It's been eight years since I kicked off ValoreBooks, and in that time there have been numerous people who have contributed to our success. From our inception, I've always tried to find ways to show how much I appreciate our employees' dedication to the company. In the early years, bonuses and expensive parties were impossible. So I went about it the only way I could—by taking a moment to shoot off a quick email, hand-write a short note, or pop by their desks to just say thanks.
Our stellar growth of late has enabled us to do a bit more creative team-building events, such as company Happy Hours at local dining establishments or a catered beach picnic. They are by no means elaborate, but certainly come with some budget planning. The funny thing is that while these gatherings are directly beneficial to company morale, I find that my personal "thank yous" are still the best received recognition initiative I do.
Here's why. At the end of the day, a person's job satisfaction has more to do with how much they feel that they're making a difference and valued for their contribution than anything else. This goes far beyond their salary and benefits package and more to do with owning a piece of the company's success. So while our internal accolades program grows in complexity and expense, I still make it a point to tell people in a personal way that I value their participation.
I would highly suggest that other executives also make this a consistent practice and follow what I'll call the five "Be's":
* Be often: Make it a point that when an opportunity presents itself, even one that would warrant nothing more than a simple "Atta Boy" or "Atta Girl," do it.
* Be sincere: Let the "Thank Yous" come naturally. Don't try to overdue or over think them. It will give people the belief that you don't really care and may come across in the exact opposite way that you intended.
* Be spontaneous: Don't wait until a week or two later to congratulate an individual for their hard work. Do it on the spot and in front of others if possible. Praising in public is a great way to boost an entire team's spirits.
* Be everywhere: Get out from behind the desk and go to where the folks you wish to thank actually work. Your kind words will go much farther.
* Be encouraging: Convince others to take your lead in providing praise to co-workers and direct reports. It will infuse this practice within your corporate culture.
While I'm by no means suggesting that the annual holiday party be canceled, I am stating that no company-wide bash will take the place of a sincere and unrehearsed thank you in front of colleagues. Better yet, doing so just cost a dime, but will provide huge returns in terms of productivity and employee retention. Public praise from superiors may be in short supply for some companies. For mine, however, we bank on it!
Bobby Brannigan is the founder and CEO of ValoreBooks, a fast-growing online provider of cheap college textbooks. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.