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The Power of Gratitude

Tire dealers often say their business would fail without their employees. But do their employees know that? Sometimes owners and managers think they are communicating appreciation to their staff, but the sentiment may be falling short.

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Tire dealers often say their business would fail without their employees. But do their employees know that?

Sometimes owners and managers think they are communicating appreciation to their staff, but the sentiment may be falling short.

A 10-year, 200,000-person study from the O.C. Tanner Institute found that 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite lack of appreciation as a key reason for leaving. In that same study, 65% of employees reported that they weren’t recognized once in the previous year.

“People – employees, managers and owners – want to be appreciated for the work they do,” says Dr. Paul White, psychologist and co-author of the book 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. “Most people don’t just want to work for money.”

In fact, a global study from the Boston Consulting Group found that of 26 different factors for happiness on the job, appreciation was ranked No. 1. Meanwhile, salary was only No. 8 on the list.

The Benefits of Appreciation
It would be a mistake to think, “employees are getting paid to do their job and therefore they don’t need to be thanked.” Showing appreciation not only makes the workplace a more enjoyable environment, it can also help a business’ bottom line.

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“There’s really an economic argument to business leaders – owners, managers – that their business will function better and be more profitable when the employees feel like they’re valued,” Dr. White says.

When employees don’t feel appreciated tardiness increases, people don’t follow policies and procedures, there’s an increase in office conflict, and there’s a higher level of turn over, Dr. White shares.

“One of the ways to apply that statistic about 79% of the people that leave because they don’t feel valued or appreciated: If you have a key employee that you don’t want to lose, you better make sure they feel appreciated. Otherwise they’re sort of at risk for looking around,” he says.

Additionally, customer service suffers when employees lack appreciation. Employees will be grumpier with customers and be less likely to deal with their problems.

“Usually the employee is irritable and grumpy, and little things bother them more. If you don’t feel like anyone gives a rip about you, you just get worn out and discouraged,” Dr. White explains. “People that don’t feel valued, don’t engage in problem solving because that takes energy. And if you don’t think it matters you’re not going to do it. You’ll pass it off to someone else….Or the employees just do the minimal job rather than trying to figure out what the need is.

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“When people feel valued and appreciated, they have sort of more of a full emotional tank to deal with the problems and challenges that customers bring,” he continues.

Recognition vs. Appreciation
Business owners sometimes confuse recognizing an employee with showing appreciation. But, recognition and appreciation are two different things. Recognition is about performance and appreciation is about the person.

“We talk about recognition being focused on performance. Appreciation, yeah it includes performance, but it’s more than that,” Dr. White says. “You can appreciate someone who isn’t necessarily a high performer. They’re just a solid middle team member. They’re there every day. They do their job. They’re not the star,” he says. “You can have a star quarterback or running back, but if you don’t have people that block and tackle, you’re not going to do much as a team.”

The differentiation between appreciation and recognition is important, because when businesses only acknowledge employees when they’re performing well, people start to resent it.

“If we only hear things when we are meeting these goals, then the message is you aren’t important as a person. You’re just important as a productivity unit,” Dr. White shares.

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5 Languages of Appreciation
Discovering how an employee would like to be appreciated could be a bit awkward.

“It’s not a common topic of conversation. We say, ‘Hey, I want to be sure and show you appreciation the right way, but how do I do that?’ That feels sort of weird,” Dr. White says. “Most people can’t give you any ideas because they don’t think about it that way.”

Understanding the importance of showing appreciation to employees in a way they prefer, the 5 Love Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace was born. Working with Dr. Gary Chapman, Dr. White adapted principals from the book, The 5 Love Languages, and applied them to the workplace.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation are:
1. Words of Affirmation
2. Acts of Service
3. Receiving Gifts
4. Quality Time
5. Physical Touch

To help individuals identify which language they speak, the Motivating By Appreciation (MBA) Inventory was created. The assessment tool helps individuals learn which language they prefer to be shown appreciation, not how to discover someone else’s language.

Having a group take the assessment and work with a trained consultant will help individuals to speak the languages of others and encourage each other, not just as manager-to-employee but also co-worker to co-worker.

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“One of the things we’ve found when working with organizations and businesses is knowing a person’s language of appreciation is helpful. There are different actions that are important within the language that are important to know, too,” Dr. White shares.

There are four core principals of the 5 Languages of Appreciation:
1. There are different methods to communicate appreciation and encouragement.
2. Individuals have preferred ways they want to be shown appreciation.
3. The most effective form of appreciation is expressed in the language most valued by the receiver.
4. Appreciation can miss the mark if communicated in a way not valued by the recipient.

Dr. White advises finding ways to show appreciation that fit your company’s culture and situation.

“Basically you’ve got to look at the setting and see what’s realistic. Quality time may not be that you’re going to hang out while they’re changing tires,” he says. “Go hang out with them during break or over lunch.”

He also emphasizes that showing group appreciation is good, but businesses should try individualized appreciation when possible.

“Specific feedback about what a person has done is far more impactful for an individual than a group complement because it’s about you,” Dr. White explains. “We know people feel appreciated when the message is individual and personalized. It’s about them as a person, not just a global ‘Way to go team!’”

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Not every small business may feel comfortable having their team take the MBA Inventory and that’s OK, Dr. White shares. Individuals can utilize principals of the 5 Languages without the whole company buying in.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace book provides anyone the tools they need to show appreciation and encouragement to one another in the workplace.

“You can start and use the concepts regardless of your position in the organization,” he says.

In the Dealership

Sometimes taking academic ideas and translating them to practice in a business can be difficult. While none of the following dealers have used the MBA Inventory from the 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace in their shops, these dealers find unique ways to communicate appreciation across a variety of “languages.”

