Employee appreciation is more than just a fair salary

Today, employees are often exposed to challenging working environments. No matter whether it is of content-related (e.g. foreign areas of responsibility) or organizational (e.g. working overtime) nature, those affected often try to meet these requirements in order not to disappoint managers or teams. However, the acceptance of additional efforts at work decreases as soon as employees start feeling that the extra effort and work is not being appreciated. A supervisor referring to the monthly salary as a justification merely adds fuel to the fire. In today’s world, a corporate culture characterised by appreciation and recognition seems as relevant as fair compensation for many employees.

A modern office is not sufficient for sustainable job satisfaction

To promote job satisfaction among employees, many German companies have in recent years taken part in a race of copying the big American tech giants and establishing a workplace of the future. The working environment has been expanded to offering free coffees, free fruits, break-out rooms with games (e.g. pool, consoles) and oversized cushions to employees.

However, to keep employee satisfaction at a high level in the long run, it is also necessary to look behind the scene of a modern workplace. Here, particularly collegial and cross-team collaboration plays an important role and for the vast amount of all-size companies today, there is still room for improvement. Oftentimes, it is underestimated that individual appreciation from colleagues and/or the supervisor is one of the strongest drivers for special commitment at work.

4 ways of appreciation at work

When it comes to integrating employee recognition in a company culture, there are various options available. Some of them may sound too simple, but nevertheless still deserve to be highlighted. Other methods are associated with higher organizational effort, but then offer completely new possibilities to modernise the company’s corporate culture. The decision of which model is the best fit to each company, is to be assessed individually. However, it is important to understand that appreciation should not only come from managers but also from colleagues. The study “Erfolgsfaktor Wertschätzung” by the Human Resource consultancy Rochus Mummus shows that appreciation works very well in particular among colleagues on the same hierarchical level. In the following, 4 potential ways of appreciation at work are presented.

Option 1: Praise & recognition

Probably the most obvious way to express appreciation is to express praise & recognition. This can be expressed by the supervisor to team members as well as directly between colleagues. This method is sometimes even neglected in German companies (based on the motto: “No feedback is good feedback”). A short “thank you” or “well done” will do wonders for the employees. Even small presents or gestures strengthen the relationship between colleagues.

Option 2: Show interest

Many supervisors run from meeting to meeting and are heavily involved in the operational management of the business. In these situations, the focus for the supervisor often lays only on the core KPIs of the employee’s performance. “Soft” factors such as personnel management and employee appreciation do not find the necessary and crucial priority in such situations. From the employee’s point of view, however, the interest shown by the supervisor is of great importance, regardless of the supervisor’s situation. Listening to an argumentation or working together on individual problems are only examples of how a manager can show interest and thus show appreciation to the employee.

Option 3: Grant freedom

Especially for younger generations, flexibility at work is an increasingly important factor. This includes free choice of work location (e.g. home office) or taking on more responsibility. Supervisors who grant their employees freedom gain trust and increase employee satisfaction. At the same time, supervisors can also create some freedom for themselves by sharing some of their responsibility with team members.

Option 4: Digital platform for employee recognition

If you are a supervisor and would like to try out a completely new way of appreciation in the environment, you should strongly consider the concept of recognition platforms. These offer a digital ecosystem where employees can express appreciation and give virtual high fives or a pad on the back to a colleague who went the extra mile for them or the team. The advantage of such a platform/ecosystem is that it takes the sole responsibility of individual appreciation off the manager’s plate (everyone can share recognitions), and incorporates on-going collegial recognition into the company culture, as well as offering a monitoring tool where appreciation activities can be evaluated accordingly.

Things to bear in mind

When expressing appreciation, the following should be kept in mind
  1. Appreciation should be expressed individually. This will ensure that the employee assigns the appreciation to his or her individual commitment.
  2. Appreciation should be expressed regularly. A one-time recognition may make the employee happy in the short-term. To improve employee satisfaction in the long term, appreciation should be a recurring item on the agenda.
  3. Appreciation should mainly be related to the content of the work. Appreciating someone for their red sweater is not target-oriented. Instead, professionalism should be guaranteed by emphasising work-related efforts. With that said, if a team member takes the responsibility of organizing a team event, that could also be a very valid reason to be recognized.
  4. Appreciation should always be authentic. Dubious appreciations lead to a reduction in trust from employees, which is difficult to regain once it is lost.