Make Your Team Members Feel Appreciated

In a fast-paced industry like retail, we forget just how important it is to ensure that we show our employees how much we appreciate them. We tend to think that because we have an extremely “transparent” relationship that our employees know exactly where they stand with us.

Power Ranks, Monthly Recognition, Birthdays, Anniversaries can only do so much and can come off extremely generic – which is a huge turnoff for our employees. 

How many times have we fallen into this habit of just sending out a Power Rank or Monthly Recognition because that is the thing we just do? 

This is where we fall short. 

This is NOT enough. 

Harvard Business Review Article “The Little Things That Make Employees Feel Appreciated” by Kerry Roberts Gibson, Kate O’Leary and Joseph R. Weintraub- states “Adam Grant and Francesca Gino found that when people experience gratitude from their manager, they’re more productive. Another researcher recently found that teams perform tasks better when their members believe that their colleagues respect and appreciate them.”

In the retail world, we ALWAYS talk about how we can make a team more engaged AND productive.


So why do we struggle with this?

As stated in the Harvard Business Review Article “The Little Things That Make Employees Feel Appreciated”, here is what Managers vs. Employees think: 

What Managers’ Think:

  • Managers assume employees know how they feel
  • Managers have a hard time balancing developmental feedback with recognition and fear it will send mix messages
  • Managers assume that if they offer appreciation to all employees it will come off routine and impersonal/meaningless

What Employees’ Think:

  • Our Teams do not think this is a complex task
  • Our Teams want MORE recognition for their work

So why is there such a disconnect between the Managers and the Employees?

Think for a second – What gets in YOUR way of showing your team that you appreciate them?

Do you fall into a habit of using the excuse that you don’t have the time?

Do you fall into a habit of stating that “they should know”?

So let us draw out the things you should AVOID before going into what you SHOULD be doing…


  • The Compliment Sandwich

We have heard this term for years. This is where our Managers fall short. Don’t confuse our teams by starting with a compliment, providing tough feedback then ending with a compliment. It dilutes any call outs you might have for your employee. This is counterproductive and will not help you obtain peak performance and productivity

  • The Inauthentic Expression of Gratitude

 Have you ever caught yourself recognizing someone while you are clocked out and walking out the door? How genuine do you think that is? 

 Same goes for generic email shout outs. How much time did you spend writing that email? Was it just a copy and paste?

  • The Missed Opportunities with Company Procedures – Quarterly Reviews/Yearly Reviews

Company Procedures such as Quarterly and Yearly Reviews can seem like a burden to YOU, but our team members look forward to it. Pushing it off and saying “I will get to it later” or “I am just too busy” sends the WRONG message to our team!

Take a moment and think about all those times that the above were used in your past. 

How did that make you feel?

REMEMBER that feeling. Break that habit now and utilize the next few bullet points to help you get past the old habits and change your course of action.

To Do:

  • Touchbase Early and Often

As stated in the Harvard Business Review Article “The Little Things That Make Employees Feel Appreciated”- take the time to say hello to each of your employees and check-in with them. Ask them “how are you doing?” without having an agenda. Stay in the loop on what’s going on with your team members.

  • Give Balanced Feedback

AVOID THE COMPLIMENT SANDWICH AT ALL COST. As stated above, “The Compliment Sandwich” is counterproductive and leaves our team members confused. One structure we discussed in our podcast was: 

What did they do well? Where did they struggle? What is the path forward?

  • Address Growth Opportunities

Our team members want to know what is in store for their future. Having a goal to obtain or position to work towards is key. Based on where they are in their current role, they can lead your team in certain projects or even go run a different store as a “stretch assignment”. Being able to identify where they are in their current role and if they can take on more to challenge themselves is a HUGE compliment and will help keep them engaged with the business. 

  • Offer Flexibility

This one might not seem important, but it is! Allowing your team to pick their schedule or being flexible to allow them to enjoy things outside of work, motivates our team to continue to perform at their highest potential!

KNOW YOUR TEAM MEMBERS and figure out what motivates them. Is it their family? Is it their schooling? Is it a long vacation? Figure out what it is and reward them for their performance. 

  • Make It a Habit

Create a habit of celebrating your team. Maybe it is the first 15 minutes of your day. Maybe it is right after your lunch before you jump right back into the business. 

The idea is to not make it ingenuine and forced but to allow yourself to express your gratitude for your team. 

Make it natural. Make it YOU

In our world, it is easy to think that sales and profitability is the most important aspect of our business but, it isn’t! Our people are the most important aspect of our business. They are the ones driving the business. They are the ones that are interacting with our customers. They are the ones that create a memorable experience in our doors. 

Don’t let the business dictate how you lead and motivate your team.

Take the time to show your team how much you appreciate them and see the culture change.

Remember, as we always say – it starts with YOU

HBR Link:

Kerry Roberts Gibson is an assistant professor in the Management Division at Babson College.

Kate O’Leary is the director of compensation, rewards, and client engagement in the Office of Human Resources at Babson College.  

Joseph R. Weintraub is professor of management at Babson College, where he is the founder and director of the Babson Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program. He is a coauthor of The Coaching Manager: Developing Top Talent in Business and The Coaching Organization: A Strategy for Developing Leaders.