June 21

Foster a Culture of Appreciation: 12 Steps to Dramatically Improve Engagement, Productivity, and Satisfaction



Foster a Culture of Appreciation: 12 Steps to Increase Productivity, Engagement and Satisfaction

A culture of appreciation can be seen as a pivotal factor in increasing employee productivity, engagement, and satisfaction. One way to build this type of culture is by fostering the right mindset among leaders and employees.

To improve their team members’ engagement level, leaders and managers will need to be aware of the many ways they can positively affect their team every day.

In this article, you will learn 12 steps to tackle the root causes of disengagement to improve your team’s productivity, engagement, and satisfaction.

culture of appreciation

How To Foster a Culture of Appreciation

As a leader or manager, it is your duty to make your team feel valued. Sometimes a pat on the back feels better than the extra dollars you add to their paycheck. 

It is important to always recognize the accomplishments and hard work of individuals, and the teams they contribute to.

A culture of appreciation is an effective way to develop emotional connections between your staff and your company, which in return can motivate them to stay loyal and dedicated to the company culture.

This will help create a positive environment and encourage people to continue working hard for the best results. It is not possible to move your company forward for growth and success without them.

Differentiating Between Employee Recognition and Employee Appreciation Matters

People want to feel valued by their coworkers in the flow of their daily work.  

Recognition is more accessible daily because it can be given to anyone, from anyone, and at any time.

Showing appreciation to a direct report on their worst day is just as important as providing them recognition on their best.

Employee Appreciation vs Recognition

Recognition is especially important for people, in general, and specifically for employees because it shows that you notice their contribution.

Appreciation is one level higher. It is recognizing the effort and stating why it matters. However, it goes beyond this by reinforcing the value that the individual brings to your team.

Both recognition and appreciation help create a positive work culture and stronger employee engagement.

It is important to understand the languages of appreciation and gratitude, and adjust your approach to showing and recognizing appreciation. If you haven't read this The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace book yet, I recommend it.

By demonstrating both appreciation and recognition, companies can show they understand employee needs, and are better equipped to improve workplace happiness and staff retention. So how do you do it?

12 Steps to Build a Culture of Employee Appreciation

Step 1: Wake up and Decide

Recognize that the world has changed, and so have expectations, business, technology, competition, buying habits, and employees. How you deal with these new realities has and will continue to change too.

Realize the status quo will leave you behind. Doing nothing is simply not an option. Your business will never be the same as it was and you need to start thinking of how your organization should change with it. And not simply to keep up but to stay ahead of your competitors. 

Contemplate the pros and cons of embarking on a change initiative. There are going to be detractors and resistors, so how can you prepare yourself for how they will react?

If the pros far outweigh any cons, it is time to start making changes. It might be a baby step of communicating more or an all-out effort like teaching your employees how to appreciate their colleagues by getting them involved in ideas and projects that other departments need help with.

Examine your mindset. You are going to need to have a positive attitude and how can you project that?

You are also going to need to stay on top of things. Make sure your employees know how their changes will benefit them, your organization, and ultimately how it benefits society as well.

You will be surprised how much more people value fulfillment and alignment with their values over other aspects of the workplace.

Decide your next steps and devise a plan. You will need to build the case for your initiative from many angles so that you can appeal to those with varying perspectives, beliefs, and priorities.

Commit to the change initiative. Change is never easy, but you must commit so that your team feels confident in how you are handling it.

wake up and decide

Step 2: Inspire Vision

Create a clear vision for how you want your company culture to look like with increased employee engagement and satisfaction built into it now and for the long term. You need to have utmost clarity about your vision so that you can paint a picture of how everyone will thrive in the company.

Explore your Higher Purpose.

What is a Higher Purpose?

It is the WHY behind your business existence. Higher Purpose is what inspires and guides people to make decisions that have a positive impact on how they live, work, play, teach, parent, or give back.

Identify what You are trying to achieve and most importantly why it matters.

Determine the desired outcomes of your change initiative. You will be sharing your vision to people who will be onboard right away, as well as people who are jaded and skeptical, so be clear about how a successful implementation will benefit employees, customers, supporters, and those who are accountable to delivering expected financial results.

