What Have You Done For Them Lately?


Showing Employees Appreciation and Rewarding Good Performance –

A Survey Summary

Because this year won’t be like many others, companies can afford even less to lose their star players – the employees companies depend on to successfully master the external pressure bearing down on their organization and keep them afloat in their respective markets.

However, how do you keep star employees loyal and engaged at a time when an increase in salary might not be feasible in the foreseeable future?

After writing an article about the dangers of missing the signals of employee disengagement last year, I was challenged to not only write about the opportunities managers often miss when it comes to re-engaging qualified staff. People were also interested in hearing about what employers and managers were doing right.

“…I was personally thanked for my performance from our department’s Director in front of the entire team of 120 people. Received a cheesy trophy – but it was a wonderful feeling to be recognized by a high manager – who actually knew I existed..”

To profit from more than my own personal experience, I conducted a qualitative survey (“What Have They Done For YOU Lately?”) both in the States (PA/NJ/DE) and Europe (mostly Germany) – and there was no significant difference in the type or tonality of the responses I received. I asked people ten questions to gain some insight into what their bosses or employers had done right in acknowledging their contribution to the success of the organization.

Here is an overview of the questions, as well as a brief summary of the responses I received:

How important to you is recognition and appreciation in the workplace?
Although they feel they don’t have the position and/or the salary they actually deserve , 86.4 % appreciated the acknowledgement they received. Only 15.4 % felt that it was more important that they themselves know the value of their contribution.

Why is it important for you – personally – to receive positive feedback and recognition from your boss or employer?
61.5 % of the respondents said that it let them know their efforts were appreciated, and it gave them the feeling that what they do matters. Another 53.8 % said receiving feedback gave them more confidence when it came to asking questions to improve their performance or increase their knowledge. 46.2 % said it let them know they were on the right track in their career development.

Have you ever done any of the following because of lack of praise/recognition/appreciation in a company?
Of the people who responded to the survey approximately 90 % admitted that a lack of praise/recognition/ appreciation motivated them to try to change things on the job, to begin actively looking for new job , to lose motivation, or to start thinking about quitting.

It’s not always about a raise in pay or promotion. Which of the following options would you consider an effective way for an employer to show their special appreciation for your work and dedication to the company?
Most people (76.9 %) cited increased high-level coaching or mentoring as welcome. 69.2 % said they would welcome a one-time cash gift or bonus or increased (external) training opportunities; while 53.8 % said both praise in front of the team or department, and special recognition at a company function, would be appropriate.

How “recognition-worthy” are the following scenarios?
○ 84.6 % said an employee who had developed a significant new product
○ 53.8 % cited an employee who had saved the company a significant amount of money, had significantly increased office morale/team spirit, had made an important process more efficient, or had a history of successfully mediating in both inter- and intradepartmental conflicts

If you also have personnel responsibility, what are up to five ways you have personally acknowledged outstanding staff performance?
Some examples of the responses are:
○ Giving an employee an extra day off
○ Organizing a 3-week fellowship in South Africa
○ Hosting a dinner in honor of the employee
○ Making sure senior management knew about stellar performance
○ Upgrading the person’s employment status from temporary to permanent

Please briefly describe a situation where you received special recognition from your boss/company.

One example that stood out was the following:
“…As the only American in a Swiss musical theater production, and as main female lead character, I worked diligently on mastering the dialogue in German. Before the premiere, the director took the time in front of the entire company, to compliment me on my achievements. I felt like a queen! That one act of kindness did wonders for my morale and let me know that my hard work had paid off and was appreciated….”

If you feel you’ve ever received something out of the ordinary, please let us know what was the single most significant sign of recognition/approval you’ve ever received from an employer.
Here are three examples that made a lasting impression:
○ A congratulatory personal letter from the CEO upon passing a certification exam
○ Three tickets to a World Cup soccer match
○ A training course that was not directly job-related

What do you feel are the three most important negative results of a corporate culture that doesn’t do enough to recognize their employees’ work and loyalty?
It’s no surprise that the expected list of ills were cited, including:
○ A sense of frustration
○ Lack of ownership for project/products
○ Low level of identification with the company

How would you rate your present employer when it comes to showing appreciation for employees’ work and company loyalty?
Of those who took the survey, one-third felt that their employers had no problem letting people know just how valuable their contributions are to the company’s success, while another 30 % felt that – though they receive recognition and praise from time to time – a little more encouragement couldn’t hurt.

As the above responses show, there are many unique and personally relevant ways to acknowledge and reward employees’ performance and dedication. Although the by no means take the place of an adequate ‘living’ salary, these options do provide a viable escape route from the dead-end streets of salary/promotion inflation on one side, and inevitable employee disengagement on the other.

Coaching Questions for Managers:

a. How often do you make an effort to (at least verbally) acknowledge good employee performance?

b. Take a look at the high performers in your team:

  • What have you done in the past month to recognize/reward their contributions to the team?
  • What can you do within the next month to make it easier for them to continue doing their jobs well?

c. Now take a look at any under-achievers on your team:

  • What have you done within the last month to constructively support them in improving their performance?
  • What can you do tomorrow to offer additional guidance in jump-starting their level of motivation and the quality of their work?

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