Top 10 Ways to Compliment and Appreciate Your Employees

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March is a great month to raise the awareness and importance of complimenting and appreciating those we work and live with. Dr. Bob Nelson, a founding member of Recognition Professionals International (RPI), promoted the first Employee Appreciation Day in the U.S. on the first Friday in March of 1995. Hans Poortvliet started National Compliment Day in the Netherlands on March 1, 2003, and through social media attention expanded it to World Compliment Day in 2011. 

Here are the Top 10 essential ways you can make compliments and expressions of appreciation happen this month, and every month.

1. Who really needs a compliment versus who deserves one. Too often those who are top performers are always top performers. Make sure you highlight and compliment those individuals who day in and day out keep everything rolling. Praise those who likely support the star employees but whose contributions are often neglected.

2. Schedule some one-on-one time with employees. Spending time with a manager or a senior leader these days is a rare experience. By scheduling in some one-on-one time with an employee you guarantee their attention. Be fully present, ask just a few key, open-ended questions and listen attentively.

3. Make a list of people's positive attributes. This may take a little while to go through but it's incredibly valuable. Spend at least 10 minutes to write out an employee's positive qualities, characteristics, and attributes. This will give you to have a much deeper appreciation of the people you work with.

4. Start each day by giving a compliment to someone. Watching the news these days, it can appear like a plague of negativity surrounds us. To counter these perceptions, be on the lookout each day for anyone who stands out, is serving others well, smiling, and doing great work. Now go compliment him for it.

5. Connect the dots and show the difference each person makes. Many people feel like they are just doing their job and don't need any compliments or appreciation. However, make sure that with any words of praise you give people, you tell them exactly how their actions made a difference to a specific person.

6. Write a well thought out 'Thank You' card and mail it. Bills and flyers seem to be the only mail these days. Brighten an employee's home arrival with a hand-written note expressing thanks and appreciation. Remember to tell her specifically what you're thanking her for and specifically the impact she made.

7. Truly appreciate the contributions employees make. Too often we take people's great work for granted and we forget or neglect to say anything. Most employees are purpose-driven in their work and need to know their contributions are valued and appreciated. Identify each employee's contributions on a given day and whether face-to-face, by phone, or via email, let him know you appreciate it.

8. Where a personal token of appreciation fits, give one. It's okay to give some tangible gift that is personalized or specific to the individual. Always accompany it with an expression of meaningful words of acknowledgment. Make the words of appreciation, whether spoken or written, just as or more important than the gift.

9. Always observe and listen for great actions. This week I heard a corporate receptionist handle an upset customer on the phone. She acknowledged the customer's concern and gave them names and numbers of people who could help rectify the situation. It was great to acknowledge her for her handling of the situation.

10. Be aware of the impact your words and actions have. Nearly one out of five employees leave their place of employment due to insufficient recognition. Giving compliments and expressing appreciation elevates work effort, boosts morale, and attracts and retains great employees.

Incentive columnist Roy Saunderson is author of Giving the Real Recognition Way and is the Chief Learning Officer of Rideau's Recognition Management Institute, a consulting and training company which helps leaders and managers get recognition right. He can be reached at [email protected]. Also, check out the library of Real Recognition Radio shows.