Starting a business often consists of putting out fires. Despite all the planning and contingency scenarios, you may have drawn up in preparation, you usually have to rectify things that have gone wrong before you can focus on what’s right.
As you move past the start-up phase, you’ll want to flip that equation. Then, as you begin to identify what’s working well, look at the people on your team who are getting that good work done – and thank them for it.
Business leaders all know that motivation and pleasant morale among staff drive great performance. In my research, I set out to identify why that is, and how best to make it all happen. I also note how top companies do it.
Acknowledging people’s efforts fulfills their basic emotional needs. The desire to belong to the larger group, feel valued in what we do, and achieve as much as we are able is fundamental to human nature. When these desires are met in the course of making a living, we are prompted to keep up the effort and try even harder.
So, thanking team members for attracting a new account or filling in for an absent boss can motivate them to work harder or smarter.
Acknowledging every deserving employee forms a bond among co-workers and higher-ups that is reflected in good morale. These positive emotional states pay off in customer relations and innovation that help companies rise above the competition.
This is what we mean by success breeding success – and why it’s important to call out individual “wins” as they happen. There are two main ways to do this:
- By recognizing excellence in a symbolic manner, and
- By rewarding it with something of value.
Acknowledging special achievements, reliable service, or teamwork in the form of public praise is a recognition-based approach to showing gratitude.
This can be done in the hallway in the presence of others, at a meeting, or at a formal award ceremony. It seems simple, but psychologically, it works on several levels.
i) Company mission
Using praise as a perk serves as an incentive not just to perform the tasks in a job description but to further the company’s overarching goals. We ask the people we hire to accept and promote the ideals reflected in the company’s stated mission, values, and vision – ideals that they may or may not be personal priorities.
Receiving praise for the concrete work that individuals do acknowledges their commitment to these “unseen” requirements.
ii) Team mission
Publicly recognising one person’s contribution to the staff as a whole or a team’s success within the larger group pays twofold dividends.
Those receiving kudos, obviously, feel good and that their effort is worthwhile. They are validated by a company leader or co-worker who passes the respect that they command on to the person or team being recognized.
Those observing the formal thank-you are invited to step outside their personal focus, which can be isolating, and to reach out and connect with to the group. This builds a web of trust, one of the emotional elements that we humans crave.
There’s a good reason for this desire: it helps us work together. Greater team cohesion fosters stronger performance.
iii) Personal mission
Anyone who works for someone else wants more than just a salary. The opportunity to move up in rank and duties, as well as income, serves this desire.
Public recognition is an instant status elevator that may lead to promotion. This provides an incentive to get out of bed in the morning, come in to work, and do a good job.
On a psychological level, public praise addresses the basic need to belong to the group, take pride in oneself, and have the chance to be all that one can be. Thanking employees in front of their peers is far more than simply a polite response to a job well done. It is a key element to good mental health.
Acknowledging individual or team performance with cash bonuses, gifts, or prizes is part of a reward-based system. When a manager or employee does something deserving of more than just the monthly salary, we can show their value to us by giving something of value to them.
Or, when staff efforts result in company success – such as record profits or recognition as a leader in the marketplace – it’s time to share the wealth.
Offering tangible rewards is also an appropriate way to encourage employees to out-do one another in performance.
Suppose you have a sales goal or a deadline to meet. Individuals or teams who do the most toward accomplishing those things should be rewarded for it. Announcing this dynamic in advance creates healthy competition and may be just the push your staff needs to get the company where it wants to be.
Handling reward-based acknowledgment in a fair manner is crucial. I suggest using data measurement rather than subjective criteria to pick “winners.” Easily tracked performance indicators, such as speed, customer ratings, or quality markers, make good impartial standards for earning rewards.
You can use recognition and rewards, or a combination of the two to thank your employees in different business situations. Or, you can integrate acknowledgment into your daily operations. Here’s how to do it well – and what not to do!
Reward & recognition mistakes to avoid
Avoid these acknowledgment errors:
Personalize thanks, but don’t get personal
A generic gift card is nice but doesn’t single out individual achievement. A better reward might be a gift certificate to a local restaurant that you know the person loves.
An inappropriate gift or verbal acknowledgment would be something that is too personal – such as anything that might embarrass the recipient or be misinterpreted by the group.
Give in the right proportions
It’s better to give fewer rewards of greater value than the opposite. For instance, taking the honoree out for lunch would be far more well received than a gift card that will only buy a takeout coffee.
Give to those who deserve it, not just those who clamor for attention
Folks who curry favour with the boss or opportunists who insert themselves at the moment of success can overshadow the real hard workers. Use an objective means of selecting whom to praise and reward.
Good practice you should follow
Adopt or adapt these best acknowledgment practices:
Encourage peer-to-peer recognition
In my fully remote company, PeopleG2, we have a system that anyone can use to show gratitude or highlight the good works of others. We use a computer image of green flag to represent individual accomplishment.
Any staff member can post a green flag and a message of thanks in a shared chat room, such as: A big green flag to Brian for helping out with a client question I couldn’t answer! And then others can chime in with well wishes and positive comments.
Use high-value rewards
Caesars Entertainment, a top American hospitality company, encourages stellar customer relations by rewarding its high-performing hotel employees with “points” that they can redeem for a selection of desirable merchandise. This motivates individuals to work together to please customers, who then enjoy high satisfaction and are likely to be return guests.
Decision Toolbox, a human resources recruiting firm, developed an algorithm specifically to spot exceptional job performance. It uses a number of identified key performance indicators of which everyone is aware. This provides an equal incentive to all employees to do their best.
When you employ an acknowledgment system and enjoy greater market share and profits and fewer setbacks, you’ll know what you are doing is working. Your company can focus on improvement and innovation, instead of just putting out fires day to day.
That is the power of “thank you” – it truly is priceless and can become a part of your company’s culture with little to no monetary investment.
As you get your business up and running, adopt a mindset that seeks to find the good in every aspect of job performance – and acknowledge it.
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Chris Dyer, author of The Power of Company Culture: How any business can build a culture that improves productivity, performance and profits, which is out now published by Kogan Page, priced £19.99
More on ByteStart
You’ll find lots more tips on building customer loyalty, growing your customer base and motivating staff in these other ByteStart guides;
- How to design an effective incentive scheme for your small business
- Using staff benefits to motivate and retain employees
- 5 ways to motivate your staff without spending a fortune
- How to increase productivity and positivity with an employee engagement scheme
Leading your business
- ‘The ideal leader’ – Is there such a thing? What are the qualities of great leaders?
- Why the best leaders do less
- Why you must build on your strengths, NOT focus on trying to fix weaknesses
- Becoming the type of leader people want to emulate and do business with
- 5 Ways you can use emotion to connect with customers and get more from your marketing
- How to develop a strong USP and how to use it to attract more customers
- How to attract customers from heaven – not clients from hell
- 8 Ways to turn buyers into loyal customers