There’s no doubt that employees who feel valued and appreciated, work harder, are happier and feel a greater sense of achievement in their respective roles. However, many employers may be caught in that familiar conundrum of what may constitute appreciation for one person, could well be considered insufficient by another. Add in what could be a divisive generational mix and things can become quite confusing.
The secret of individuality
Essentially, staff are individuals despite their ages and experience, and taking a blanket approach to appreciation as a motivational tool, would be a mistake. The elemental secret to genuine staff appreciation, would be individuality: recognition, approach and engagement. And support. It shouldn’t be that difficult – after all it is fundamental to any communication process.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a gift here and there is enough: a raise, a promotion, a trip to the theatre… all very nice. But there’s something that all employees are looking for, even if they don’t really understand it themselves – and that’s the employer who meets them on a genuinely human level and doesn’t just apply the right rewards at the right time and assume a duty done. Whatever is done, must be seen to come from the heart and not a sense of routine. Be honest, transparent, and accountable for the relationship.
The genuine ear
Perhaps the most important, and yet often overlooked, factor of appreciation is showing your employees that you are prepared to listen. But be careful of just listening to appear to be interested or keen to fix the problem – and then forgetting the issue within the day. This is probably one of the most devastating aspects of appreciation fail. Listen with empathy, and listen to find a solution. The ‘open door’ policy is useless if an intense discussion goes no further than ‘I’ll look into this as soon as possible’, followed by a resounding silence.
The personal involvement
Appreciating anyone means appreciating their humanity, that they have issues and life challenges. If one of your employees has rental or family problems, be ready to listen, offer advice, or even intervene to assist. Have the savvy to know the difference between an employee who is difficult and one that has genuine issues that may impinge on their work despite their every effort to avoid this. Let your employee know you are there to support them, and most of all, provide the slack when necessary. Let them know that you appreciate they have a personal life outside of their job.
Equalise the relationship
Don’t create an ‘us and them’ culture. You need to forge a team spirit with your staff, one where motivation is through shared goals and challenges not through measurements and threats. Show your employees that you care, but also that you are equally vulnerable to making a mistake, and that upward momentum is always through cooperation, shared goals and experiences. You are not only workers together in a company, but human beings experiencing a place and time that will always be unique. When problems arise be on your employee’s side, seek to understand, find solutions without causing the employee to lose confidence or feel humiliated.
A congratulatory note to an individual at the right time cannot go amiss. A perk that is aimed at an employee individually makes a lasting impression. Just buying everyone a pair of socks because the team did well, is no reward at all. Within this scope of reward, look for creative ways to make an employee feel more contributory through raising their responsibilities or offering specific training to improve their chances of promotion.
This is the way employees will come to trust you and respect your point of view. Avoid promises as motivation, rather make sure employees understand how you value them and what your expectations are. Be sure to know your employees well enough to know what their ambitions may be, and what motivates them to shine. Never force a position or a set of responsibilities upon a reluctant individual; it’s the fastest way a ‘reward’ can become a disaster. Get to know the true grit of every individual in your employ. Once they believe you value them, and believe in their own value as a result, there’s nothing they won’t do to strive for the goals set by the company.
Talk to your staff every day. Find out how their workload is going, ask for suggestions on improvements. Have those one-on-one coffee dates. Find those employees who may be more deserving that others, don’t blanket reward. Individually, you will discover their hopes, dreams and goals. Feedback is the most vital tool; don’t squander it, use it to create a better atmosphere and environment.
The Generation Gap
Start with what’s similar: Regardless of age and experience, you will find that different generations generally share very similar motivational drives. Respect, opportunities, recognition. While you need to grasp and respond to generational differences with insight and empathy, you should still find a way to bring teams together with shared goals, ethics and rewards, regardless of generational difference. Bridge gaps by getting people to share their ambitions and concerns with you and each other. Solutions need not be that different in structure, but they can be tailored.
Appreciate and incorporate the differences: Younger workers want to know how their work improves the company and how they will be rewarded for their contribution. They keep tabs. Older workers prefer trust and respect, and see the overall success of the company as reward enough. They are less interested in uniqueness rather than what is fairly based on performance. They believe that management support is key, while younger generations prefer to experiment with creative energy. Baby Boomers may be more willing to make sacrifices to get to a better reward place. Gen X may be more sceptical and demand more transparency and detail. Millennials may be over confident, but their enthusiasm can be infectious. But whatever the general differences, people are still individuals – and working intelligently from that baseline is still your first goal.
The CAN-DO Company
No matter how good you are at motivating and managing your staff with fairness and appreciation, the most important factor is the team you put together in the first place. Finding the right fit with your company culture, your current employees and the aspirations of newcomers, is a vital key. So, your recruitment drive should always be focused on the kind of people who will share your company values, goals and drive – and whose expectations will not clash with your own.
Building this important balance through a canny recruitment strategy is something that CAN be done. We know this because we help companies to do this all the time.
Find out more about our services at: www.thecandocompany.co.za