Craft your story in true storytelling fashion. Now is the time to bring your creative self to full throttle. If you are more analytical than creative, tap into the skills of a storyteller.

One story that I recall -- although I do not recall the organization -- is that they invested heavily in teaching their employees how to show appreciation to each other. One of the employees told his story about how he had never learned to communicate in this manner, and he explained how it had impacted his life. The impact was great at work but life-changing at home. His family life changed dramatically. His wife was thrilled to be recognized and appreciated, as were his children. The family dynamic changed in ways they would never have imagined.

Instill a sense of urgency. Without a need, nothing will happen. Why do you need to change the trajectory of the organization right now? Why can't it be postponed until a later time?

Develop a shared language with stakeholders about expectations for success. Know how you are going to define success. How does this align with the vision, values, and higher purpose?

Some people might not think that a company's culture is something you can change. But, in fact, it does not take much to develop an environment where people feel appreciated and invested in the work they do!

These people may be thinking "Who cares about appreciation?" Well, here are three reasons why:

  1. It makes work more meaningful.
  2. A lot of employees will quit if they are not appreciated.
  3. If your staff is not happy then customers are not going to stay either.
Inspire Vision

Step 3: Utilize an Employee Engagement Survey - Let Everyone Know What Matters to Them - Solve Problems Together

You might start by crafting an Employee Engagement Survey that will allow employees to share what makes them feel appreciated at work (and how the company can improve).

This survey allows for open-ended questions, so people do not have any fear of being judged or assessed, but it also allows managers or leaders to know exactly who needs some attention from management to make things better! It is a win all around!

To learn more about Employee Engagement, view this blog post

Step 4: Assess Current Realities

Identify where you are on the change curve (has anyone already started towards your vision... anywhere?)

John Fischer Change Curve

Source: https://www.businessballs.com/mod/scorm/player.php

Assess what is working and not working in today's reality(s). The Power of Appreciative Inquiry is a great book to help you if you are inclined to see the negative rather than the positive -- or using an example from my own life -- only seeing the weeds in the flower bed rather than the flowers.

Review past leadership actions that led to desired outcomes (successes) or unintended consequences, as appropriate. With this task you are looking for things that worked well, as well as the reasons why other actions did not go as planned.

Evaluate if there is a need for new people, new resources, or a need for different skills.

Conduct a Needs Assessment. Be sure to listen and hear how people are feeling, what they want to achieve together and how that can be achieved in an effective way.

Involve all touch points throughout the organization so everyone has input into how your change initiative unfolds. The success of this endeavor will only happen if you involve employees from every discipline who will be affected by the change, which means everyone!

Continue to evaluate how you are progressing. What is working and how well it is meeting your goals? This process never ends; a company must always remember how these important dynamics can affect their work culture for better or worse to stay ahead of their competition.

Determine your baseline.

Formulate a scorecard against which progress will be measured.

Evaluate the need to foster more collaboration and alignment among teams/groups (internal) vs. leadership communication with external stakeholders (i.e., customers, investors, regulators).

Assess Current Realities

Step 5: Develop Strategies

Identify your Destination -- you already know what your destination looks like according to your vision, but have you identified what it looks like so that others know where they are headed?

Expand on the items that are currently working, currently not working and what currently works but will not for much longer. How do you resolve these?

What are you going to do next? -- do more of, less of, start, stop, and not touch -- to address the challenges and opportunities. What are you going to start, stop, increase, decrease, and leave alone? Use this T-Form to help you as you sort through the areas of focus.

Establish the strategies that will get you to your destination.

What are you going to measure? Be sure to include the KPIs that senior leaders are held accountable for, as well as other measures that may be more difficult to quantify or do not show up on the financial statements.

How are you going to build your business case? What tool are you going to use? Marquee Incentives clients are given tools to help build their case (if they are doing this in-house) or we use the same tools to complete the process if we are tasked with this part of the project.

How will you inspire people to become invested and engaged with your plans?

