Show your staff you care. Here’s how.

Have you heard of the book The 5 Love Languages? My wife will tell you my love language is “words of affirmation,” and I agree. I feel most appreciated when I’m told that I’ve done something well or when my hard work and efforts are recognized, as is the case with most of us.

Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, also wrote a book called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. This book, geared towards employers, discusses empowering your employees through encouragement and appreciation.

If you look at the workplace research, the number one cause of employee disengagement and turnover isn’t working too hard or not making enough money — it’s not feeling appreciated or affirmed. If you’re dealing with a staff that isn’t motivated, inspired or going above and beyond — part of the reason is you. I’m sorry to put it so bluntly, but it’s true. The good news is that there is hope.

You don’t have to worry about changing each and every one of your employees or hiring completely new staff if you’re looking for a better work ethic. If you change yourself, you will watch your employees transform around you.

So how do you do this?

Well, it’s important to show your appreciation for your employees frequently.

An annual bonus doesn’t cut it. In fact, most employees expect an annual bonus — it’s pretty much just considered a part of the salary at this point. Randomly springing for lunch or bringing in the occasional box of donuts is a nice thing to do to care for your staff, but it doesn’t incentivize them in the trenches to give that extra customer experience that will propel your business.

If you want your employees to feel valued and appreciated truly, I have two words for you — tell them. And tell them again. Tell them over and over that the tiny things they do that you appreciate. It is hard at first. It feels awkward. When I tell fellow physicians this, the most common response I get is: “You want me to thank them for doing their job?” The short and long answer is yes. Your staff doesn’t get affirmation as you do. You, as the physician, make a lot of smart moves each day, and your patients tell you. Your staff doesn’t see or experience that.

Some doctors I talk to prefer to send praises over email because it feels a little personal at first, but two simple things can make all the difference in employee morale.

  • Tell them what you noticed.
  • Tell them why what you noticed is helpful.

So, for example: “Hey, Shawn (my nurse’s name is Shawn). I noticed yesterday that you helped that mom carry her car seat out when her hands were full with her screaming baby. That really helped to make her day better, and actions like that make our office so special for our families. Thanks!”

That’s it.

Your employees are going above and beyond in small ways. If they aren’t — start with the little things they do get right and watch those little things blossom into more significant wins. As you notice and attend to those through positive affirmation, you’ll see it more and more.

Phil Boucher is a pediatrician and founder, Private Practice Matters.

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