by Emily Watrous, Chief Human Resources Officer

A leader and friend of mine once said to me, “celebrate the victories, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey!” It’s true, and it’s a message that has stuck with me throughout my career.

Professional at Work

Emily Watrous, Clemson University’s Chief Human Resources Officer
Image Credit: University Relations

As a chief human resource officer, I offer the following three principles in building a workplace environment where your employees know they are appreciated and can become fully engaged.

#1:  Appreciation is different than recognition

Many confuse recognition with appreciation. Recognition is positive feedback based on results or performance. Recognition is motivating and feels good. It is an acknowledgement to the employee you supervise or to a colleague that you noticed they worked hard.

The metrics to support this concept are undeniable. You, your colleagues and those you supervise are 23 percent more productive when recognized routinely. Appreciation, however, is less about what you and your colleagues do and more about who you are. Appreciation is a unique statement of encouragement and validation. Appreciation is a positive and meaningful way to express the value of someone. When people feel valued, they are 43 percent more productive.

#2:  Appreciation should occur 24/7/365

Recently, Clemson University sponsored employee appreciation luncheons throughout the state. While annual events of this magnitude are a great way to show employees (and each other) appreciation, we should not stop there. Often times, in pursuit of results and accomplishing the goals we’ve set, we get so focused on where we are headed that we forget to appreciate where we are, who’s surrounding us, and who’s helping us along the way.

The number one reason people stay with an employer is because they feel appreciated and valued. More important than money or the work they are doing, people need to feel valued; they want to know they are important. When we take time to appreciate each other on a daily basis, the team dynamic changes in a positive way—people are happier, more productive and they get strategic work done.

#3:  Appreciation combined with recognition creates total engagement

Combining genuine, meaningful recognition with everyday appreciation is key to soaring engagement levels. Leveraging both will increase your team’s commitment to long-term goals while creating an environment that supports achieving even your stretch goals. While opportunities to recognize an individual or team might not be as plentiful, you can start showing appreciation today. Your message of appreciation can be simple, personal, discreet or public. It can be a face-to-face chat, a handwritten note, an email, a phone call or even a text. It can be during a staff meeting or a conference call.

Make it a habit to start each day with gratitude by making a quick list of the people you appreciate and why. Next, express it in person or write it down and give it to them. Once you start showing your appreciation more, those around you will too. Appreciation is contagious, and it can come from anyone at any time.

Time to get started! Enjoy the journey…and enjoy it by telling those around you how much you appreciate them!

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Emily Watrous is a graduate of Clemson University and serves as the chief human resources officer where she provides operational support for the University’s talent acquisition, onboarding and retention, compensation, benefits, learning and performance, staff and faculty relations, HR systems and data, customer service, and international employment. With more than 23 years of experience with Fortune 150 companies, Emily’s career spans years in key leadership roles at Southern First Bank, Fluor Corporation and Bank of America.