To be successful, you will need to have a project management plan in place with clear accountability and stakeholder input from the very beginning.

Develop Strategies

Step 6: Build the case(s) for change

Identify precisely which current strategies are ripe for a refresh, rethink, or reinvention, why you have identified them, and how your plan will address them.

Highlight the vision, core values, mission, culture, priorities, and Purpose and align these with your plan.

Gather research -- internal and external -- to build your case.

Recognize the stakeholders and their individual needs. Be sure to listen and hear how people are feeling, what they want to achieve together and how that can be achieved in an effective way.

Involve all touch points throughout the organization so everyone has input into how your change initiative unfolds. The success of this endeavor will only happen if you involve employees from every discipline who will be impacted by your changes.

Introduce a pilot program to test the effectiveness of new ideas and how they will impact company productivity, engagement, satisfaction. This is an opportunity for everyone to feel included, informed and consulted on how their work environment can improve.

Understand how to handle objections, provide support in advance of changes, and use humor judiciously.

If you need help, contact us to help you build your case. We are more than a technology and rewards provider for incentive and recognition programs. Instead, we create sustainable growth and performance improvement plans that also improve your ESG results (environment, social, and governance).

build the business case

Step 7: Mobilize Commitment

With your draft plan complete, circle back to everyone who provided feedback and share your plan with them for further refinement.

When the plan has been updated, it is time to leverage the relationships you have built.

Request assistance from the influencers who can influence upwards to support your plan. It is time for charm + storytelling + persuasion.

Once you have received commitments, it is time for the final push.

Empower people to act with support and transparency. If someone is not on board or is resistant to change, address any concerns they have promptly.

Use your leadership attributes and style wisely when addressing these issues in a way that will influence powerfully and authentically.

Acknowledge that change is hard, but it is worth the effort. You are leading people through a transformation journey, and You will need to be intentional about how you do so to get buy-in from everyone involved.

Mobilize Commitment

Step 8: Garner Top-Down Commitment

When you want to instill a workplace culture of appreciation, it is best if the top leadership endorses and fosters the move.

Upper management sets expectations and makes clear how important employee engagement is, as well as how they are going to achieve that goal in their company. If there is not support or buy-in from staff members at all levels though then any efforts may fall short because they don't have much ownership over them nor are interested in changes being made by others.

What are the reasons that most change initiatives fail?

  1. They are not taken seriously so there is little buy-in and commitment from the team, particularly the C-Suite. Therefore, start by recruiting leaders who can commit (C-Suite) at the top level then enlist two levels below that so that they become champions of this initiative throughout the organization.
  2. The key stakeholders are not included in crafting or carrying them out. You have already addressed this in earlier steps.
  3. Individuals do not have ownership of how change initiatives will be implemented which results in resistance and frustration as they continue to work hard when all their efforts do not seem to result in any meaningful changes.
  4. Managers do not adequately communicate how change will impact work life balance or how it will affect their career growth opportunities in the long run.
  5. Administrators spend too much time planning for how to implement a program but spend almost zero time on how to sustain it.

As an organization with years of experience in management training and employee engagement, our company has developed a highly effective approach that addresses all concerns:

  1. High involvement by key stakeholders.
  2. Implementation plan tailored specifically for your culture.
  3. Metrics tracked internally about how people feel at different stages of the journey through change.

Step 9: Establish "best practices" guidelines

People -- employees, managers, supervisors, and executives -- often do not know how to effectively recognize and appreciate others.

They may do so inappropriately - recognizing someone for something personal that could land them in trouble - or they may be insincere, or they may recognize or appreciate efforts that should not be encouraged because they are not aligned with values, higher purpose, and other initiatives.

Therefore, you need to create a best practices guideline.

There are a few ways to address this. One idea that works well is to come up with specific ways each person can demonstrate the values of the company. The idea is to have one simple action to focus on each day and then build on those actions over time. These actions could be common across the organization or across a department or at a role level.

Hilton Hotels provides managers with a yearlong Recognition Calendar that features 365 easy-to-implement no-cost or low-cost ideas to thank employees on a daily basis.

