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Updated Apr 19, 2024

Your Employees Feel Underappreciated ― Here’s What You Can Do to Fix It

Use these employee recognition strategies to help your employees feel appreciated and valued, increasing their engagement, productivity and retention.

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Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
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Most employees appreciate a pat on the back for a job well done. A study by O.C. Tanner found that 37 percent of respondents believe employee recognition is the most crucial driver for great work. 

Given the increasing importance placed on the employee experience, it’s vital to investigate and identify any factors that contribute to lost talent and resources. If you’re looking to improve your employee recognition program, there are many effective strategies you can implement.

How to make employees feel appreciated

There are many ways to recognize staff and empower your employees. Recognition can be as small as a simple “thank-you” for doing a great job or as big as an established recognition program. The most successful companies use a combination of recognition strategies. Here are 10 tips for making your employees feel appreciated.

1. Set up a formal employee recognition program.

Organizations can benefit from a formal recognition program implemented fairly across each department. One way to do this is through gamification. Employees can earn points based on specific actions or accomplishments and spend them on company swag, activities, trips and other prizes. Your formal recognition program should also consist of some form of public recognition, such as awards and public verbal acknowledgments.

2. Conduct weekly check-ins.

Recognition and performance discussions shouldn’t be limited to an annual performance appraisal. This type of performance management doesn’t allow for fluid communication between managers and employees and isn’t conducive to a trusting relationship. Instead, continuous performance management should be implemented, with regular check-ins between employees and their managers.

According to a survey by Workhuman, workers with weekly check-ins are more than twice as likely to trust their managers, see a path for growth within their organization and feel a sense of purpose and belonging at work.

FYIDid you know
In addition to employee recognition, weekly check-ins allow you to cover objectives, performance concerns and professional development opportunities.

3. Encourage positive informal feedback.

Informal feedback is a cost-free way to recognize employees effectively and make them feel good. You can integrate this concept into your company culture by having managers provide employees with frequent informal feedback. You can also encourage informal peer recognition, as thank-yous and shoutouts are sometimes more meaningful to employees when they come from their peers. 

4. Offer promotions, raises and bonuses.

Employees may place high importance on nonmonetary recognition, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about using money completely to recognize them. Career growth is crucial to employee happiness and retention, so it’s essential to recognize an employee’s achievements with promotions, raises and employee bonuses when appropriate. Monetary rewards show employees you’re invested in their continued happiness and success.

5. Offer competitive compensation packages.

One straightforward way to signify to your team that you value their efforts is to offer competitive compensation from the start. As part of your compensation management strategy, conduct benchmark research to determine what “competitive” means for each position you hire for and ensure that internal employee salaries are up to par with those of your new hires. 

Competitive compensation can include fair base wages, reasonable paid time off, health and wellness benefits, retirement contribution matching, commissions, discretionary bonuses, transportation benefits, tuition reimbursements and gym memberships.

6. Host company events.

A great way to recognize workers for their achievements is to host fun events. These can be held companywide or on a smaller department or team level. Hosting free events signifies your appreciation for your staff and brings everyone together, helping you create a strong company culture with connected employees. 

TipBottom line
When including managers, aim to create fun company events that don't feel like a dreaded obligation. Your goal is to improve employee-management relationships, not drive them apart.

7. Acknowledge important dates.

Keep a running list of important dates to acknowledge throughout the year. These can be birthdays, career milestones, anniversaries and other important dates. Acknowledging these dates ― even in the smallest way ― can make employees feel valued and special.

8. Develop employee connections.

It’s important for employees to align with your company values and understand how their specific role helps the organization achieve its overall goals. Communicate clearly with employees about the value they bring to the organization and their team and how their efforts make a difference. Getting your team onboard with the company’s values is also a great way to increase productivity and improve employee engagement

9. Give specific recognition.

Generic recognition is better than nothing, but it’s always best to be specific when acknowledging an event or a job well done. Being specific about the precise event or accomplishment you’re grateful for shows your genuine appreciation and gives the employee insights into the behaviors or actions they should repeat.

