The Value of Appreciation - How Do I Know What Makes People Feel Appreciated?
It is vital to make sure that whatever you are doing to make your employees or co-workers feel appreciated is something that has value to them. As I mentioned in my first blog, having an extremely shy person walk on a stage to be recognized is not a reward but torture. However, I realize that knowing what people actually want and what has value can be difficult, so here are some tips for finding what a person truly values.
Listen. I mentioned in my last blog that we have two ears and one mouth; we should use them in that proportion. But, we typically do not. When someone talks, truly listen to them. If you have an employee always talking about how busy they are, taking them to lunch may not be the best idea because it may be their only free time. But, maybe a gift card for a massage or pedicure would be ideal as it would incentivize them to carve out time for themselves. Or, even better, if your company allows it, let them leave early or have an extra vacation day. You could even jokingly stipulate that it must be used pampering themselves.
Ask Their Co-Workers. Let's face it; we often spend more time with our work family than our actual family, so we know them pretty well. Get with their co-workers and ask for gift ideas or ways to recognize them. They will quickly tell you if you are heading down the wrong path.
Incorporate It Into Onboarding. As part of your onboarding process, ask employees what makes them feel valued and appreciated as an employee. Trust me - they will tell you because it will benefit them. The flip side to this is that you now have no excuse for a lousy gift or reward!
User's Manual. When I first learned of the User's Manual, I thought it was brilliant and still do. This is a simple one-page document that tells you what makes your employees tick. In my opinion, Abby Falik of Global Citizen of the Year has the best model. Hers has six headings with 3-4 bullets under each one. The headings are as follows: My Style, What I Value, What I Don't Have Patience For, How to Best Communicate With Me, How to Help Me, and What People Misunderstand About Me. I also recommend adding a heading called What Makes Me Feel Appreciated.
Let's look at each heading.
My Style - Consider your work style, leadership style, and personality type. An example would be, "I demand a lot from my employees. I work hard and expect them to do the same."
What Do I Value - What is important to you in a job. Maybe it's work-life balance, efficiency, or independence.
What I Don't Have Patience For - What are your pet peeves? Be honest - you are only hurting yourself if you lie. Maybe you hate a procrastinator especially when their procrastination causes you to have to work late. Or, maybe inefficiency drives you nuts because it wastes time.
How to Best Communicate With Me - Do you prefer directness, or do you need a little sugar-coating at times? Also, do you prefer face-to-face, e-mail, phone, text, etc. It could even be something like I prefer bullet points to paragraphs.
How to Help Me? If someone is trying to help you in the office, what can they do that would be helpful. I would also include ways that are not helpful. For example, I never wanted anyone else doing my filing when I was a secretary. I was ultimately the one that was going to have to find it when my boss asked for it, so I wanted to know exactly where it was.
What People Misunderstand About Me - Think of a time when someone misread you and consider why that happened. Maybe you have resting "B" face but you are truly a kind person. Or, maybe you are fluent in sarcasm, and people often interpret it as rudeness. If you've told them upfront that you are sarcastic, they are more likely to opt for sarcasm over rudeness.
What Makes You Feel Appreciated - I added this one to go with our topic of appreciation. Have them include what makes them feel appreciated in the manual, so you know right off the bat and don't have to guess.
When you are writing your manual, be concise but also thorough and honest. The manual is designed to help you as much as those who use it, so you have no one to blame but yourself if you try to design it based on what you think people want to hear. Once everyone has their user's manuals drafted, they are meant for sharing with all team members. When new members are hired, have them prepare their manual as part of their onboarding process, give a copy to all on their team, and give the new employee a copy of everyone else's. Another important thing is to review your manual at least annually. What was important to me in my early twenties as a newlywed is not the same as what is important to me as a 41-year-old working mom. My user's manual would look very different now than it would even five years ago. Hence, it is vital to keep yours updated.