QWhat advice do you have for showing appreciation to my team for a strong year despite hard business times? I don't have a lot of budget but want them to know that they are appreciated.
A: Match the form of appreciation to fit the individuals' preferences to make the strongest statement.
What, exactly, do you appreciate? Is it the team's performance as a whole? The way one person steps up to help meet a deadline while another finds more efficient ways to do the work and another takes the time to train co-workers on new skills? To go beyond a generic "nice job" and acknowledge the specific contributions that each individual has made, take the time to think this through for each person before you take outward action.
Then consider the ways in which people like to be acknowledged. Begin by understanding what you prefer. Then set that aside, because it's very easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone would like what you prefer. Instead, ask each person what they'd like in terms of acknowledgment and — very importantly — what they would not like. Not everyone wants to be called up on stage for a round of applause, and missing the mark can backfire.
Finally, get concrete about your budget parameters. Does "don't have a lot of budget" really mean no money? If you do have some budget, think about how far it can go if allocated per person. If your organization has vague policies, ask your boss for specific amounts so you can make an appropriate plan.
Appreciation is best as a year-round approach, so build an appreciation plan that you can launch now and continue into 2011.
The elements of the plan should include a variety of ways to show appreciation: time, money, tangible items, public praise, private praise and shared experiences. What do these mean in practice? Ask your team for ideas, and try these:
• Note cards for quick thank-you notes.
• Small gift cards.
• One-hour "get out of work free" certificates.
• Time in staff meetings for public acknowledgment.
• Team events during the workday. If no budget is available, it could include a potluck or trip to a park or other public place.
Think twice before you schedule events outside of working hours. While these may seem like a fun "perk" for employees, they can be seen as an extension of work time that cuts into personal time, especially around the busy holiday season.
Put all this together and create a plan that will help you stay on track. Have a goal for expressing appreciation, breaking it down into weekly and/or monthly steps. For example, four notes each month, semi-annual workday events, etc. To get started — and for immediate impact — have an event where you provide general appreciation for all of your team members' contributions. Then, without fanfare, begin to implement your ongoing appreciation activities.
People like to have their contributions acknowledged, but one size does not fit all. Even with a small budget, you can find ways to build your team through appropriate praise and rewards.
Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.