The past few years haven’t been the best for business. We’ve weathered a brutal recession, and most of us aren’t out of the woods yet. What’s more, it’s not only finances that have taken a hit – morale is suffering, too. In the battle for survival, many organizations have developed perpetually stressful atmospheres in which employees are asked to do more with less – often with little thanks. In many cases, it’s not that employers want to shaft their people; they simply can’t afford not to cut hours and positions, and they definitely don’t have the funds for raises and bonuses.
Fortunately, says Todd Patkin, you don’t need a dime to make your people happy at work or to show them how much you care about them and appreciate their efforts.
“People will never admit it, but money is not the thing they desire most from their work,” he shares. “Instead, showing appreciation, respect and yes, even love are the three most important ways to make your people feel great about their work.” Patkin, author of “Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and – Finally – Let the Sunshine In," states that “happy, engaged employees are the single best way to impact your company’s bottom line.”
For nearly two decades, Patkin was instrumental in leading his family’s auto parts business, Autopart International, to new heights – until it was bought by Advance Auto Parts in 2006 for more money than he ever dreamed possible. During that time, Patkin made it his No. 1 priority to always put his people and their happiness first.
“As a leader, I quickly found that if my team was content and their work environment was a positive one, they would be more engaged and motivated, and they would truly care about our organization’s future,” he elaborates. “Plus, it was even more rewarding for me to see that my employees were happy – and often even ecstatic – than it was for me that we were making money.”
Patkin adds, “It’s more important now than ever before to show your employees love and appreciation, because we’re in the midst of an economic downturn, so you probably won’t have the money to give big raises and bonuses.”
Furthermore, Patkin maintains that if your employees are perpetually stressed out, they’ll be less motivated and more disengaged. And when they’re unhappy, they’ll do only what they must to avoid chastisement – and you’ll lose money in the long term. Also, when the economy turns around, they’ll be more likely to look for a new job elsewhere.
“If there is one thing I would like to tell all leaders at all levels and in all industries, it’s that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain – including an improved bottom line – by making your organization as happy a place to work as possible.”
Five of Patkin’s strategies to say “thanks for a job well done” include:
Send appreciation notes. Writing and sending a thank-you note is standard practice when you receive a gift. And what is great, thorough work other than a gift from your people to you? When you notice that an individual has done an excellent job or has achieved an important goal, send a specific handwritten (not typed!) note conveying your most sincere appreciation and admiration. This will take only one sheet of paper and five minutes out of your day – but it’ll make a lasting impression on your employee.
“When you’re a leader, you’re busy and often overwhelmed,” Patkin acknowledges. “It’s understandable that you might overlook saying the words ‘thank you,’ much less writing them. Remember, though, that positive reinforcement and sincere gratitude will increase the respect your team has for you and will improve their opinion of your entire organization.”
Distribute inspiration. Our society tends to think of work as a place of drudgery, obligation and boredom, as exemplified in the now-iconic movie “Office Space.” People certainly don’t think of receiving inspiration and rejuvenation between nine and five. According to Patkin, though, buoying your team’s spirits should be one of your daily goals. If you help them to see the world as a sunnier place and to improve their attitudes and ways of thinking about their entire lives, their professional and personal productivity will increase too.
“If you run across a quotation or story that inspires you, don’t keep it to yourself – pass it along to an employee and perhaps, if appropriate, also mention that the quote or anecdote reminded you of him and his great attitude,” Patkin suggests. “Alternatively, you might consider sending out a quote or lesson of the day. Yes, the idea might sound hokey at first, but I firmly believe that most people vastly underestimate the power of feeding their minds with inspirational and educational material.”