It doesn't take much. It doesn't take a lot of time, effort, or money to let your employees know you appreciate them and the talents they bring to your organization. Sometimes a simple, sincere Thank you is all that's needed.
A few years ago while conducting leadership training, I was meeting with the senior team after having worked with two of their management teams the prior day. I had been brainstorming with all three groups on various things they could do to help jump-start employee engagement and let the employees know the leadership team was serious about making some changes. As the company owner and the senior managers tossed out various ideas they anticipated the other managers and employees would appreciate, they stated things such as: extra vacation days, flex time, a bonus program, an enlarged break room with gaming tables, and pay increases. Needless to say, they were puzzled when I walked to a framed poster hanging on the wall I had made and had covered. As I started to take off the cover draping, I said, "Here is the number one thing both management groups said they'd most appreciate from you..." As I removed the draping from the poster, the senior team saw in simple black letters: THANK YOU.
Needless to say, the senior team and the business owner were stunned. They looked at me with a mix of disbelief and embarrassment, followed by acknowledgement of the simplicity and impact of those two words.
That moment changed that leadership team and changed that company.
Just last week, one of my key team members reminded me of this lesson too. As she was leaving for the day, Gina walked into my office and said, "I was just cleaning out a few files we no longer need. However, you know, I do keep these things because they do mean a lot to me." In her hand was a hand-drawn star. It was a basic, non-artistic star, addressed to her from me and dated August of 2007. Apparently she had done something amazing that day and in my own way, I had given her this quick sign of gratitude to make her smile and know she had done something that mattered. I can't tell you what she did, but at that time to her and to me it mattered. I've given out these "silly" hand-drawn stars over the years. Even though to many it may sound childish, to those who receive them they mean a lot.
Simple Thank You's and hand-drawn stars in and of themselves are no replacement for regularly recognizing the efforts, talents, and gifts your employees bring to the workplace.
But these and other little things do mean a lot to those who do a lot for us.