Show Them Some Extra Appreciation

March 1 is employee-appreciation day, yet chances are most companies won’t be doing anything to mark the occasion.

At least, that’s the indication of a recent report by Oakland, Cailf.-based Bersin by Deloitte. The report, The State of Employee Recognition in 2012, finds nearly 70 percent of employees say they are recognized just once per year or not at all.

92279520--emp. appreciationWhich doesn’t make a lot of sense if you consider another report by Southborough, Mass.-based Globoforce Motivation Worldwide, Workforce Mood Tracker Spring 2012 Report, showing 78 percent of employees would work harder if their efforts were better appreciated. (Here’s the executive summary if you want the “Cliff Notes.”)

Actually, says Halley Bock, CEO and president of Fierce Inc., a Seattle-based leadership-development and training company, appreciating employees should be done far more than just over a 24-hour holiday — for those that even do that.

“To create a more productive, loyal work environment,” says Bock, “managers need to engage in frequent, clear communication with employees and make sure they feel seen and heard.” Her company has put together these tips for employers looking to both reward and critique:

Stay current. Stop delaying, avoiding, postponing, or rescheduling feedback. In fact, don’t let more than 48 hours go by when an issue arises. Avoiding a difficult conversation about performance will only result in a laundry list of complaints, causing the recipient to want to make a run for the exit. Make things easier and much more productive by addressing issues as they arise in a short and sweet manner, free of any emotional load. Rule of thumb: If a manager has more than three positive or negative examples of employee behavior to communicate, this conversation is long overdue.

Solicit their feedback. One of the best ways to acknowledge employees’ efforts is to turn the tables and ask for their feedback on a high-stakes decision. More than anything, employees — especially millennials — want to play an active role in their organization. Giving them an occasional opportunity to participate at a deeper level not only improves decisions, but also expresses appreciation for the employees’ dedication and commitment to the company.

Praise publicly, coach privately. Frequent and sincere praise creates high-functioning work environments and enriches relationships. Be generous and specific with praise, but don’t get overly gushy or take up too much time. Acknowledgement should include: the observable behavior, where it took place, when it took place, and most importantly, what changed or was produced for the better. If the issue is negative, pull the employee aside and allow for space to give the feedback. Keep employees’ feelings in mind — if the conversation could reflect poorly on their work or their reputation, discuss the issue in private.

To add to these suggestions, New York-based recognition company Michael C. Fina is using employee-appreciation day to share this infographic showing the best ways to recognize the four different generations now in the workforce.

And MeritShare, another Seattle-based company (Seattle must be a recognition hub!), is using the day to announce its launch of a new “U.S. heat map of employee appreciation” (registration required) — along with a national recognition index, with data analytics and scoring components, for companies to measure and track their employee engagement.

The purpose of the heat map, according to the company’s release, is to change the dismal lack of corporate recognition highlighted in Bersin by Deloitte’s study “by allowing any employee to create an online recognition program for [his or her] company at no charge … with awards, shout-outs and comments,” as well as options to share them through social media.

As Travis Pearl, MeritShare’s co-founder, puts it: “Employee and peer recognition is one of the simplest and most powerful tools to make work better.”

Too bad so few employers really seem to get that, even with the plethora of vendors out there, dedicated to making it ever simpler.

But vendor or no, even if it’s just a handshake and a “thank you,” go for it; there’s no better time than today.