For Employee Appreciation Day, 5 tips to foster engagement

Forget the beanbag chairs and free pita chips. Your staffers want to know they’re valued and working toward important goals. Convey your company mission and their role in realizing it.

It seems like an arms race as companies try to outpace one another with flashy perks.

Foosball tables, casual Fridays and unlimited PTO? Turns out that all that glitters is not always gold. These perks might be effective, but it’s crucial to understand that these are not the be-all and end-all.

Expressing that someone is valued is important, but showing they are valued is the heart of the matter.

For employees to feel genuinely appreciated, employers must listen to their voices and respond with urgency rather than relying on ping-pong perks.

Just in time for Employee Appreciation Day, here are five tips to boost engagement, morale and motivation:

When perks don’t work, focus on the core values that keep employees. Does your organization offer fair benefit and compensation plans? Does your organization care about developing its people and supporting their career growth? These questions are important and by addressing them, companies show their employee appreciation surpasses a day on the calendar.

Listen in. Every day, we hear stories of leaders who failed to embrace employees’ voices—either by not asking for or ignoring their input—and stories of employees who felt they had no option but to stifle their concerns until those concerns boil over. Moving away from the annual survey in favor of more frequent feedback can help organizations show that the employee voice is heard and valued. By continuously listening to the staff voice through open feedback channels, companies can not only take decisive action and respond more quickly, they will also foster a sense of employee appreciation that transcends a single day.

Acknowledge excellence. Recognition is a vital aspect of engaging employees because it reinforces what employees are doing right—and it demonstrates appreciation for exhibiting certain values or behaviors that align with company objectives. So, don’t just look at recognition as an annual box-checking exercise or an organization’s or leader’s responsibility. Build a culture of recognition by facilitating opportunities to get and give recognition at all levels. Start by encouraging managers to talk with their employees about feedback and brainstorm ideas about improving recognition within the team. Help leaders have one-on-one conversations about what makes employees feel valued.

Home in on the higher purpose. To truly foster employee appreciation, companies must create an environment where employees feel that their work has meaning. Roles should be purpose-driven, and employees should understand that they are working toward a better future. This is where corporate culture plays a critical role: It is the vehicle into which purpose is embedded and the footing for establishing meaningfulness for employees. Use the employee voice to create a culture that promotes purpose beyond profit. Purpose is important to all employees regardless of the job they do or their age. Leaders at all levels help to make the connection to the broader purpose the organization serves in the world.

Be genuine. Leadership is often less about what you are doing than about how you are doing it. To foster employee appreciation, start with authenticity. Leaders can begin by choosing a form of communication channel that fits their own persona and that of the company. Some leaders favor videos and webinars; others prefer email. By choosing a specific medium that allows their voice to resonate clearly and in a genuine way, leaders can connect more authentically, become more approachable and ultimately be seen as trusted advisors to their employees.

Jim Barnett is CEO of Glint.

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