What makes employees feel appreciated? 14 tips to increase engagement

For hard work to feel worthwhile, an employee must feel there are real rewards for it. In the workplace, one of those rewards is recognition for their efforts and the results they've realized. One of a leader's responsibilities is to notice people's contributions and help establish a staff of well-appreciated employees.

The importance of making employees feel valued

Valuing employees in the workplace is important primarily because it's the most appropriate way to carry out a professional relationship. The dynamic between an employer and an employee is reciprocal, but members of leadership, who hold more influence, have more leverage to initiate an exchange of gratitude. In doing so, you and your organization may realize the following advantages: 

  • Higher team morale: Acknowledging employees for their efforts is another way of saying, "You belong here, and we're happy to have you." That, in turn, can promote a sense of common purpose. 
  • Increased retention: Appreciated employees are more likely to be happy employees, and happy employees tend to stick around for the long term.
  • Greater productivity: Happy, engaged employees also tend to work better. In fact, according to a University of Warwick study, happiness correlates with a 12% increase in productivity.
  • Better branding: By openly appreciating its employees, your organization earns a reputation for promoting healthy, desirable workplace dynamics. As a result, you may find that more top-tier talent is interested in working for you.

"The dynamic between an employer and an employee is reciprocal, but members of leadership, who hold more influence, have more leverage to initiate an exchange of gratitude."

14 tips for showing that you value your employees

It isn't always easy to think of ways to recognize your staff for their contributions. Consider these 14 tips for making employees feel valued and increasing engagement in the workplace:

1. Routinely interact with your employees

A simple hello or morning greeting can go a long way toward helping your employees feel valued. They're more likely to feel at ease and eager to engage with the organization if a member of leadership conveys a warm and inviting attitude. 

2. Notice the small things

Practice your observational skills, and take notice of small contributions that are often overlooked. It might be an astute observation an employee makes or an insightful question they ask. Publicly acknowledge the contribution, but also pull the employee aside later to praise them for it.

3. Balance your feedback

Praise is nice, but often you need to balance your feedback with guidance for improvement to make the impact you want. The combination of positivity and constructive criticism can show that you're invested in an employee's growth, and employees are more likely to engage if they feel that it's part of a mutual dynamic.

4. Invite feedback

Inviting feedback from your employees suggests that you recognize their good judgment and respect their input. Maintain an open-door policy whereby your staff can share their concerns about the company or their ideas for improvement. Take the opportunity to ask them, "What makes you feel appreciated at work?" Strive to act on their input. Feedback coming to fruition is a clear sign of your appreciation.

5. Discuss opportunities for advancement

One way to show appreciation to an employee is to point toward their future in the organization. If you openly discuss advancement opportunities with them, they should understand that you see them as part of the company's long-term plan.

6. Offer a more flexible work arrangement

Flexible work arrangements give employees the choice to work as they see fit. Offering the option to work remotely or take control of their hours shows that you trust them to do what's needed.

7. Tailor work assignments to employees' strengths and interests

Engaging work engages employees, but the work must appeal to an individual for that to be so. With that in mind, try to distribute work in such a way that it fosters a personal connection. This shows that you've been paying attention to your employees, you understand what interests them, and you want to create an environment where everyone gets to exercise their strengths.

8. Provide raises, bonuses, and other financial measures of appreciation

Remuneration is an objective metric in the working world. When an employee receives more money than they'd previously made, it indicates their employer is pleased with their output. That's especially true if the raise is merit-based rather than a cost-of-living adjustment. 

9. Make a donation

Many employees have special interests they'd like to support but may lack the financial means to do so regularly. Demonstrate your support for their beliefs by donating on their behalf to a charity or other organization of their choosing.

10. Provide non-financial incentives

During times when your organization can't give raises or bonuses, consider alternative incentives, such as:

  • Extra time off: In addition to their regular paid time off, reward your employees with a surprise three-day weekend or unofficial holiday.
  • Volunteer opportunities: Recognize your employees' charitable pursuits by allowing them time off every month to volunteer.
  • Professional development: Investing in your employees' skills shows that you want them to succeed. Use the feedback you've solicited from your employees to determine what professional development opportunities to offer.

11. Foster a work-life balance

It's one thing to say that you value work-life balance and another to create an environment that supports it. Do your part by:

  • Allowing time for regular breaks
  • Reviewing and allocating reasonable workloads
  • Providing well-spaced deadlines
  • Establishing support systems for parents

You can also lead by example. If leadership sticks around the office much longer than necessary, the rest of the staff may feel obligated to do the same. Make a point of heading home on time as well as encouraging others to prioritize their personal lives when the workday is over.

12. Host regular happy hours

Though the ubiquitous office pizza party is often an object of ridicule, there's no denying that people like free food and drinks. Make it a festive and desirable occasion by treating your employees to a regular happy hour at a local establishment, and offer to arrange for transportation so everyone gets home safely.

13. Add a personal touch to office celebrations

If your company celebrates employees' birthdays, work anniversaries, or major achievements, try adding a personal touch. Say, for example, you're honoring an employee's completion of their fifth year at the company. Discover what their favorite food is and order it in, or find out what their hobbies are and get a gift that caters to them. By demonstrating that you see and respect them as an individual, these gestures can help employees feel seen, valued, and appreciated.

14. Directly express your gratitude

A sincere statement of gratitude from leadership can have a tremendous impact in terms of making employees feel valued. Consider calling in each of your employees for a one-on-one in which you go over their performance and end by detailing what you appreciate about them. Alternatively, periodically write your employees notes or emails expressing recognition of and thanks for their hard work. 

In everything that you do to show appreciation for your employees, the key is to be genuine and consistent. Have empathy for the people who work under you, and be willing to make the effort to let them know that you care about them.

More tips about recognizing your employees

Employee recognition is about more than showing gratitude for their professional contributions. An often-overlooked way to recognize one's employees is to look out for their well-being

It's also important to promote avenues for career advancement, especially for demographics of employees who've historically faced barriers.

Recognition is vital in the pre-employment stages, too. Attract top-tier candidates to your organization by writing job descriptions that make them feel welcome.

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