Make your appreciation known

Make your appreciation known

Your team members want to know their hard work is noticed and they’re appreciated for their strengths. Here’s how I shower my team members with appreciation at our veterinary hospital.
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Oct 27, 2017

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A few years ago, we sent out employee satisfaction surveys for anonymous feedback. I was prepared for the possibility of negative comments, but I was shocked to discover how unappreciated the staff felt. I was disheartened and discouraged, because I thought we did a lot of things for our staff. It was a hard lesson to learn that positive feedback is in the eye of the beholder, not the giver. Of all the improvements that I thought we might need to make, a lack of appreciation didn't seem like one of them.

I knew that I needed to take the feedback seriously and make improvements. After all, one of the leading causes of employee turnover is a feeling of being taken for granted. Immediately, I did some reading on different examples of appreciation:

What about my bennies? I evaluated our benefits package to see if there was any way we could make improvements. I ended up adding a new paid CE benefit.

Who loves you? We do. Also, I started an employee of the month program and a "pat on the back" program. The employee of the month involved a pretty simple anonymous voting system, but it really brought positivity into our meetings. Once a month I would read all of the votes for each staff member, and it was nice to see what everyone loved about each other.

It’s your special day! For the "pat on the back" system, nominations came in over time, and I occasionally picked one of the nominees as a "super star" of the day. I bought the person a favorite snack. I wanted this to come from me specifically (even though someone else nominated them) because I wanted team members to know I was seeing the positive things they were bringing on a daily basis to our hospital.

So … what do you like? We incorporated into our hiring paperwork an "appreciation worksheet" that goes into all of that person's favorite things—cake flavor, book, restaurant and more—so that I know in advance what to get if I need to get something special for someone.

Long-hand appreciation. I also hand-write thank-you notes more often, and if I notice someone going above and beyond, I give the occasional Starbucks or other gift card.

You can see I really tried a multi-faceted approach to displaying appreciation. I also surprise the team with random breakfast, snacks or Starbucks drinks when the day is long or hectic.

Each year following the anonymous surveys, I evaluate our appreciation efforts to see if there’s anything we can do better. For instance, this year we modified the employee of the month program and replaced it with redeemable coupons that they can turn in for things they really want: gift cards, lunch with someone from the leadership team, breakfast for the staff and more.

I'm happy to report that last year’s survey found our leadership team scoring “satisfactory” or above on appreciation efforts from the team. I didn't let on how relieved I felt with those ratings, because it really meant a lot to me that my team knows how much I value them.

Carol Hurst is a practice manager at ABC Animal and Bird Clinic in Sugar Land, Texas