Your Employee Appreciation Audit

Rachel Thompson
Your Employee Appreciation Audit

1st March is Employee Appreciation Day, and naturally the internet is abuzz with ideas for how to reward your staff: free lunches, games, awards ceremonies, certificates, and even dishing out the ubiquitous cupcakes.

Whilst few would say no to a Friday sugar hit, we feel that most of these suggestions miss the point. One day a year of thanks is not enough to counteract workplace underappreciation, the effects of which are attrition, underperformance, and a lack of strategic direction. Instead, recognition is a year-round endeavour. As human beings, we feed on this – and without it, we’re likely to walk away.

So, don’t miss the point of Employee Appreciation Day. It should be less about ‘how do you give your team a token of thanks?’ and more ‘how do you instil a culture of year-round recognition’?

The context in which rewards and feedback are given greatly affects the impact they will have. A one-off ‘Appreciation Day’ lacks this context; building appreciation into your year-round management strategy is far more effective.

With this in mind, we’ve come up with a 10-step audit to gauge how you stack up as a people leader. There’s a cupcake at the end for your efforts.

Do you meet with individual team members? And do you use this time to communicate your appreciation directly?

Total: 2 points

This is an obvious place to start, but is all too easy to overlook. Making time – quality time – to speak to your team members builds trust and benefits all.
These catch-ups can feel very informal, but they benefit from an underlying structure on your part. It’s a forum to raise issues, concerns, share progress and offer guidance, just don’t forget to recognise a job well done.

Score one point for making time to speak to your staff members, whether through regular 1:1s or with an open door policy. Only award yourself this point if you’re capturing everyone, not just the same few.

Award yourself the second point if you purposefully make an effort to pass on praise. It’s a simple point that many forget, or assume the staff member already knows.

Do you ask your team how they are?

Total: 1 point

A face-to-face meeting is an opportunity to connect. Caring for staff beyond their output results in a loyal, integrated, secure team; gone are the days when mental health can be treated as an external issue.

You may care deeply for your people, but if you forget to ask how they are, whether or not they choose to tell you, then how will they know that you care?

If you can’t remember asking, then answer no.

Do you understand what they want from their career?

Total: 1 point

No two employees are the same. Part of providing for their needs is understanding what they want from their career, at each stage of their working life. Unless you ask, you can’t help them to get there.

Know this, and you can begin to understand what will make them shine, and how to accommodate their growth.

Remember that common interview question – ‘where do you see yourself in five or ten years’? If their job interview was the last time you asked, then it’s zero points.

Do you have a process for team members to praise each other?

Total: 1 point

Peer-to-peer recognition can sometimes be the most powerful of all, as this simple act leads to a positive team culture. Your method could be as ambitious as a formal award nomination system or as simple as an agenda item in team meetings and project wrap-ups.

If you don’t have a process to enable this, you’re not personally encouraging people to do so. Are team members praising each other despite you, or because of you?

Do you provide and promote or incentivise staff training?

Total: 1 point

Staff training delivers serious value to employees and is viewed as a very desirable job perk. Investing time or resources in relevant training demonstrates appreciation by valuing professional growth.

Companies with smaller budgets can get on board too, by facilitating peer-to-peer training and mentoring, or access to online resources for example.

It’s not enough to simply provide training opportunities. If there has been no uptake and you haven’t figured out why, then give yourself a zero.

Do you encourage them to grow?

Total: 1 point

If staff training tackles mental growth, then applied growth is when a staff member demonstrates new capabilities in their role. This step-up could include increased role complexity and responsibilities, a chance to develop leadership skills, or by being trusted with greater autonomy over how they carry out their work.

Building autonomy should be a management priority as it is one of the foundation blocks of engagement.

Employees who are left to do the same thing year on year are less likely to feel appreciated, and therefore engaged.

If you have made this a conscious priority for your team members, then award yourself the point.

Do you tailor your management style to suit the individual?

Total: 1 point

Adapting your style to suit the individual can help people feel supported and empowered. Team members requiring greater input may appreciate an emphasis on directing and coaching. At the other end of the scale, experienced employees prefer to be supported or delegated to, with a freer rein. Recognise the needs of the individual, and you can inspire their greatest work.

A one size fits all approach won’t end up fitting anyone. If you’ve proven you can adapt, give yourself the point.

Have you treated your employees in the last year?

Total: 1 point

Gifts and treats are certainly no substitute for genuine, active recognition. However, tangible rewards can be just as reinforcing as psychological ones, as long as you use them to amplify the appreciation you’re trying to express.

Whether it’s treats, gifts or dinners, if you’ve indulged your staff in the last year then you deserve a point.

Do you understand and accommodate for their external pressures?

Total: 1 point

Work is very much a part of life, but very occasionally the two will directly compete. Giving space to deal with external pressures not only demonstrates trust but also considers long-term wellbeing, as life pressures can be a contributing factor in workplace stress.

Ways to accommodate for life include flexible working hours, job share options, work from home policies or even allowing for the occasional ‘duvet day’.

Appreciation is a long game. Give yourself a point if you employ any such sustainable practices.

The most important one of all – have you actually asked your employees if they feel appreciated?

Total: 1 point

This audit is designed to make you think about what you could be doing better to appreciate your staff. For an impartial analysis of this, you have to ask your people directly.

Asking this question of staff is a valuable exercise – recognition is a key driver of engagement and affects how much the employee feels their work is valued by the organisation.

Award yourself the point if you give your people the opportunity to feedback anonymously, asking them how appreciated they feel.

Understanding your results

There is no such thing as a good or a bad score in this audit; instead, it should help you to identify new behaviours to communicate appreciation to your staff. For the questions where you’ve scored yourself a zero, use this to define your year-round appreciation strategy – it’s the one thing you can do today that will make the biggest difference. Just as employees are encouraged to grow and learn, so too should managers.

Furthermore, appreciation tends to be reciprocal. With personal development and recognition, employees discover how much their workplace, colleagues and management support means to them – which strengthens their own reasons for working for you.

I’m afraid I don’t actually have a cupcake for you at the end of this process as promised. Instead, motivated and high-performing staff will be your sweet reward.

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