pubic either. In fact, some people actually preferred to be recognized privately. It’s the old adage of different strokes for different folks. One of the first things a manager should find out from each and every one of their employees is how they feel about recognition – and what kind is most motivating for them – then follow through when it is earned.

Here are some easy-to-implement recognition tips that should be in every manager’s back pocket:

1. Verbally praise your employees for a job well done (privately or in public depending on their personal preferences) and be specific about the contribution that you are recognizing.

2. Handwrite a note of thanks for a job well done. It’s so much more meaningful than doing this through an email or quick hallway conversation.

3. Create a ‘graffiti wall’ in your work area (corkboard, whiteboard, etc.) where employees can write a note of thanks or praise for their co-workers. Only one rule… no gripes.

4. Let others in the organization know of the great work your employee did by publicizing it through a company newsletter or intranet site.

5. Create a silly department award such as a stuffed animal or toy that gets passed around monthly based on achievement, which the winner can display in their workspace.

6. Tie a balloon with the word thanks to an employee’s chair with a personal note.

7. Give someone a spot award ‘in the moment’ for a job well done. It could be something as simple as a Starbucks gift card or flowers. It’s the immediacy that means the most.

Engagement is not about programs and perks. It’s not about pool tables and free food. It’s not about ‘the one with the most toys wins’ either. It’s about the simple things that make people feel appreciated for all they do. So, put down your checkbook and get back to basics like saying thank you. Lack of appreciation and recognition are one of the main reasons people disengage and it’s the easiest to fix, so why aren’t we doing this more?

Two words are more powerful than a thousand. It’s all about gratitude and thanks.