We all learned so many important lessons as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to mastering the skill of managing a remote workforce, one of the biggest lessons that business owners learned revolved around the power of employee recognition.
In the midst of the lockdown, I can remember feeling amazed, relieved, and deeply grateful for how efficiently and unselfishly our team stepped up and stepped out into our scary new world. It wasn’t always easy, and in many cases, it involved logistical gymnastics and extreme flexibility that I don’t think any of us realized we had to the extent that we did until we really needed it.
So, what’s the biggest lesson learned here? It’s not really that we have the ability to make technology work in brave, new ways (we knew that already). Nor is it the amazing ability of humans to figure out new ways to connect with each other and to get work done in extremely challenging situations (we also know that people are inherently wired and motivated to be together and will adjust to and figure out separation challenges, as needed).
Our primary lesson learned is how extremely important it is to convey genuine appreciation to our teams, whether it’s during a crazy pandemic or not. When psychological confusion and fatigue rises to the forefront of our work lives, tokens of genuine appreciation matter more than ever. Positive reinforcement is the best way to create a feeling of oneness within an organization, and prioritizing appreciation to be deeply embedded in our organizational cultures is critical for employee longevity and satisfaction.
Research shows that employee recognition is the primary key to driving organizational commitment. What a company recognizes and applauds gets repeated. Employees are the lifeblood of every business, so from top-level executives to entry-level staff, thank them all – a lot. Look for personal, meaningful and memorable ways to express gratitude for their efforts and commitment. Figure out what’s most important to them, allowing you to personalize your appreciation.
Be authentic in your gratitude, as well as specific, Tie your expressions of thanks directly to an exemplary action or a difference-making decision. Help them understand the positive impact it has on your organization. Lay the groundwork for making it repeatable over time.
Celebrate both individual and team successes, and whenever possible, tie the positive actions directly back to the values of your organization. This is how you create and nurture a positive, unselfish culture, as well as how you help your team take an “isolated incident” and institutionalize it within your company. Make it easy to repeat the positive action and to teach others how to do it as well.
In times of high stress, resilient organizations purposefully focus on communications that do not sugar-coat or minimize the realities that people face. They work hard to soothe the hearts and minds of their most valuable asset – their employees. Focus on where people are succeeding, and prop them up by celebrating small victories and showing genuine appreciation and thanks.
Cathy Ackermann, founder and president of Ackermann Marketing and PR, may be reached at cackermann@thinkackermann.com.

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