Show your team a little bit of love this Valentine’s Day

Eleanor Walker, Senior People and Development Consultant, 14 February 2022.


We may have only just got over the stress of Christmas, and are still coming to terms with the supermarkets being full of easter chocolate from December 26th (not to mention the fact that creme eggs are getting smaller every year). Now we’re faced with the holiday that everyone loves to hate – Valentine’s Day.


I can already hear the eyes rolling of those that see today as a cliché - an excuse for restaurants to inflate their prices and for smug couples to remind you of just how loved-up they are. But, never mind the sceptics, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be just for romance. It’s an opportunity to celebrate all kinds of relationships in lots of different forms, including the ones we have with friends, family and even our colleagues.


We spend over 30% of our waking lives at work, so how our jobs make us feel has a massive impact on our overall mental health, happiness and wellbeing. Did you know that 86% of employees feel happier at work when they feel recognised, and 70% feel happier at home? Our brains also work better when we feel positive, meaning that happy colleagues are usually better at innovating, solving problems and collaborating with others. Research also shows that happy employees are 13% more productive.


So, it goes without saying that we need to find as many opportunities as we can to appreciate and recognise the people we work with, and here are a just a few ways that you can do that this Valentine’s day.


Treat colleagues as individuals


There’s no better way to make people feel valued than by treating them as individuals, whilst leading with kindness and empathy. This requires a lot of listening, a bit of flexibility and most importantly, supportive, understanding managers who are confident in applying fair and reasonable judgement to individual situations. For example, agreeing flexible working and time-off based on individual situations rather than ‘one size fits all’ policies, and providing as many opportunities as possible for colleagues to work to their strengths are really important if you want to create a human-centred employee experience, where people feel recognised.


Consider your approach to pay and benefits


With inflation at its highest rate in 30 years, many organisations are thinking about how they can compete in a difficult employment market by making colleagues feel valued when they simply can’t afford huge pay rises. While some organisations will be able to increase pay, it’s also important that we look at reward in the context of the employee experience as a whole. Skills development, flexible benefits, a strong wellbeing strategy and effective job design that helps people align their work with the purpose of the organisation are all things that will encourage people to stick around, and are often valued more than pay.


Personalised benefits are becoming more and more important (50% of employees would actually accept a reduction in pay for more tailored benefits), whilst we’re also seeing more trialling of things like unlimited holidays and a 4-day week. When done well, these initiatives can be great ways to make your organisation stand out in the recruitment market whilst also helping your existing colleagues find a better balance and become more productive.

And if you are able to revisit your approach to pay, we recommend a framework that is transparent, instils trust and confidence, removes opportunities for bias and inequity, whilst providing enough flexibility for you to make decisions based on affordability and the financial climate.


Create opportunities for gratitude and peer-recognition


Creating ways for colleagues to show each other how much they appreciate and value one another is a really powerful yet simple way to drive happiness at work. For example, dedicating some wall space in a communal area where people can write messages of appreciation, and posting a picture of it to Teams or Slack at the end of the week can help people to feel connected and valued. You could even create a virtual version of this for remote teams. Or, take it a step further and have cards printed that colleagues can send to one another to show their appreciation (even better if they are based on your organisation’s values/purpose).


Don’t underestimate the power of small gifts


A little notebook, handwritten card, chocolate, nice coffee, or even free lunch/snacks can be inexpensive and simple ways to show appreciation for colleagues. As well as during big holidays like Christmas and Easter, surprise gifts can have a huge impact on colleague’s happiness and feelings of recognition at work. Why not encourage managers to set aside a little bit of their budget every few weeks for small tokens of appreciation like this and see how it impacts the team?


Celebrate together

When your team or organisation achieves something great, how do you celebrate? Sharing success stories widely and publicly (using internal channels, meetings or your company’s social media, for example) can help to instil a sense of pride and recognition for hard work and achievement. You could also encourage employees to submit their own individual work successes from the week and share them all together in a team/all staff meeting or in your online communication spaces. That warm fuzzy glow we get from positive news stories can be really powerful.


Say thank you


Finally, always say “thank you”. It’s possibly the easiest thing we can do as leaders, but also often the easiest to forget. Thank people with honesty, sincerity and by focusing on specific actions or behaviour. Even better, pop a handwritten thank you card in the post, or stick one on their computer screen. It’s especially important for senior leaders to take the time to say thank you, to encourage a culture of recognition and appreciation.


Not just for Valentine’s Day!


Of course, it goes without saying that employee recognition is not just for Valentine’s Day, but instead, a priority in everything we do. But even if you’re not a fan of cards and roses, take some time out to think about one or two ways that you can show your colleagues a little bit of love this February 14th (and beyond).


Our team of consultants have lots of experience in helping values-led organisations apply a strategic approach to improving all elements of the people experience; from reward and recognition, to wellbeing, and diversity, equality and inclusion. Get in touch if you’d like our help and support in showing your HR strategy ‘a little bit of love’.

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