The Leadership Secret to Making Employees Feel Valued

Let’s face it: It feels good to be recognized.

You know the feeling—your partner thanks you for doing the dishes, your colleague compliments your solution to a difficult problem, a friend is grateful for your supportive texts. This acknowledgment makes us feel seen and valued.

From a professional standpoint, making employees feel valued in the workplace is a fundamental—though often overlooked—leadership skill.

Baking recognition into the everyday culture of an organization can have a real impact—both for individuals and the company as a whole.

Whether you’re a new manager or a seasoned leader, you’ll have happier and more engaged employees if you practice the art of employee appreciation.  

This article will give you ideas for how to do just that. But before I jump too far ahead, you might be wondering…


Why does employee appreciation matter, anyway?

Most of us would agree that recognizing a person’s accomplishments and appreciating their contributions is the right thing to do. And it makes sense that this recognition would foster good relationships and make people feel good.

This goes beyond simply being polite. It turns out that being appreciated matters to a lot of us, according to a study on recognition in the workplace:

mini-infographic: 53% of respondents want to receive more recognition from their immediate manager; 4 in 10 respondents want more recognition from their immediate coworkers

Not only does making employees feel valued matter to individuals, but it also delivers big returns when it comes to a company’s bottom line. Here’s how:



Data from Quantum Workplace shows that “when employees believe they will be recognized, they are 2.7x more likely to be highly engaged.” Showing appreciation improves employee productivity for the simple reason that they know their hard work is recognized. Increased productivity is inherently tied to performance. The better your employees perform, the better your company does.



Appreciating employees publicly can have a ripple effect across the workplace. In fact, employees rank “recognition and celebrations” among the top 3 ways they feel culture. When you recognize an employee in front of the entire company or group, you make them feel valued. This motivates others to work hard, as well as encourages a culture of appreciation, where employees are quick to call out each other’s wins.



Despite the modern workplace trend of switching jobs every two to three years, valued employees are more likely to stay with the company. According to HR professionals, recognition programs can positively affect retention (68%) and recruitment (56%).



Your employees are often the face of your company. They’re the ones interacting with customers daily and representing your brand to the world. If you want them to do a good job of that, model the type of appreciation you want them to extend to your customers.


Health and well-being

Gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving—whether you’re on the giving or receiving end. According to research, those practicing gratitude reap rewards when it comes to overall well-being. This includes:

…fewer aches and pains, better sleep, a decrease in cortisol (the stress hormone) and improved cardiac functioning. Mental benefits include increased happiness, decreased depression and anxiety, and better self-esteem. Gratitude can also have an impact on our social lives with evidence of stronger interpersonal relationships and increased empathy for others.

And employees who have better holistic health are more likely to grow professionally, impacting performance at work.



Creating a culture of recognition not only acknowledges employee achievements but also aligns them with the organization’s values and strategic direction, which can foster a more innovative environment. When employees feel valued, sharing ideas and trying new things becomes easier.


6 ways to make employees feel valued

Employee appreciation takes commitment and consistency. Here are five actionable steps to start expressing your gratitude at work. 


1. Give praise for the small things

Not every praise has to be groundbreaking or massive for your company. While many companies reserve employee appreciation for major milestones, recognizing “small” wins is equally important (and fosters a culture of appreciation more quickly).

This strategy acknowledges the power of incremental change: All those little accomplishments add up and make a big difference to a company’s overall success.

That same domino effect can happen in the lives of your employees. Regular appreciation shows your people that you’re invested in them and what they do. It shows that you care. And you never know when a seemingly small gesture will have a big impact:


2. Be specific when expressing appreciation

Meme: photo of Will Ferrel from Anchor Man, smirking:

To learn how to make employees feel valued at work, you have to be specific when expressing appreciation. When praise is specific, it shows that you care and you’re paying attention. When you call out particular traits or accomplishments, your words mean more than broad appreciation (that could be directed at anyone). Learning to notice and express your gratitude is a true leadership skill.

Authors Gary Chapman and Paul White take specific feedback a step further—arguing that many employee recognition programs are too generic. In their book, “The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace,” the authors make the case for authentic appreciation—which advocates for appreciation that is most meaningful to the recipient.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation


3. Send weekly appreciation emails

Email is a powerful medium to communicate with employees. And it’s much easier to address an entire team in an email than to do it verbally. Moreover, your employees will feel satisfied knowing you’ve noticed all of their hard work.

Of the five languages of appreciation, words of affirmation top the list for most people (and email is a great way to express those words):

Mini-infographic: 47% prefer verbal praise as their primary language of appreciation (which can be orally, in writing, one-on-one, group setting, etc.)


4. Encourage career growth

Employees dream of working for a company that provides career opportunities and encourages growth. Too many companies prioritize the wrong things—often minimizing employee salaries—which typically backfires with high turnover (and ultimately fewer profits).

Tweet by Luke Beachley about annual raises vs. switching companies. Companies are willing to pay new talent much more than they are to retain employees.
See original post here

Salary is only one—very important!—concrete way to show appreciation. Supportive management (encouraging, advocating), valuable experience (the chance to work with a specific team or contribute to an important project), a path to move up within the company, professional development opportunities, and work-life balance are all examples of practical and meaningful ways to show appreciation for your employees’ hard work.



5. Turn employee appreciation into a social activity

Some companies incorporate appreciation through gamification. One example would be performance management software, like 15five, where you have an opportunity to tag and virtually “high-five” colleagues for a job well done.

Group recognition can also be a positive way to praise employees. Consider organizing regular events, like lunches or coffee breaks, specifically to celebrate team achievements and individual contributions.

For virtual teams, try a weekly “wins” happy hour via Slack where employees can highlight each other’s accomplishments.

Public recognition not only makes employees feel valued but can also incentivize teams and promote a hard-working culture.


6. Celebrate work anniversaries and milestones

Make a point to celebrate work anniversaries, significant project completions, or personal milestones like birthdays. These celebrations can be as simple as a card signed by the team, an office party, or recognizing employees over a celebratory Slack channel.


Ultimately, you get back what you give

Being a leader is a great responsibility. Your standards, habits, and priorities help create (and reinforce) the culture of your organization.

But remember, you don’t have to change the world or hold the title of CEO to be a great leader. Leading with gratitude requires paying attention to the little things, investing in people, and sharing both accountability and success.

Happier, engaged employees are more motivated to do their best work—which leads to the best results for your organization. Win-win.

How will you make employees feel valued today? Let’s get to work.