If you’re a business owner or department manager, it’s all too easy to get caught up in your own responsibilities and forget about the people who make it possible for you to do your job: your employees. They may not have your expertise or years of experience, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of a little appreciation.
I think Mary Kay Ash summed it up well when she said, “Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’” When people feel important, they are more likely to be loyal, positive, happy, and productive. So how can you show your employees that you value them?
Think about how you’d treat someone in a romantic relationship. And before you sick human resources on me, hear me out: the common cycles of dating and employment are very similar.
The dating cycle
Dating is great for making people feel important. There are compliments, flowers, and chocolate – Lindor truffles, if you’re lucky! You feel special, because out of everyone in the world, they choose you.
And then, BAM! Commitment. If you’re lucky, this is where the good stuff sets in – comfort, security, and a sense of routine. But all too often, this is where the “in love” stage burns out. Couples often stop making each other feel important. And within a few years (sometimes even months), they move on and continue the cycle with someone else.
We often see this cycle mirrored in companies. From recruitment to employment to resignation, there are changes in how employees are treated. It’s up to you to make sure that those chances are for the better.
The employment cycle
The recruitment process is great for making people feel important. There are compliments, job offers, and discussions of benefits – a kegerator, if you’re lucky! You feel special, because out of everyone who applied, they chose you.
And then, BAM. Employment. The first few months are often great, and then comes the potential for burnout. At this point, many employees no longer feel important. Within a few years (or months), they move on and continue the cycle somewhere else.
To break the cycle, we have to treat our employees like we treat those we have lasting relationships with. Just like we commit to our partners’ happiness, you must commit to your employees’ happiness.
You can’t get lazy and stop making your employees feel important, or else you risk losing valuable members of your team. Not only that, but then you are then tasked with hiring and training replacements – and there’s no guarantee that they won’t leave in a year or so, too.
In order to ensure mutual happiness and success, you need to make it a habit to show your employees encouragement and appreciation.
Demonstrating importance through encouragement
Not everyone feels important for the same reasons. In relationships, especially romantic relationships, one partner may feel like they are exerting all of their efforts into making the other person feel valued, only to find out these efforts have not been noticed.
This can also happen in the workplace. In order to make an employee feel valued, you need to figure out what kinds of encouragement they respond best to.
The four basic ways to encourage people are:
- Quality time
You may find that you are personally more accepting or dismissive of one or more of these types of encouragement. That’s precisely why it’s important to cover all of them in your management style.
Not every employee will respond to every style, so incorporating all of them ensures that everyone is receiving a dose of importance that will sustain their happiness, optimism and employment.
Gifts are a great way to provide employees with a little pick-me-up and show appreciation. At WebFX, we dole out ice cream on hot summer days, hot chocolate in the midst of winter, and beer year round.
How you can do it:
- Spontaneous ice cream days
- Hot chocolate for coming into work on a snowy day
- Coffee or pastries for specific goals met
These are just some examples of things that have worked for us. Gifts don’t have to be extravagant or pricy – they just need to show your employees that you care.
Everyone appreciates receiving help. And for some, it’s is one of the best ways to convey importance.
How you can do it:
- Offering to help someone who has a new project
- Providing tips and tricks
- Being approachable and receptive when someone asks for help
These may seem like no-brainers if you work closely with your employees, but some employers and managers make the mistake of only looking at their own workloads. Offering to assist someone who is particularly busy not only shows them that you notice their hard work, but also that you want them to succeed.
Compliments are one of the easiest and least expensive ways to show people you appreciate them. You may choose to do this publicly or privately, depending on your employees’ personalities, but a kind word from a supervisor can go a long way.
How you can do it:
- Post on your intranet thanking an employee that helped you in some way
- Have a bulletin board that highlights employee achievements
- Write thank you notes for employees’ hard work and dedication
When giving compliments, be sure to make them personal and specific. This may take a bit more thought than a simple, “good job!,” but will mean a lot more to an employee who has spent days or weeks working on a project.
We all know that everyone is busy in the work place – and they should be! But taking a few minutes from your day to connect on a personal level goes a long way in securing employee loyalty.
How you can do it:
- Ask people specific questions about their weekend
- Plan company outings
- Have a communal meal
For example, at WebFX, we have a group called “Taste Buds” that gets together to swap lunches with a new buddy every a month. It’s a great way to share lunch and encourage your employees to build friendships based on interests other than their work.
Happiness for all
At WebFX, we take employee happiness seriously. We even have a full-time Happiness Manager dedicated to it. We go the extra mile, because we want our employees to know their importance!
If you’re a business owner and have other ways of making your employees feel important, let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear your suggestions.