By Brittney Norris

I’m sure you may have heard a phrase similar to “People often don’t appreciate something until it’s gone.” I, for one, am guilty of doing this with both people and possessions. When I watched Mike Robbins speak about the power of appreciation during his TED Talk, it resonated with me on many levels.

Sendero Brittney NorrisGrowing up the youngest of three kids, my family was constantly on the go – baseball games, volleyball tournaments, sleepovers, birthday parties, beach days, and more. All the while my parents were cooking a hot breakfast every day before school, helping with homework every day after, and working full-time jobs. Often times I find myself wondering how they did it all. As I continue my adventure into adulthood and gain a new-found understanding of life in general, I still don’t have that answer and wonder if I will ever find it. What I do know, is I appreciate them now more than I ever did before.

As I reflect on the last year, there were many things I failed to realize the true value of until they were abruptly missing from life. In the wake of the pandemic, I found a new appreciation for such small things as I could no longer do them. The simple things I never knew I was taking for granted, I now appreciate so much more.

The same is true in the realm of work. Working remotely, I learned how important it is to feel valued and appreciated. Recognition and appreciation are both forms of gratitude, but are also vastly different in their true meaning and purpose.

Recognition and Appreciation: What’s the Difference

Appreciation and recognition are often confused, and there’s a slight distinction between the two. Appreciation is about who someone is, and recognition is about what someone has done. The key difference is that appreciation is a way to show gratitude for a person’s value, whereas recognition is showing gratitude for their actions.

Consider this example: your team member just presented a proposal to the leadership team. After the meeting, you tell them, “You did an excellent job on that presentation. The materials were organized, you facilitated questions with ease, and we got the approval we needed. Great work!” This scenario focuses on what the team member accomplished and, in turn, is an example of recognition.

Here is another: your team has been working with you for some time now. In a team huddle, you speak up to tell them “I truly value the time and commitment you put in for the team. Having you with us means a great deal and you are valuable and important to us.” This acknowledgement aligns with personal qualities which shows appreciation, not a tangible accomplishment that they have succeeded in.

Both appreciation and recognition are important aspects to demonstrating gratitude, but they are different and serve unique purposes. We often rely on recognition to express gratitude in response to a person’s performance or accomplishments, but appreciation is just as important. It is discussed time and time again that showing appreciation builds the foundation for people to feel more valued as a person. This can then drive engagement, build relationships, propel them to do their best work, etc. It is obvious why appreciation also needs to be our focus, but how do we make that happen?

Both appreciation and recognition are important aspects to demonstrating gratitude, but they are different and serve unique purposes.

How is Appreciation Shown at Sendero?

At Sendero, our company strives to find ways to implement both forms of appreciation and recognition. Our Talent Management function, in collaboration with consultants, created a Support and Gratitude Guide for our Management Team members to utilize. In the guide we provide resources to help identify areas where additional employee support, care, and appreciation are needed. And in turn, provide guidelines, resources, and ideas to enhance engagement in these areas. We outline different ways to show both appreciation and recognition, but distinguish between the two.

In addition, one of our internal committees organizes a yearly Employee Appreciation Week. In years past, there was everything from lunches served by our leadership team to small gift cards. While the pandemic really put a wrinkle in the 2020 plans, Sendero still managed to find a way to show employees their appreciation. In trying times, they sent personalized snack boxes to every single employee. The effort that was put into finding a creative approach to show appreciation meant more than any other physical gift I have received in the previous 8 years.

It didn’t matter what was in the box, but the simple fact that showing appreciation to employees was still so important that not even a global pandemic could stop it.

Ways to Show Appreciation Wherever You Are

How can you show effective, meaningful appreciation in the workplace? The methods are endless and the phrase, “it’s the thought that counts”, holds true here as well. Try finding a way that is meaningful to the person themselves.

  • Show your gratitude in a team meeting: Some individuals value being appreciated in public settings – find out what works best for your team members.
  • Tell them one-on-one: Utilize an existing meeting or set-up a different time to voice appreciation, both in-person and virtual environments work.
  • Take someone to coffee or lunch: Or in the virtual world, have something delivered to them.
  • Create a guide that provides examples for your employees: Provide tangible ways to show appreciation and recognition that they can take action on.
  • Give a gift card: Send an electronic card or hand mail / deliver a physical card – both are great options.
  • Start an Employee Appreciation Day or Week: Start small or go BIG, remember “it’s the thought that counts.”
  • Send a note or email unrelated to a task or accomplishment: Words are powerful and, now more than ever, in an isolated and secluded world of a pandemic, they can make all the difference. It doesn’t have to be fancy or lengthy. The gesture itself speaks volumes.

When showing appreciation, here are a few tips to consider:

1. Tell them why and acknowledge their impact: Employees will feel more gratified when they realize their worth.

2. Be specific: Make them feel special by writing or speaking to how you feel (e.g., I am so grateful for… your kindness meant the world to me… I’m so appreciative that…).

3. Create the tone of the message: Be sincere with what you want to say.

4. Add personalization: How you deliver the message of appreciation can be impactful.

So what can we learn from our childhood or even the past year? Find the things to appreciate now. Don’t wait until they are gone to find out how much they mean. Appreciate your coworkers and team members as individuals in the present. It can go a long way.

At Sendero, our company strives to find ways to implement both forms of appreciation and recognition.

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