It can be easy to slip into a “what have you done for me lately” mind set with employees, and to forget what really makes your business turn. Simply expressing your appreciation will have a far-reaching impact on the personal development, motivation and productivity of your employees.

Your people are your greatest asset. This phrase is often bandied around loosely. You’ll read it in mission and value statements, and hear it said by managers – though seldom to their employees. Read on for some strategies to show your appreciation for work well done.

1. Invest

What is your training budget for the year ahead? Have you even thought about it? Do you consider training an expense or an investment? Much of the frustration business owners and managers experience with their employees results from their own failure to train properly.

Work out your training budget based on actual courses that would help your employees perform at an optimal level. Remember you may even be able to recoup some of your investment under the Skills Development Levy.

Consider external training. Allow your employees to gain certification for courses attended rather than simply teaching them the parts (e.g. Excel) they need for the job. Encourage them to consider courses that go beyond the immediate requirements of their jobs to help them widen their perspectives.

Athletes train before they compete, but all too often managers expect subordinates to perform without proper instruction and guidance. Some managers even prefer to use discipline as their management tool. Without training, discipline is ineffective. Discipline should be viewed as the “damage control” part of training, and as insufficient in itself to effect proper behavioural change.

2. Mentor

How much time do you spend helping your employees become better at their jobs? Do you take the time to explain how their contribution links into the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve?

Business owners are by definition extremely busy and steal moments out of their hectic days to meet with staff, usually about matters that require their immediate attention. Is your diary filled with tasks that could be done in part, or whole, by a subordinate? Delegating some of this work will provide some relief for you and the opportunity for an employee to learn something new. What would be the worst outcome if the job isn’t done correctly? If the risk of disaster is low, delegate immediately, if the risk is relatively high, training and guidance may be necessary. And you’ll make your employee more accountable in the process.

3. Listen

Some bosses like to impart wisdom, but struggle to have two-way conversations. It’s important to take the time to hear other perspectives. Encourage your employees to air their views, give them the opportunity to be heard with dignity and respect.

Ask questions that will help you gain a better appreciation of where an employee is at. Provide informal as well as formal spaces in which they can share. Quietly spoken employees are often the most observant.

Don’t just assume that your employees understand your instructions. And asking if they understand isn’t the solution. Instead ask them to explain the process back to you, to give examples of how they’d apply it, and to consider what the possible ramifications of their suggestions could be, etc. And yes, you can expect this to all take some time…

4. Acknowledge

I had a client who called all his employees “buddy”. Many of them had been with him for years and assumed he didn’t know their names, couldn’t remember them or didn’t know how to pronounce them. Learn the names of all your employees and pronounce them properly the effort will be appreciated.

A survey conducted for another client, showed that his employees wished he would take the time to greet them when he saw them. He usually just nodded as he passed.

What do you know about your employees? Are they married? Do they have children? Do they play a musical instrument? Are they active in sport? Take an interest. Be consistent throughout. People like to know where the lines are and what the consequence of crossing them will be. Be aware of each person’s contribution and acknowledge this.

5. Reward

Regular performance discussions are essential. Develop ways to measure the key contributions each employee is expected to make and reward them when these are achieved. Differentiate between solid and poor performers.

Create short-term incentives to encourage the results and behaviour you want in the workplace. Keep the piece of string short with these incentives – if you tug on the end, you should be able to see what you’re pulling. And let employees know what they are striving for in terms of incentives.

Rewards need not merely take the form of cash. Consider the products that you can readily access at reduced cost, but which would be deemed of greater value to an employee. A meal for two at a fancy restaurant, perhaps with a limousine thrown in… Remember that not all people will regard the same rewards in the same light. Be resourceful and find out what would really mean a lot to your employees.

Great bosses are constantly learning, improving, leading and guiding, and their staff love them for it.

Reference: Rob Rankin