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“Thank you.”

“Good job.”

“Well done.”

“I appreciate your effort. Wow, it must have taken a lot of hard work to make this happen.”

When was the last time you heard any of these phrases? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. As it turns out, 65% of employees haven’t received any form of recognition for good work in the last year. When you begin to think about it, when was the last time you used any words of affirmation with your team?

Here is the good news about recognizing your employees — it costs nothing. Yes, you read that right. It is free to say “Thank you,” “Good job,” “Well done” and “I appreciate you.” Better yet, it is the lowest cost solution to solving any morale and productivity issues. You don’t have to go out and buy fancy gifts, awards, dinners, tickets or trips. It’s easy, just say thank you.

A Harvard Business Review study showed employee happiness raises nearly every business and educational outcome: sales by 37%, productivity by 31% and accuracy on tasks by 19%, as well as a myriad of health and quality of life improvements.

Given what we know about recognition’s ability to tap into our desires for connection, belonging and esteem, showing appreciation is an easy way to boost happiness. And it works both ways — improving the mood of both the giver and the recipient.

This seems like a no-brainer, right? Of course. Imagine your facility and the impact on your community if employee productivity improved by 31%. Imagine how you could cut costs and improve service if employees were 19% more accurate. It might be easier than you think. A whopping 70% of employees say motivation and morale would improve “massively” with managers saying thank you more.

A new study by Reward Gateway revealed 85% of employees think managers and leaders should spot good work and give praise in the moment, and 81% think this should happen on a continuous, year-round basis. This is eight out of 10 employees saying they want praise in the moment, year-round, and seven out of 10 saying they would feel more motivated if it happened.

The best managers promote a recognition-rich environment, with praise coming from every direction and everyone aware of how others like to receive appreciation. This type of employee feedback should be frequent — Gallup recommends every seven days — and timely to ensure the employee knows the significance of the recent achievement, and to reinforce company values.

So now you know why it’s important. But how do you do it? How can you more effectively recognize your employees in ways that are meaningful, motivational and authentic? Here are some thoughts:

  • Public recognition or acknowledgment via an award.
  • Private recognition from a boss, peer or customer.
  • Receiving a high level of achievement through evaluations or reviews.
  • Promotion or increase in scope of work or responsibility to show trust.
  • Monetary awards, such as a gift card, prize or pay increase.

Congratulations — you have everything you need to show your employees you care by affirming, praising, recognizing and motivating through consistent conversations. The only thing left to do is start.

Courtney Harrness is the senior executive director for the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities.

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