Chabill’s Tire & Auto Service

Leadership at Chabill’s Tire & Auto Service, with 15 locations across Louisiana, recognizes that it wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for its employees.

“This company can’t be profitable without people working for it. It’s a team effort. You have to be able to recognize the team,” says Beth Barron, vice president of operations at Chabill’s. “For us it’s important that our employees understand how much we appreciate them and we’re not crazy enough to think we can do this without them.”

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Every year the dealership hosts two company-wide events to show its employees appreciation: a Christmas party and family picnic. During the Christmas party, achievement awards are given out as well as recognition plaques for years of service (given for every 5-year anniversary).

Chabill’s also gives its managers the ability to show its employees appreciation at the dealership level. Managers order in lunch for employees and can give shout outs through the company-wide “good job” forum.

“From a management perspective, everyone is motivated by different things. It’s up to the manager to really understand what motivates their employee. If it’s buying them lunch every so often, you need to buy them lunch. It’s all about recognition, do whatever kind of recognition it is,” she says.

Barron says showing appreciation to employees is important so that employees aren’t constantly looking for somewhere else to work. Having happy employees also helps with recruitment.

“It’s important that an employee really enjoys being here and it helps recruitment as well. They’ll tell their friends ‘It’s great to work for Chabills, you should try them out.’ I can’t tell you how many employees we have come into our business that way,” Barron says.

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Remembering to show appreciation isn’t always easy, Barron says. It takes effort.

“It’s something you have to work at all the time. You get caught up in the day-to-day and you forget to tell people how much you appreciate what they do or how hard they work,” she says. “It is vital to try and remember to take a minute to say thank you. To say we couldn’t do this without you and we appreciate it.”

Thomas Tire & Automotive

There are two different groups of people that keep Thomas Tire & Automotive, with seven retail stores and two commercial locations in North Carolina, in business: the customers and employees.

“We try to take care of our customers everyday and exceed their expectations in a lot of different ways. That wouldn’t happen if I didn’t have my employees. I do appreciate them so much,” says Sally Thomas, president and co-owner of Thomas Tire. “When they are happy and they’re engaged in our business – and when the work environment is somewhere where they want to be and they feel valued – there’s better job performance.”

Thomas Tire & Automotive does a variety of different things to show their employees appreciation.

“I try to [show appreciation] in a lot of different ways. Obviously I can’t do money every time, but all of these different things cost money. I try to reach any way that a person is motivated; I’m trying to reach it by something I’m doing,” Thomas says.

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The dealership gives away tangible items, such as basketball tickets, concert tickets and NASCAR tickets as well as passes to the North Carolina Zoo. Gift cards are given to employees who’ve exceeded customer expectations. Additionally, the various locations buy lunches for employees all the time. The company also communicates achievements with the entire team. The dealership sends out monthly emails with everyone’s birthday and anniversary and positive customer feedback is shared company wide. The dealership also has a Team Thomas Player of the Month that profiles a different employee. Thomas Tire also enjoys getting together for fun outside work.

“We try to have a lot of fun together. No matter what we’re doing we’re having a really good time,” Thomas said.

The dealership has hosted family fun days with picnics, swimming and zip lines. It’s rented out a bowling alley to hit the lanes together. The company has also hosted a “Las Vegas” casino night Christmas party complete with Elvis impersonator. At the end of the evening employees turned in chips for tickets to win prizes. One event that was particularly fun was a surprise trip for the retail store managers. Instead of their monthly manager meeting, the team went to Virginia International raceway where they drove go-karts and shot M4 rifles.

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“I try to do things like that that completely surprises them and bonds us together. We already have such a close group, it just solidifies it even more,” Thomas says.

Thomas makes sure her managers understand their employees. Not only do they ask questions in orientation that help them discover what type of learners their new hires are, they ask questions to find out what motivates them.

“I encourage them to really know about all of their employees, because when they know that then you’re going to know how to speak or show appreciation to that particular individual,” she says.

Big G Tire Pros

Joe Rice, president of Big G Tire Pros with two locations outside Pittsburgh, Pa., strives to create an atmosphere where everyone feels like family.

“You spend more time with your employees and employer, right, than you do with your family. I think it’s important to create a team atmosphere that’s almost similar to a family,” he says. “In doing that you kind of have to put things together to promote employees’ moral and their interaction with other employees. I feel that’s important in trying to grow your business, because they become more connected to promoting your business.”

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One thing Big G Tire Pros does to create an atmosphere of family and show their employees appreciation is host a monthly cooking day. Employees will bring in side dishes and the team will grill out together. The dealership also gives out Penguins tickets and amusement park tickets to show its employees appreciation, as well as hosts movie nights for the team.

“We give [tickets] out to the different employees when we get them to show appreciation, especially when they’re putting in extra hours or we notice someone needs a break or needs some downtime,” Rice shares.

The employee that cleans the bathroom the most in the week also gets to have a free lunch the next week.

“It seems kind of routine right, cleaning the bathroom? But guys don’t like cleaning bathrooms at home let alone at a workplace. So, it shows appreciation for them doing that,” Rice says.

Rice notes it’s important to differentiate between appreciation and spiffs. “There’s a difference between appreciation and earning spiffs. So you have to separate that,” he says. “Spiffs are something earned by doing something in the business and I think everyone does that. I don’t think that builds relationship between employees and the owner [like] I think the other things do.”

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Overall showing his employees appreciation has built morale.

“I hear things like the reason I stay is because I feel like I’m part of a family. I like that feeling of being part of something. I hear that time and time again from my employees,” Rice says.

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