When is the last time you told one of your employees, “You mean so much to me!” If it has been a while (or heck, even if it hasn’t!), this is a great time of year to show your people how much you care. It’s still the beginning of a new year, and as Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey point out, what you do now will set the tone for many months to come.
“By now, last year’s reports are finally in,” explains Houlihan, coauthor along with Bonnie Harvey of The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People. “Find something positive in those reports that you can share with your people. This is the perfect opportunity to show them how much you appreciate their efforts on your company’s behalf.”
“Send a ‘valentine’ that acknowledges them for a job well done,” adds Harvey. “Show them positive numbers on your company’s sales and growth. Throw in a few concrete examples of important milestones that were achieved during the past year. Tell them you know it took a team effort and couldn’t have been done any other way. And do it in writing.”
Read on for six reasons why now is the perfect time to show some love to your employees:
Appropriate timing. What could be a better time to send an appreciative message to your folks than on a day when valentine cards are already being exchanged? “Your ‘valentine’ will fit right into the spirit of the day,” notes Houlihan. “It will be unexpected but welcomed, which will make it even more appreciated. It’s really your last chance to thank them for the past year’s efforts that resulted in company growth.”
Improved performance. Acknowledgment and appreciation are still the best ways to validate positive behavior and encourage your people to perform. “Aside from income, one of the main reasons why they work for you is the satisfaction that comes from doing great work,” says Harvey. “And hearing from their respected leaders only adds to their positive feelings about their work. If you put your appreciation in writing, such as in a valentine, it will mean more to them than simple verbal recognition.”
Promotion of teamwork. It’s the team that is being recognized for their cooperation, communication, and support for each other. “This is a great opportunity to tie the work of the office people to the success of the salespeople,” explains Houlihan. “After all, the salespeople depend on excellent products, relevant marketing materials, and timely data to bring in the sales that pay everybody’s salary.”
Build a positive culture. By demonstrating gratitude to your people, you are also showing them that you and your company value gratitude. “A valentine will reinforce that value and encourage your staff to do the same in their relationships on your company’s behalf,” notes Harvey. “When your people get in the habit of sending notes of thanks to your customers, vendors, and other business partners, your entire company will benefit.”
Reduce turnover. Money isn’t the only reason employees leave your business to go work for your competitors. Often, they go because they don’t feel appreciated. “Too many employees say they made the move because their last company ‘just didn’t appreciate me!'” says Houlihan. “Don’t let that be the reason why you lose your top people. If you do, you’ll lose corporate know-how, critical relationships, the cost of replacement, and even your customers.”
Small investment, big payoff. Sending a note of thanks and appreciation is a very small investment with major returns in performance. Sometimes it can have a greater impact than a staff outing or even a special dinner. “It speaks to them personally and it is documented proof of your gratitude,” notes Harvey. “And it means your people will be more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt when you have to make those hard, unpopular decisions.”
“So send valentines to your people this year and tell them how much they and their efforts mean to you,” concludes Houlihan. “Build your credibility by showing them that you are a real human being who respects their human need for acknowledgment and validation and get ready for a fantastic year!”
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey are coauthors of The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People (Footnotes Press, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-990-79370-0, $9.95, www.TheBarefootSpirit.com), the companion to the New York Times best-selling business book The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand.