Employees have had to work harder than ever under very unusual circumstances. Having weathered the storms of remote, hybrid, and frontline work during the pandemic to keep operations running smoothly, Employee Appreciation Day offers the perfect opportunity for employers to say “thank you”.
Indeed, with employees leaving their jobs in droves in the so-called ‘Great Resignation’, creating a work environment where employees feel listened to, recognised and appreciated, needs to be front of mind for employers looking to combat this growing trend.
On this day, all employers should take a reality check on how they provide for and show value to their employees, wherever they work. Employees need both appreciation and recognition. “This is particularly important during periods of change and growth for an organisation. But during a global pandemic, when so many of us are working remotely, it’s imperative,” notes Alex Pusenjak, Global VP of People & Culture at Fluent Commerce.
“Employee appreciation is directly tied with job satisfaction, workplace happiness, and employee morale. When you show your employees that you care, it can also boost motivation, increase engagement, foster loyalty, and increase productivity.”
“I believe we should show our appreciation to them not just today, but every day of the year,” agrees Richard Guy, Country Sales Manager UK & Ireland at Ergotron. “We should celebrate the diversity of our teams and how grateful we are for each worker’s daily contribution. Employees mean everything to a business – its innovation, support, personality, and energy.
We should thank them all for their dedication, strength and support of one another during the last challenging two years.”
“It’s important that managers consciously plan space for appreciative words and gestures each day, to recognise employees’ achievements as and when they happen,” furthers Ian Rawlings, RVP EMEA at SumTotal. “Whilst classic forms of feedback have their place, a little imagination can give appreciation some added punch. Virtual trophies could be presented in team video meetings – or a physical trophy for teams in the office. Particularly committed team members could be given a spontaneous day off, or gifts such as a shopping voucher or cooking class. Variety is key!”
There are a number of ways companies can show appreciation for their employees, but Bruce Martin, CFO at Tax Systems, argues that one of the most popular benefits, particularly in light of the pandemic, is flexible working. “Offering a flexible, agile approach to working ensures all employees can create a work / life balance that suits them and their circumstances. Traditionally, flexible working has been associated with working parents, but at Tax Systems we stress that flexible working is for all employees. Whether you need to go to the post office but want to avoid the lunch-time rush or attend a mid-afternoon gym class – whatever it is, agile working policies are there for everyone, regardless of justification. We understand that we all have lives and having time for the small things makes a big difference. What’s more, when employees feel recognised and appreciated they give more back to the organisation; they are more productive when they are working and contribute to a better overall working atmosphere.”
Rawlings adds that helping employees progress is also important. “For example, release a colleague who has been particularly hard working from certain duties so that they can focus on a project that they have shown interest in, which may open up new opportunities for them. Allow staff time to further their education and training.”
He adds, “at the end of the day, motivated and supported employees are much more likely to be committed and loyal to their organisation – so this should be front of mind in the day-to-day running of the workplace.”
Workers across all industries haven’t had an easy road over the last few years, meaning it’s more important than ever that they are supported at work. Guy reflects, “When designing and delivering workspace products which can support the physical and mental wellbeing of workers, it’s especially important at Ergotron that we think about our own employees and what support we can give. It’s important for team and business leaders to value staff, and equally for employees to value each other.
“We know from Ergotron’s Future of Work Survey that 73% of UK workers would choose their next employer based on physical, health and wellbeing support. It’s particularly important in the more physically disconnected environments of hybrid and remote workspaces, that employees are made to feel connected to their teams, supported and valued – today and every day.”
For those working in the cybersecurity sector in particular, there is rarely such a thing as a ‘quiet’ working day. “Security analysts receive an overwhelming number of alerts every day, leaving them inevitably suffering from alert fatigue and unable to consistently identify genuine threats,” notes Samantha Humphries, Head of Security Strategy EMEA at Exabeam. “This can be unmanageable, and especially when security teams play such a vital role in an organisation’s core operations, it can lead to serious risk to both the environment and the mental health of the employees who are charged to protect it.
“This Employee Appreciation Day, it is important that we not only express our gratitude for our employees but look to implement practical solutions that get to the core of the most common problems. For example, with teams often time-poor and overstretched, security leaders should look to automation to help free up teams from mundane manual tasks so they can focus on doing what they enjoy most – solving cybersecurity challenges. This will not only fortify security measures, but most importantly it will relieve some of the stress and burnout experienced by employees.”
For employee appreciation to be truly effective, managers should tweak their approach depending on the individual or culture. This is especially true when communicating with a multicultural team. “What is rewarding to one global team member can cause stress or even offence to another,” warns Nicole Sahin, CEO and Founder of Globalization Partners.
“For example, in the U.S., an individualist culture, being singled out is appreciated, but this is less true in countries that are highly team oriented. About 85% of the world’s population lives in cultures that are considered ‘collectivist’. Team members from collectivist cultures often appreciate the work of the team more than the contribution of any one individual, and find it awkward or embarrassing to be called out, even for a heartfelt thank you. In this instance an employer should consider thanking them as part of thanking the overall team instead.
“It is important to make sure you approach thankfulness with an accurate understanding of what gratitude looks like for your employee, and how to express it in their culture.”
Following a tumultuous few years, many organisations have gone back to the drawing board when it comes to employee benefits. Martin reflects on what Tax Systems is doing to ensure employee appreciation is woven into its culture year-round: “Among the other benefits we offer our employees from birthday days off and duvet days, to employee discounts and gym memberships, the biggest part of creating the culture we want our company to embody, is through broadening the concept of ‘flexibility for everyone’. And we have done so since long before the Covid pandemic. By being more accommodating and taking on the objective approach of trusting our team to get the work done, we have employees who are happy, motivated, and committed to the company.”
Speaking about the range of initiatives that Fluent Commerce has implemented in 2021 to help support employees, Pusenjak notes some that worked for them from an appreciation and recognition perspective, including “having a ‘Kudos’ channel on Slack where any team member can call out a team member for a job well done. This channel has new posts on it every day and has been really effective whilst we’ve been working at home across different countries and time zones. Similarly, we have a ‘Coffee and Gratitudes’ Zoom call on a Monday morning to connect with colleagues and talk about anything non-work related and everyone gets a day’s leave to celebrate their birthday.
“There are so many ways organisations can show their appreciation for employees, that really make a difference and don’t need to cost much,” Pusenjak concludes. “If you want to show your employees that they are making a valuable contribution to your company, recognition and appreciation matters all year round. It’s the small and meaningful initiatives that bring people together and make employees feel ‘seen’ and appreciated.”