I was sitting at a Papa John’s recently, and as it was super busy, I noticed the manager who was cracking jokes with her team. You could see her effort in filling the room with positivity while everything was a little chaotic, and she even mentioned to me that half the staff opted not to show up that day. I think we can all imagine how busy a pizza place is on a Friday night, right? Then one of the employees said, “Well yeah, you have to show appreciation for those who show up!” I just loved that, especially coming directly from one of the workers, because of how true that is!
Recognizing Employee Loyalty
There are two different ways to recognize how your employees show up in the workplace. The first is the literal term of showing up, actually coming into work. They show up every day, without complaints, and maybe even stuck around after multiple people have quit or in the aftermath of a layoff. Or in the case of Papa Johns, when many other workers called in sick that day. These are also the employees who come in early, stay late, and go the extra mile. Doing more than the minimum on projects or referring their friends to the workplace to fill empty positions. All while a smile remains on their face.
The second way is showing up authentically, meaning they feel like the workplace provides a deep sense of belonging and psychological safety. As employees feel comfortable within your organization, they will grow and reach a certain sense of security and safety. We call this showing up as their whole, authentic selves. And validating this type of vulnerability is a significant piece to maintaining a positive culture.
How Can You Make Your Employees Feel Validated?
The first thing that probably comes to your mind as an organizational leader is when you have good employees, you pay them well, right? But that’s not the only thing that is going to retain your best people. Just like I mentioned above, when employees are comfortable showing up as their authentic selves, that validates each of them as being their own individual. Real people with real feelings and real needs. So be sure not to treat them as such. Take care of each of their individual needs, and not just the needs that they take care of in the workplace. Give them the freedom to give input on projects or make their own decisions. Or if they’re going through a difficult time, lend an ear. Never treat them like a number.
Touch Base Often & Give Feedback
A simple and personal morning hello to your employees can do wonders to morale. Acknowledge them and check in with them often, meaning casually and individually. Hold regular one on ones and establish a routine that provides this extra time to interact. Providing these very valuable points of connection is beneficial not only to them but to you as well. Within these routines, it allows your employees to share stories with you about what they’re doing or working on, and it can make them feel “known” by you. Plus, you get to stay in the loop about what’s happening within your organization.
Regarding feedback, employees want to know what they’re doing well and where they can improve. But the trick is to avoid giving both types of feedback like this at once. Your people will thrive off of positive and developmental feedback because it makes them feel valued. Highlight what they’re doing well, but be sure to also give them ways to grow and improve. When leaders try the common sandwich technique, stuffing negative feedback between two layers of positive feedback, employees just get confused. People who need the developmental feedback most, tend to only hear the positive things their leaders say, and the people who performed well are left remembering more of the negative comments. So be sure to clearly separate out the positive feedback from the developmental feedback.
It’s easy to start by doing all these things, but most important is maintaining it as a healthy habit. The idea isn’t to create an automatic system for appreciating and thanking your employees, but more so to allow yourself to express it in a natural way. Taking small increments of your day to convey to your employees the value they hold can have a huge impact, such as starting your team meetings with shout-outs briefly acknowledging accomplishments of individual team members. Changing up the ways you express your gratitude and appreciation will go far with them. The sky’s the limit!