A little goes a long way

By Rich Lindblom, Contributor

A couple of weeks back I penned a column about making customers feel special. But afterwards I thought, what about employees? Don’t they deserve to feel special too?

I recently read an article on why it’s so hard to find and retain employees these days. The author asked a very simple but insightful question: Why would you continue to work someplace where you’re not appreciated?

So let me ask you, as a business owner or manager: Do you appreciate your employees? Be honest because it’s an important question. I’m not talking about appreciating the revenue they generate for you; I want to know if you really and truly appreciate them as employees.

Of course, compensation is a major factor in retention, and you need to pay your people a fair wage based on their skills, experience, responsibilities, role at your company and the local labor market.  A good employee should never be tempted to leave your organization solely because of salary.

But it goes much deeper than that.  

You as an employer need to understand that your people can work anywhere they want but have chosen to work for you. The way I see it, the very least you can do is to let them know that you appreciate everything they do for you.  Unfortunately, it may be easier said than done.  

Here are a few suggestions that might help:  

  • The easiest way is to simply tell them that you appreciate them. Recognize their accomplishments and their contributions to your company’s success. But a word of warning: your employees aren’t naive, so be sincere. False praise or false sincerity is the quickest way to turn people off.  
  • Acknowledge their work anniversaries and celebrate the milestones (one year, five years, 10 years and so on).  
  • What about celebrating employees’ birthdays? You don’t have to throw a full blown party, but you could buy them lunch or bring in a birthday cake.
  • Here’s a novel idea — get to know your team. I’m not saying you have to become BFFs with each staffer, but it’s good to know them on more than an employer/employee level. Find out what makes them tick. Do they have any special interests or hobbies? You may have more in common with them than you realize. You may also learn of some special needs or issues that you were completely unaware of. Perhaps there is something you can do to make their job or their personal life just a bit easier.
  • Besides telling them how you feel, you can also show your appreciation by rewarding them with thoughtful gifts based on the personal knowledge you’ve now gleaned, such as concert tickets to their favorite artist, tickets to their favorite sports team or subscriptions to something you know has meaning for them. You get the idea.
  • Ask for their opinions on important company issues and actually consider their suggestions. I think you’d be surprised at how often your employees know more about certain aspects of your business than you do because they are closer to it and more directly affected by it.
  • When filling leadership roles, promote from within whenever possible. And if someone is passed over for a promotion, have the courage and decency to tell them why. They will appreciate it.

Let me relate a quick personal story from my time at AVB. After seeing me constantly search for a pen at a Convention, my first boss, Product GM Kate Morris, bought me a personalized pen for Christmas last year. She didn’t see it, but I’m pretty sure it brought a bit of a tear to my eye because it was such a nice, thoughtful gift.

But then Kate went a step further this fall.  Even though I am no longer her direct report, she texted me on my birthday and told me to check my front porch. I was like, “Huh”?  So I went to my front door and sitting there was a case of my favorite sparkling water (Topo Chico, for those interested) and a lime, delivered by Instacart.  

Needless to say, I was blown away — by the birthday delivery and the fact that she remembered my brand.

Those two gifts from Kate proved that she truly pays attention to her employees.  That, my friends, is how you show appreciation for an employee.

The bottom line is that by creating (and maintaining) regular and open lines of communication between you and your employees/direct reports, you will be able to find new and creative ways to let them truly feel appreciated. And if you ask me, an appreciated employee is a productive and loyal one.

Rich Lindblom sold his 64-year-old family business, Advanced Maytag Home Appliance of Schaumburg, Ill., and now shares his more than four decades of retail experience with BrandSource members as product manager of AVB’s SYNC point-of-sale system and as a YSN columnist. You can reach Rich at rich.lindblom@avb.net.

Upcoming Events