Build a culture of appreciation in your small business

culture of appreciationWant employees to get how much you appreciate them?

You have to show it, and you have to mean it.

Sounds easy. But an atmosphere of thankfulness isn’t just an annual event, where you thank your co-workers for their service and get back to work. Ceremonies are nice, but if you really want to communicate your appreciation, you need to develop a culture of appreciation in your company. It’s a work in progress, but I thought I’d share how my co-workers and I have been striving to reach that goal.

Notice how I call them my co-workers? Even though I sign their paychecks, they’re more like family to me than employees. I have an open door policy, so if they need to speak to me, I’m available. They know they can share whatever is on their minds. If they have to take off for some reason, I’m okay with that. I trust that they’re going to get their work done.  That trust and respect for them is, believe it or not, one way to show appreciation.

When it comes to pay, I try to be generous no matter what is happening with the economy. I usually give performance reviews every six months, and with that, there is usually an opportunity to get a bump up in pay. I recognize milestones when my co-workers achieve them, at 5, 10, 15, even 20+ years.

There are other ways I show my appreciation. In addition to offering health insurance, 401k, and vacation time, I decided to offer a stock options program so they could really have a stake in our company’s future. Notice how I call it “our” company?

I also give them flexibility because I recognize that they have lives outside of the office. They can wear what they want. While I expect them to behave with professionalism, they can wear flip flops everyday if that’s what floats their boat. I want them to be comfortable while they’re doing the hard work. And they know it.

Because we are in the online software business, they can work from home, or take a laptop outside of our new offices on a sunny day.

Speaking of the new offices, that was another significant way that I showed my appreciation. For many years, we rented offices in a 100-year old building.  This building presented a lot of “challenges”.  Eventually I realized that the building was actually affecting our overall morale. So after a long search, we relocated to a new building in a great location with lots of windows providing fresh air and sunlight, and plenty of room to grow. This last year of transitioning to our freshly renovated building has been a very personal and important way for me to show my appreciation to my co-workers – each and every one!

Probably one of the most important things that I do is say “thank you” at the end of each day. One day I just thought I would try it. At first it was hard, because I thought, “I’m giving them a paycheck. Isn’t that thanks enough?” But I humbled myself and started saying thank you. Frankly, now I love doing it!

When new employees hear me, their employer, say “thank you” the first time or two, they’re actually surprised. Their previous employers never did that.

I started the practice of saying “thank you” every day, and it just became a part of my job; and a part of me. I was becoming an appreciative employer. I found that I truly was appreciative of the hard work and caring that each person put forth that day.

Then an even stranger thing happened: My co-workers started saying “thank you” back! Apparently, they went through the same process I did; they realized that they were thankful to me too!

You see, this culture of appreciation is a two way street. That’s why we have very little turnover here.

My co-workers show their appreciation by giving me their best, by holding their end of the bargain that we make when they join my company. They see me working hard, and they want to work hard too. They treat each other with respect and show appreciation for each other – in simple ways — like clapping when someone rings a sales bell. They genuinely like each other and want to work together.

If this sounds like a great place to work, it is.

Key takeaways

If you don’t have this culture of appreciation built into your organization, you can start today to change that. Start by saying “thank you” every day to your co-workers. Care about what’s going on in their lives, not just at their desks. Pray for them. Be the example of appreciation that your employees are looking for, and you will transform your organization from the inside out.


About the Author

mike kappel

Mike Kappel is the president of Patriot Software, Inc., which develops affordable online software for U.S. small business owners. As a serial entrepreneur, he has successfully started five small businesses and shares advice for other entrepreneurs in his blog, the Small Business Expert. Connect with him on Twitter @MikeKappel and Google+.

Photo Credit: meddygarnet (Flickr)


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