Today is National Employee Appreciation Day, and that inspired some random thoughts on the subject.
1. Having been through the startup experience several times (and as Jason Mraz says, you win some and you learn some) one of the great lessons in going from a handful to a thriving company, is that period when a small group is doing everything a larger company would have to do. At one startup (typical, I'm sure), besides our assigned roles, we divided up the work of things like ordering parts, collecting payments, cleaning the office, tech support, quality assurance, answering the phones. As the startup grew into a larger enterprise, you hire people specifically for those tasks, but you keep with you an appreciation of everything they do and go through. It helps you relate to their job, what they need to do, and helps you see them as people and not just roles.
2. We're living in a different era where through social media and mobile connectivity, people are much more exposed and presumed to be always-on and available. This requires special consideration of employees as private people. Though people are ultimately responsible for their lives, their hours, and their privacy, the relationship between employers and employees must respect the lines of separation between the working arrangement and private lives and times, especially when those lines become blurred through modern technology.
3. We're also living in an era where recruiting has become both automated and litigated to a degree that can become overly mechanistic. This has advantages and is based on necessities, but can starts the whole relationship as heavily role based and abstract. But every individual employee is an individual person and true appreciation needs to extend to the people behind the roles, and not just the job titles and company badges.
4. I've always believed that everyone, no matter what their role or title, can and should be both a leader and a learner. Leadership can come in many forms at any level of an organization, and everyone at every level should be open to learning from one another. This reciprocity leads to better appreciation.
5. Appreciation is felt in different ways by different people. Not everyone needs a big party or social hullabaloo to be shown appreciation. In "Quiet: The Power of Introverts", Susan Cain explains well that you can't always project an extravert's enthusiasm onto an introvert's desire to be quietly appreciated. But most organizations by their nature are extravert-centric, while many employees are the opposite, so be aware of the different ways to express (and receive) appreciation.
6. No matter how large the organization, every employee should have a good idea of what the purpose of the company is, and the direct connection between what they do and the success of the company. This understanding can't always be distilled into a poster, and everyone who works for anybody should have a mutual understanding of the direct line between their contribution and the company's success. Sharing that understanding is the key to appreciation.
There are advantages of working at small companies, and of working at large companies. At small companies, it's like rowing a boat together, and when one person leans this way, or rows with their all, the effect is immediate and obvious. At larger companies, teams that are energized, specialized and motivated can do almost anything. I appreciate the people I work with every day - our employees at AP42, our clients (who are employees, yes, but people, too), and our network of partners. I can say that on March 7, but the key is showing it every other day of the year.