“Can you ask them to stop it with the pizza and the taco bars? I know they are trying to show us they appreciate us, but there are other ways. I’m too full of pizza!” These words came from an employee of a company I’m working with. Now, I like a good taco as much as the next person, and I can’t imagine ever getting tired of them. Yet, if you really think about what she’s saying, there’s a lot of insight there. So often, when we think about showing appreciation for our teams, our brains immediately go to the concrete, tangible things we can give them. Pizza and taco parties. Awards and plaques. T-shirts and swag. Gift cards. All of those are fun, and good, and have their place.
Are they really what make people feel valued, though? I’m not so sure.
I’m in the beginning of a research project where my team and I are interviewing hourly workers on what makes them feel valued. Guess what hasn’t come up. Tacos. Or Pizza. Not once.
Rather, when asked to Tell me about a time when you felt most valued at work, the responses have been about intangible, deeper, and more meaningful gestures. Here are 5 recurring themes in our research.
- Listen the Them: Really listen. Beyond the bi-annual employee survey. Get out on the floor and ask how things are going. Invite people to lunch and pick their brains. Have regular listening sessions with your team. These are different from updates where you, their leaders, do most of the talking. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Take lots of notes and take take action. Immediately make the changes that you can based on their feedback. At one such session conducted by me (in my consulting role), employees complained that the lightbulb had gone out months ago in the area where they went outside on break. The fact that no one had bothered to change it made them feel less than valued. This was a simple fix – it just had to be brought to awareness. Ask for their ideas and solutions and take them to heart. Your people deserve to have a voice in your organization and when you listen ….really listen….it’s a no-cost way of showing them they are valued.
- Notice and Comment on Their Contribution: Here’s another reason to get out of your office and out on the floor. Start looking for those moments where your team members are stepping up! Verbally let them know what you see them do well. Be specific instead of general. For instance, “I saw you with Mr. Jackson today. You were so caring and uplifting with him that, even as grumpy as he can be, I know you made his day a little brighter.”
- See Their Potential: Was there someone in your life who saw more in you than you saw in yourself? Be that for the people on your team. If you are discouraged and think the people on your team are only capable of the bare minimum, guess what? They will definitely believe that of themselves. On the other hand, people often rise to the level you expect of them.
- Include Them In Projects: Along those same lines, include them in larger projects and responsibilities. Start by asking them about the goals they have for themselves and consider ways you can help them reach those goals faster by giving them something new to work on. One person told me, “I care less about things like Administrative Professionals Day, and more about being asked to work on something important for the company.”
- Care About Their Life Outside of Work: This is even more important than it was before. We’ve all gone through a collective values adjustment and a shift in our priorities. People appreciate it when you can be flexible with scheduling so they can be there for their children, or their aging parent. They’re looking for a place to work where their humanity is valued and they are more than just a number. Encourage time off and do your best to offer flexible scheduling. In a field where enough coverage is critical, bring the issue to the table and ask your team to work together to figure out the scheduling challenge. (See number four). They may have some innovative ideas you hadn’t thought of yet.
What about you? What makes you feel most valued at work? Comment below and let me know.
If you are interested in having your hourly employees participate in our study, email me at email@example.com. We are still looking for MANY people to interview between now and the end of 2021.
Donna Cutting is the author of three books including the forthcoming “Employees First! Inspire, Engage, and Focus on the Heart of Your Organization,” (Career Press, 2022) and the Founder and CEO of Red-Carpet Learning Worldwide. She lives in Asheville, NC with her husband Jim and their two rescue dogs, Moxie and Tonks. For more tips visit http://www.theredcarpetway.tv (Photo credit: treadshots.com)