Valentine's Day is more than a day of romance: It's also an ideal time to share the love at work. Even if you can't afford to give your employees gifts or cash rewards on Valentine's Day, you can still use this holiday as a way to offer your heartfelt thanks and appreciation.
"People will never admit it, but money is not the thing they desire most from their work. Instead, showing appreciation, respect and yes, even love, are the three most important ways to make your people feel great about their work," said Todd Patkin, author of Finding Happiness: One Man's Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and – Finally – Let the Sunshine In. "And happy, engaged employees are the single best way to impact your company's bottom line."
Patkin offers five strategies to share the love with employees this Valentine's Day:
1. Send "love" notes of thanks and appreciation. When you notice that an employee has done an excellent job or has achieved an important goal, send a personal, handwritten note conveying your sincere appreciation. This will take only one sheet of paper and 5 minutes out of your day, but it will make a lasting impression on the employee.
2. Offer some inspiration. Ever see the movie Office Space? It's probably best if that's not how your employees view the workplace. Set a goal to buoy your workers' spirits on a daily basis. If you help workers improve their attitudes, their professional and personal productivity will increase too. "If you run across a quotation or story that inspires you, don't keep it to yourself – pass it along to an employee, and perhaps, if appropriate, also mention that the quote or anecdote reminded you of him and his great attitude," suggested Patkin.
3. Tell success stories. Everybody loves to be recognized and complimented. When someone in your organization has done something great, tell her that you noticed her outstanding work – and then tell the rest of the team, too. Some employees feel that their leaders take them for granted or only point out their mistakes, so make it your daily mission to prove that perception wrong.
4. Identify and celebrate star employees. Don't just recognize achievements when you see them – make celebrating your workplace "stars" a regular event. Consider creating a company newsletter to recognize employees. Include a write-up about each worker and detail what you love about them and how proud you are of their accomplishments. "If you have too many employees to thank them individually, include a heartfelt thank-you letter that points out what goals the company met because of all of your employees' hard work," Patkin added.
5. Make it a family affair. Whenever possible, engage your employees' families when praising them. Having a leader validate all the hours each team member spends at work will be remembered far longer than a bonus. Plus, when spouses and kids know what Mom or Dad does at work and are on board with it, your employee's performance may get a boost from the support of his or her loved ones. Patkin, for example, has left message on employees' home answering machines telling the family members what a great employee their dad (or mom) is.
"It's more important now than ever before to show your employees love and appreciation, because you probably haven't been able to give them big raises and bonuses since the recession hit," Patkin said. "Let your employees know that this Valentine's Day will be all about making sure they know how much you appreciate all of their hard work."