A critical component of any healthy organization is regular appreciation and recognition of team members. During normal business conditions, it’s easy for leaders to get distracted with the day-to-day operations and forget about this task. The current COVID-19 crisis forced most teams to work from home. These team members are out of sight, which makes it even easier for leaders to get complacent with the critical responsibility of appreciation and recognition.
In his book, “Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies,” Paul Zak identifies recognition and celebration as critical components to creating a high-performance team. His research explains what happens on a neurological level when team members receive recognition and celebration. One of the effects is the release of dopamine in the brain.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter – a chemical that transfers information between neurons, which helps to regulate critical processes such as movement, attention, learning, as well as a variety of emotional responses. Dopamine also contributes to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.
Author and speaker, Shawn Achor, wrote a bestseller about the effects of dopamine on happiness, “The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life.” Similar to Zak’s conclusions, Achor’s research found that happy team members are more productive, more creative, and better problem solvers. He states that dopamine has two immediate impacts, it makes you happier, and it turns on all the learning centers in your brain. Not only do people feel better, but they are also more receptive to learning.
Here are five techniques to show appreciation to your remote workforce during this unique business environment:
1. Proactively Call Team Members
The most obvious and straightforward technique is to pick up the phone or use your favorite conference tool to talk with your team members. And the purpose of these conversations should go beyond business. Pat Lencioni, a leading author on healthy teams, suggests asking a simple, open-ended question, “How are you doing?” Listen to what’s on their mind and then recognize their contributions to the team. The home office may be a short commute, but it can also be a lonely experience. Team members need to know their contributions are appreciated. A simple phone call is the easiest way to connect with your team members.
2. Recognition During the Daily Huddle
An essential rhythm of a high-performing team is the daily check-in, often called a Daily Huddle or Daily Standup. As I wrote in the article, “The Essential Business Meeting for Remote Workers: A Leader’s Gude to Implementing the Daily Huddle,” remote teams need a regular connection with their teammates. This quick 15-minute meeting provides for the daily alignment of information and goals. It also provides some social contact that human beings crave. The Daily Huddle is a great opportunity to recognize the contributions of team members. And remember to tie any appreciation to the organization’s Core Values.
3. Handwritten Notes
Digital channels make up the majority of your remote team’s daily communication, including email, Slack/Teams, text messages, and Social Media. With team members working from home, a handwritten note delivered via the U.S. Postal Service will stand out. Unlike digital messages, a handwritten note is more likely to be saved and prominently displayed on a desk or credenza. A few years ago, I visited a colleague at his office and was surprised to see tacked to his cubicle three handwritten notes I had sent him. Two of the notes were more than a year old, but he still had them on display. During a crisis or during regular times, company leaders should write thank you notes to team members and clients weekly.
4. Gifts Delivered to the Home
For remote team members that deserve special recognition, consider sending a gift to their home. Similar to thank you cards, there is something special about getting a delivery at home, especially a physical package. A few sample ideas include:
- A bottle of wine, a gourmet food item, or a food basket for a “foodie” team member. As a bonus, they will enjoy it with their family and share the recognition with them.
- A home practice putting green for the team member that loves golf but is stuck at home.
- A collection of exclusive coffee beans or tea bags for a caffeine junkie.
The key to a good gift is to find something that is meaningful and thoughtful for the individual. Great leaders have regular one-on-one meetings with their team members, and an outcome of those meetings is connecting with direct reports on a personal level. Use that knowledge to find the appropriate reward for each team member.
5. Virtual Events
Under normal business conditions, it’s common to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or special accomplishment in a breakroom with the team. A remote workforce shouldn’t prevent groups from having these types of gatherings; they just need to be digital. Schedule a video conference call to recognize an achievement, have a happy hour, or even host a team lunch with food delivered to the participant’s home. Although team members are physically separated, a meaningful social connection is made during these video conference sessions.
Recognizing team members is even more critical for a remote workforce compared to a traditional, in-person office. A work-at-home environment is lonely and isolating, causing individuals to lose the team connection. To maintain a high-performing team, find ways to provide appreciation and recognition regularly.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rob Simons is a coach, facilitator, and storyteller – a unique fusion of skills that makes him uniquely equipped to coach entrepreneurs and business leaders to scale organizations. Using the Rockefeller Habits as his foundation, Rob has successfully trained hundreds of clients to build a culture of purpose, alignment, and accountability in organizations across a variety of industries. Contact Rob at email@example.com or 210-845-2782.