10. Personalize employee recognition based on employee needs.

The most effective type of employee recognition is individualized and honest. People are unique in how they like to receive recognition, so it’s crucial that your recognition plan accounts for your team’s preferences. Survey your employees and discuss recognition to see what rewards resonate with them. Then, use that information to create an effective employee recognition program that caters to individuals. 

Did You Know?Did you know
Beyond employee recognition, elements of a happy and motivated workplace include flexible work options, an emphasis on workplace organization and managers with positive attitudes.

The benefits of employee recognition

Recognizing your employees isn’t just the right thing to do for your team; it can also benefit your business. Here are some key advantages of successful employee recognition:

  • Employee recognition improves engagement: Recognition is a fundamental human need. To feel engaged at work, we must know that what we’re doing matters and is appreciated. Without this knowledge, employees may consider their role purposeless and employee engagement levels within your organization will plummet. 
  • Employee recognition boosts satisfaction, motivation and productivity: Recognizing employees for their hard work increases job satisfaction and motivation. If there’s one thing satisfied and engaged employees are likely to do, it’s work harder. After all, if an employee is more likely to be praised and rewarded for their efforts, it makes sense that they’d put in extra effort to receive further recognition. An employee recognition report by Achievers found that 92 percent of employees are more likely to repeat a specific action if they receive recognition.
  • Employee recognition builds trust: Employee-manager relationships significantly impact employee engagement levels and performance management. Employees must be able to communicate with their managers, preferably in regular one-on-one performance meetings that allow relationships to develop. The foundation of this relationship is trust and honest recognition fuels trust.

  • Employee recognition reduces absenteeism and turnover: Employee recognition is one of the most effective nonfinancial factors for retention. Organizations with employee recognition plans tend to see lower absenteeism and better employee retention. An employee who feels valued, appreciated and supported typically feels more inclined to remain with a company than one who feels unneeded or unwanted.
FYIDid you know
Although there are many reasons why employees quit their jobs, feeling unappreciated and unrecognized are among the biggest. Putting in the effort to recognize employees can save you substantial time and money involved in replacing existing staff.

How to tell when employees feel underappreciated

When employees feel unappreciated or underappreciated, it tends to show in their behavior and output. Here are some signs that an employee may feel unappreciated:

  • Decrease in morale or job interest: An employee who feels unappreciated may experience low morale or a loss of interest in their job. You might notice the employee contributes less to team meetings, doesn’t offer feedback on projects or is frequently tardy or absent from work.
  • Decrease in productivity and performance: Employees are less inclined to work hard when they feel their efforts aren’t being valued. As a result, you may see a decrease in their overall performance or productivity.
  • Increase in resistance or conflict: An employee who feels unappreciated may also start to feel resentful. If left unmanaged, this can present itself in physical ways. For example, the employee might become less agreeable, make passive-aggressive comments or initiate arguments with co-workers or managers.

Employees will likely leave your company if they feel their hard work and achievements continue to go unnoticed. This is why it’s essential to recognize your employees frequently and keep an open line of communication about employee recognition with them.

Stuart Hearn contributed to this article.

author image
Skye Schooley, Senior Lead Analyst & Expert on Business Operations
Skye Schooley is a dedicated business professional who is especially passionate about human resources and digital marketing. For more than a decade, she has helped clients navigate the employee recruitment and customer acquisition processes, ensuring small business owners have the knowledge they need to succeed and grow their companies. In recent years, Schooley has enjoyed evaluating and comparing HR software and other human resources solutions to help businesses find the tools and services that best suit their needs. With a degree in business communications, she excels at simplifying complicated subjects and interviewing business vendors and entrepreneurs to gain new insights. Her guidance spans various formats, including newsletters, long-form videos and YouTube Shorts, reflecting her commitment to providing valuable expertise in accessible ways.
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