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Why Recognizing Good Work Motivates Even More Of It

We humans can be silly creatures. We might work at something we like and get a nice paycheck for it, too, but still aren’t happy until someone looks at what we’ve done and says, “good job!” That simple acknowledgement refills our tanks and makes us want to do even better.

Why? Because being valued is a fundamental human need. It begins in earliest childhood and is part of our nature regardless of how old we are and how far we’ve come in our lives and careers. Everyone needs to feel personally appreciated and recognized for who they are and what they do. It cuts to the core of our identities because we’re social beings and we rely on cues from others that tell us that we’re accepted and valuable.

It’s that tree falling in the forest metaphor. If no one hears it does it make a sound? The laws of physics will tell you that it does. But philosophically, what does it matter if there’s nobody there to witness it? Good work can be its own reward only to a point. It’s rare that a person can thrive at their job without being acknowledged for it.

You know that your employees are your greatest asset. You spend a lot of time, energy, and money recruiting and training them, and you not only want them to do their best work, but you want them to be engaged and happy doing it so that they stay with you and keep developing their skills and contributing to the company’s goals as well as their own. To do that, you’ve got to let them know that you recognize and appreciate them.

You may think that raises and bonuses are the best way to do that. Make no mistake, more money is always welcome. But it might surprise you to know that employees view those raises and bonuses as earned compensation rather than personal validation from you.

So, what are other ways of saying good job? You can do it with simple spoken words or you can be as imaginative as you like. There’s never a wrong time, and usually never a wrong way,  to say thank you.

Here are some ways to do it:

With a Visual Reminder

One way to show employees that you value their efforts is with award plaques that highlight their accomplishments and serve as visible recognition not only for themselves but for customers or clients to see. These can be individual awards that an employee can display in his or her workspace, or perpetual awards that names are added to and that hang in a place of honor in your business.

With Encouragement to Develop

Another way to show your own interest in employees is to send them to conferences, seminars, classes, and other events that teach them new skills and give them the opportunity to expand the scope of their experience. You could also subsidize or contribute to their advanced academic education, or allow flexible working hours or time off to achieve it. It not only benefits their future work for you, but moves them forward toward their own personal goals. It’s a definite win-win for everyone.

With Acknowledgement of Your Trust 

When you give employees a team leadership, an important assignment, or a place in making decisions that relate to their own jobs, you’re saying that you trust their judgment and value their contributions. There’s no one who doesn’t appreciate that kind of validation and feel motivated to pursue more of the same.

With Continued Feedback

Formal, annual performance reviews are not enough. Showing your interest in employees isn’t a one-time thing, so make it a point to have informal talks with individual employees on a continuing basis. These are not only an opportunity to offer positive feedback and any suggestions for improvement, but acknowledgement that you’re aware that there’s a real person doing the job. Ask how it’s going, and encourage suggestions. Then listen carefully to what you’re being told. Being heard and acknowledged ranks extremely high on every employee satisfaction survey, and not only that, but you’ll very likely hear things that are worth hearing.

With Something Simple

Finally, don’t wait for something spectacular to happen before you acknowledge someone who works for you. A simple smile and thumbs up in passing can do wonders.



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