Friday 14 February 2020 4:30 am

Employee appreciation: Showing your office some love is not just for Valentine’s Day

Kelly Barnett is people director at employee retention firm Peakon.
People director, Peakon

Love is in the air, everywhere you look around. From office DJs to doughnut days, workplaces today are increasingly turning to kooky perks to show employees love and appreciation.

But like any good date, employee appreciation should be carefully thought out. It requires a proper strategy, and consistency.

Read more: It’s Valentine’s Day – here’s what to do when your romantic and professional lives collide

No one-off show of love will make up for being ignored for the rest of the year, and too often perks are now thought of as a quick fix to a more serious engagement problem. The real key to keeping that spark alive in the workforce is ensuring people feel valued and appreciated. Like any good relationship, this starts with open communication. So make quality time for one another. Arrange that one-to-one meeting. Gather feedback and act upon it to build mutual trust.

To really understand what makes employees tick, find out what they hope to achieve from each stage of their career and support that accordingly. What motivates them? What sort of rewards will support their current and future growth? Unless you ask and take action, you can’t help them get there. But don’t come on too strong. Give space when needed and be accommodating of pressures outside of work.

Don’t shy away from public displays of affection. Peer-to-peer recognition can be a very powerful tool when it comes to boosting employee engagement. Deliver praise at a company-wide level, via meetings, or perhaps even through the company’s Instagram account. Don’t be afraid to show your appreciation.

Like in any relationship, there are rules around gifting. While there’s no substitute for recognition, tangible rewards can help reinforce psychological ones — as long as companies get it right. We’ve all been on the receiving end of that slightly odd present because the giver had no idea what we wanted. Meaningful gifts require thought, and when done properly, can lead to excellent results.

But above all, understand that money can’t buy you love. An end-of-year bonus or pay rise may seem like an easy way to boost motivation, but it could have the opposite effect. Receiving fair compensation for work is essential. However, the impact of rewards on motivation relies much more on context and interpretation than how much you are actually paying people.

One of the quickest ways to make sure people feel like they are being fairly rewarded is to have open conversations about pay. This should involve explaining the factors that are considered when calculating it, and how this process happens.

Our own research shows that not being able to discuss pay is a bigger reason for employees leaving than simply feeling underpaid.

Read more: Starling Bank gives shares to employees as it raises £60m

So what can companies do differently in 2020? Understand that a quick sugar hit, one-off surprise, or new perk will not make your employees swoon in the long run. Acknowledge that like, love, recognition requires a strategy and is a year-round endeavour.

A passionate, dedicated, and engaged workforce is vital to a healthy bottom line in business. Without love, staff will be far more inclined to simply walk away and find someone who values them more.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.