A calendar like this is not only practical, but also inspirational as it includes reminders and tips for enterprise-, brand-, and departmental recognition programs; appreciation best practices; important dates like International Housekeeping Week, which, this year, runs from September 12-18, 2021.

The calendar also allows managers to add employee service anniversaries (or even local events) to stay organized throughout the entire year and they can either print it or merge it with their online calendar.

You may also want to provide examples of what to say and how to write a sincere message that boosts morale, shows genuine appreciation, and exudes gratitude.

Step 10: Embed and Align

When you have succeeded in getting decision-maker and influencer support, it is time to embed your change initiative.

Recognize that people will be fearful, resistant, hostile, and supportive throughout the change initiative and the order of emotions by any individual is unpredictable.

Communicate transparently and authentically and ensure that everyone knows WHY you are this change and how it will benefit them and your causes. (More on this in Step 11 below).

Hold people accountable for the deliverables and share your results for the key performance indicators that matter.

Recognize and appreciate the commitment and desired behaviors.

When appropriate, reward exceptional commitment such as innovation, implementation, and creativity beyond what is expected -- do not reward compliance though.

Build quick-win tactics into your implementation, so the celebration can be part of the journey.

Embed and Align

Step 11: Include and Communicate

Just in case it is not clear, to change to a culture of appreciation, you cannot work in a vacuum. You must include others. In fact, the key to making a culture change is getting everyone on board. Get your team involved in how you reward, how they are recognized and how their work environment should be improved.

Write a plan for how to communicate the change with your employees and how they can tell their families, friends, or other people who might be interested about the changes happening at work. Get them involved by asking their advice on how to inform these networks of what is coming down the pipeline before the changes happen, how to make them feel like they're a part of this change and how it will affect their lives.

Include everyone in the process:

  • Share why company culture is important on an individual level.
  • Detail how employees can contribute to the new culture - how they are recognized for what they do here everyday, not just during annual review time or at year end.
  • Formulate a plan that includes training programs on key components such as team building activities, communication skills workshops and motivation seminars to help people understand how their personal contribution impacts organizational success.

Communicating effectively with your staff members throughout any kind of organization wide change starts with gathering input from each group before making final decisions about implementation or how to proceed.

Provide the tools and resources that employees need, such as how-to manuals on how to use company benefits or break down a performance appraisal form.

Encourage participation in group activities with rewards for those who participate - this could be time off from work, gift cards, or free parking at your facility.

Reward worthy behavior (not compliance, though): offer incentives which are meaningful and valuable enough to change someone's mind about how they think of their own job satisfaction level by rewarding them for decisions that show commitment to the organization and its goals (e.g., an employee may earn more vacation days if he/she is present 100% of the time).

Step 12: Provide Feedback, Recognition, and Opportunities to Celebrate

Feedback should be timely, concise, descriptive, specific, and encouraging to help facilitate desired behavior change. The goal is not just to provide feedback but also want it to yield results. Employee recognition needs equal attention with every employee receiving regular and ongoing feedback when appropriate.

Promote cross-departmental teamwork by developing an employee recognition program that recognizes employees in a way which is meaningful to them, as well as how they contribute back to the company. This can be accomplished with our engagement planning tool and rewards platform designed for high performance companies looking for sustainable results.

Celebrate It!

When you develop an appreciation culture, there is a sense that something is going on. The more people feel recognized for how they contribute to the organization and how their work matters, the greater sense of fulfillment and engagement. Take time out each week or month to celebrate your accomplishments - big or small.

To get your team engaged, you need to find out what ails them and how they want to be appreciated.

By using our consulting services, or our employee recognition platform designed for organizations of all sizes, that nurtures an atmosphere of appreciation, it is possible to generate sustainable change which achieves desired outcomes.

If you are looking at how the work environment impacts productivity levels in your organization, we can help there too with tools like absenteeism rates while increasing morale-our employee engagement software helps decrease absenteeism rates while increasing morale; we offer over ten million reward choices worldwide so there is something for every taste and budget.

We would love to show how these solutions fit into your organizational goals!


employee appreciation, employee engagement, employee recognition

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