Jennifer Reimert making her presentation at From Day One’s conference at the Georgia Aquarium (Photo by Alyssa Pointer for From Day One)

The modern policies for employee rewards and engagement were established in corporate America in the last fifty years. These policies, however, no longer fit the current needs of employees living in fast-paced, digital work environments.

Jennifer Reimert, VP of solutions consulting at Workhuman, shared the relevance and significance of honoring relationships and lauding successes in a Thought Leadership Spotlight at From Day One’s Atlanta conference. Reimert argued for a complete reposition and shift in the ways that employers show appreciation for their employees. By acknowledging the accomplishments of staff on a consistent basis and providing unwavering feedback, employers can build authentic relationships, morale, and trust. Based on multiple proven studies and Reimert’s extensive career experience in HR, she offered three key values have led to internal and external productivity and success: Thank, talk, and celebrate.

The first value, thank, means that showing appreciation to employees for their contributions makes them feel visible and that their presence and talents are meaningful to the organization. “Have your thank yous and your gratitude connected to your company’s values or your strategic imperatives, so that they start to learn by watching others, or somebody recognizing them in that moment that they did something right,” Reimert advised.

Said Reimert: “We start with the strategic imperative” (Photo courtesy of Workhuman)

The second value, talk, refers to the way in which forming genuine relationships with employees can make them feel that they are valued. By pausing to inquire about the wellness of a colleague, managers can intentionally create norms that center belonging. This creates an opportunity to discuss how companies can highlight the strengths of their teammates and identify ways for improvement: “Ongoing conversations and check-ins and feedback with whomever–maybe the manager, maybe a trusted peer, maybe somebody that they met through new-hire orientation virtually that they had a connection with–you want to create those connections, because the more connections that you create in your organization, that’s going to be the tie that binds.”

The final value is celebrate. Often, celebrations center around promotions or work anniversaries, but the reality is that life is more than just career triumphs. Some of us may have started a new hobby, adopted a pet, or even ran a 5K. Though these new beginnings may not seem to be pivotal achievements, they deserve to be honored, nonetheless. “It’s another way that you can connect and understand who the whole person is that’s coming to work. The more invested somebody feels in everything that you’re doing, and the more you allow others to celebrate that, you're going to create a higher level of engagement.”

Recognition Leads to Productivity and Retention

The proof is in the pudding. By creating cultures of recognition and appreciation, businesses can expect a decrease in absenteeism and turnover. Reimert said, “If you just invest $1 in recognition, and you kind of think about that at scale, you would have a five- to seven-time return on your investment. If you can show a company that you can save 100 new hires, or 100 or 500 people from walking out the door, think about what that does to your productivity, your intellectual property.”

Creating a Recognition Program

How do businesses begin creating programs based in appreciation? Reimert dug deeper, asking, “What are you trying to accomplish? We start with the strategic imperative. How are we going to measure it? What’s the business impact? And then we build from there.” She suggested that programs should be based on employee experiences, esprit de corps, and staff capacity, and should benefit the entire organization, not just a select group.

When we show up as our full selves, we are instilled with the confidence to think critically and creatively. When we are appreciated for our time and our adept skill sets, we foster environments of support and camaraderie, Reimert said. “Thank you” means “I see you and I honor you.” And “thank you” means that this organization would not be a success without you.

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Workhuman, who sponsored this Thought Leadership Spotlight.

Nzingha Hall is a journalist, public speaker, and DEI facilitator in Atlanta, Ga.