Does the name Doug Conant ring a bell? He was the CEO of Campbell Soups in 2001 when the company’s business hit rock bottom due to several organisational issues including a toxic culture. Among the many leadership strategies, Doug adopted, one of them was to engage with each staff member and personally, connect with them.
He also did something that was unheard of – in the 10 years at the helm, he wrote 20 notes a day, and more than 30,000 notes to thank each employee for their contribution to the company. On his visits to these offices, he would find his notes stapled to the softboards, bulletin boards and sharing pride of place on their desks. Needless to say, in 2009 Campbell Soups outperformed other companies!
What made this turnaround happen? What was that special ingredient in the recipe of growth and high productivity?
Dopamine effect of appreciation
The greatest psychological effect of appreciation is the dopamine hit of happiness in both – the person giving and receiving it. While it seems easy to do, most leaders tend to get weighed down by day-to-day challenges and ignore the focus on human connection.
Appreciation has a social valence and has the power to emotionally connect and infect others with positivity. It makes employees feel valued, recognised and inspires them to lean in and give it their all. It instills high self-esteem, builds loyalty and studies have shown how it can retain top talent. Who would want to leave an organisation that edifies and elevates employee efforts and supports their sense of pride and purpose?
And, why do companies need to build and nurture an appreciation culture?
Well for numerous advantageous reasons:
- It impacts the bottom line. Happier people enjoy work and tend to go above and beyond.
- It develops a positive culture with sustainable growth.
- It reduces recruiting costs due to lower churn.
- It builds a culture that attracts talent. Good word of mouth on media or on Glassdoor by an employee is worth far more than spends on advertising and PR.
- It has the potential to build the company’s brand.
As a manager, look for events that deserve appreciation. One company has a huge bell installed in their office. Every time a salesman concludes a sale, all the department heads and other employees come together to clap and thump, displaying their solidarity of joy and happiness.
One organisation had a bowl of candies, each time someone did something nice for you, you handed them candy.
Get creative and stop being cynical.
Here are my top favourite ways to demonstrate Appreciation:
Shout and be proud. Acknowledge the good job an employee does by tom-tomming it to the world!
Be sincere and authentic. Your tone of voice, facial expressions are dead giveaways. Do it without any ulterior motive. AI and auto-pilot messages won’t cut it. Show you care, genuinely.
Get Personal. People love seeing their name or hearing it. Leave the ‘Team’ and drop names. ‘That was fabulous, Navin!’ holds more power and connects, deeply.
Learn the Language of Appreciation. The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman, is a good book to help you. Each individual has their own unique language of appreciation. Some prefer words of affirmation like ‘Thank You, great job, etc. Some acts of service like going out of your way to help them on an assignment makes a difference to them. Some prefer quality time like being present and perhaps listening. Some prefer tangible gifts – a surprise gift or a card. Some need a demonstration like a pat on the back. We all desire to be appreciated for different things because each one is different. Learn what works for whom.
Compensate their time in an unique way. A surprise lunch, perhaps. Give them extra time off. A company, I know used to send over dinner vouchers for the family in the week the employee worked overtime. This is a beautiful gesture to compensate the employee for the time away from the family.
Provide growth opportunities. When you provide them opportunities to upskill personally and professionally, you demonstrate your emotional investment in their success. Leadership training, coaching reimbursements, mentorship programs, certificate programs, financial planning services, are ways companies appreciate the efforts of employees.
Respect work-life balance. Work from home has blurred the boundaries of work and personal life. However, companies that believe in flexible work hours, normalizing no-email responses past 6 pm or no WhatsApp messages past 8 pm made a positive difference in employee loyalty.
Discuss Appreciation. Begin each meeting by publicly appreciating people. And, them by appreciating the efforts of each participating member.
Celebrate. Celebrate anniversaries, milestones, small victories, birthdays. Institute monthly, annual awards for performers. Surprise team members by sending them their favourite dish or meal. Nothing gets the good word going around like caring more.
Most importantly, remember to simply say, “Thank you, you matter“. It’s life-changing and the impact measurable.