Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, once said, “There are two things people want more than sex and money…recognition and praise.”

I’m not sure that’s true, but it’s worth considering.

What has been proven in research is that the one motivating factor at the top of most employee lists is appreciation.  It is actually requested more than money.

Ultimately, appreciation will never compensate for underpayment, because underpayment is devaluing.  However, appreciation is something that can be given by the employer or supervisor with no hit to the bottom line.

So here are some suggestions about Appreciation Implementation.

1.  Be specific. Avoid easy responses like, “Great job.” Instead, “Thanks, Joe, for completing that manual that was due this morning. I can tell you invested a lot of time and research, and I appreciate the effort.

Delivery time:  8 seconds

2.  Timing is everything. The less time between the action and your expression of appreciation, the greater the impact. Don’t wait until quarterly reviews are due. Tell her now. “Angie, I just received your report and looked it over. Thanks so much for attending to all those details. I know it was a massive project.”

Delivery time:  7 seconds

3.  Be consistent.  Avoid placing the golden children on a pedestal.  “Employee of the Month” is not motivating to those who worked as hard as the golden child and weren’t recognized for their efforts.  If you’re going to set up a competitive environment, make the rules for appreciation clear.  Be consistent when showing appreciation.  Everyone who reaches the goal needs to be acknowledged.  Otherwise, you’re creating bad morale and favoritism.   Don’t mix appreciation with other communication, like corrective action.  (This is sometimes called “sandwiching”.)  The savvy receiver learns and prepares in his mind for these formulas by saying, “Okay.  Here we go again.  She’s going to acknowledge something I did right, then something I did wrong, and then something I did right again.”  Ready, set, go.

4.  Learn how someone wants to receive appreciation. Some people love public praise.  Others are embarrassed or annoyed by it.  Some prefer it to be expressed privately.   Some like to hear it.  Some like to read it.  Extend appreciation in the way it is best received, not in the way that is most convenient to you or the way you’d like to receive it.

5.  Connect with intrinsic values. Certainly people show up for their paychecks, benefits, and security.  They also want to see the value in their work – how they contribute; how it is purposeful.  This is especially important if their tasks are tedious or repetitive.  Help them understand that their efforts are contributing to a larger picture, and show them how what they do connects to their personal values.  If you don’t, they will be bored and passive-aggressive, with minimal productivity.

6.  Give freely what is free.  Jack Canfield in “The Success Principles” states that the top three motivates for employees are (1) appreciation, (2) feeling “in” on things, and (3) understanding attitude.  These rank above job security, good wages, interesting work, promotion opportunities, loyalty from management, good working conditions, and tactful discipline.

In his summary he points out that the top three items (appreciation, feeling “in” on things, and understanding attitude) simply require time, respect, and understanding, with only a positive impact on the budget.

7.  Maintain the momentum.  Appreciation keeps us focused.  When what we’re doing is noticed and appreciated, we’re much more likely to do more of the same.