irreverent, thought-provoking analysis of the industry-- with an
occasional guest columnist.
Show Them the Love When You Can't Show Them the
Five affordable ways to boost
employee happiness, loyalty, and motivation.
by Todd Patkin
(July 18, 2011)
(Note: Todd Patkin grew up in Needham,
Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the
family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it
to new heights. It was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005.)
No matter how much they want to reward their
employees, many leaders just don't have the financial resources to
give out much-deserved raises and bonuses. Fortunately, according to
Todd Patkin, you don't need to spend a cent to show your people
beyond a shadow of a doubt that you care about them and appreciate
their hard work.
To say the least, 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, you don't need a single dime to
make your people happy at work or to show them just 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. Instead, showing
appreciation, respect, and, yes, even love are the three most
important ways to make your people feel great about their work. And
happy, engaged employees are the single best way to impact your
company’s bottom line.
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. 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.
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, 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
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
Here are five show-the-love strategies that you
can use to say "Thanks for a job well done!" to any employee, any
time -- without spending a cent:
1. Send "love" 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. 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. Also, it will encourage them to likewise say
"thank you" more often to their own subordinates within your
company. Think of writing what I call "love notes" as a way to
invest in your company’s atmosphere and future!
2. 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. But 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.
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.
3. Tell success stories. Even if they
brush off praise or downplay their achievements, everybody loves to
be recognized and complimented. When someone in your organization
has done something great, tell her that you noticed her outstanding
work, and tell the rest of the team, too! Whether correctly or
incorrectly, many employees feel that their leaders take them for
granted and only point out their mistakes, so make it your daily
mission to prove that perception wrong.
When I was at Autopart International and I saw
that one of my people did something noteworthy, I made sure that
everyone else knew about it by sending the story about her
accomplishment around in an email to the entire chain. I could
literally see the glow on the highlighted employee’s face for weeks,
and I also noticed that many of the other team members now worked
even harder too in order to earn a write-up themselves. Remember to
always praise in public as loudly as possible, and conversely,
criticize only in private.
4. Identify stars. Identifying stars is
taking the concept behind telling success stories to the next level.
Yes, recognize achievements whenever you see them, but also make
celebrating your stars a regular event. Sure, some team members will
roll their eyes at "Employee of the Week/Month" programs, but you
can rest assured that no one is going to turn down this honor.
Instead of singling out just one person, you
might even consider recognizing multiple individuals every month.
For example, I always wrote about several store managers in our
"Managers of the Month" newsletter. Later, I included assistant
managers, store supervisors, store salespeople, and our drivers in
this letter of champions as well. My profiles for each star would
often be a full page in length, lauding both their professional
achievements and wonderful personal qualities. The newsletters
themselves were often thirty pages in length when finished. But I
know many within the team loved to read these personalized
recognitions each month, and they motivated lots of the employees to
work even harder to earn a spot on the pages themselves.
5. Make it a family affair. Whenever
possible, engage your employees' families when praising them. Having
a leader validate all the hours each team member spends at work will
be remembered far longer than a bonus (really!). Plus, when spouses
and kids know what Mom or Dad does at work and are "on board" with
it, your employee’s performance will be buoyed by support from the
ones he or she loves the most.
For example, if an employee did something
really tremendous, I would call his home, generally trying to get
the answering machine and not a person. Then I’d leave a voicemail
like this one:
“Hi, (name of spouse and kids), this is Todd
Patkin from Autopart International where your husband and dad works.
I just want to tell you that your husband and dad is the most
incredible, wonderful, amazing person in the whole world. He just
broke our Nashua, New Hampshire, store’s all-time sales record.
Guys, that is incredible!! So, please, kids, do me a favor. When
your dad comes home tonight, everyone run up and give him a huge hug
and tell him how proud you are of him and how great he is. And,
(name of spouse), I hope you too will give him a big hug and a
wonderful kiss to make sure he knows how much you love him and how
much he is appreciated for all he’s doing for our company. Thanks,
In fact, years later, many employees whose
families received these phone calls told me that although they
didn't remember how much their bonus checks were for that year, that
extra-special homecoming was still clearly etched in their memories.
Trust me, showing people love, appreciation,
and respect trump money just about every time when it comes to
building long-term motivation and boosting employee morale and
loyalty. When you take the time to make your employees feel valued,
they'll know that you care about them on a more personal level, and
they’ll be much happier at work. And in the end, when you’ve
achieved a really positive atmosphere at work and the improved
bottom line that will surely come from it, you’ll feel amazing too!
(Note: Todd Patkin's book, Finding
Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and –
Finally -- Let the Sunshine In, is published by Step Wise Press.
It's available at
www.toddpatkin.com for $18.00 and is also available at
bookstores and major online booksellers (ISBN: n978-0-9658261-9-8).