In ‘Appreciation works: how a culture of appreciation makes your organisation grow’, Ludo starts from concrete research findings on appreciation and absenteeism. “One in three employees report that they never get appreciation,” Ludo says. “That’s a lot and worrying.”

What definition of appreciation is used in ‘Appreciation works’?

Ludo explains, “Appreciation is an attitude, a way of dealing with people. You express appreciation by speaking to them about what they do or who they are as human beings. An example: ‘your presentation was brilliant’. For me, appreciation has nothing to do with material things like bonuses.”

“Moreover, appreciation must be authentic. For instance, I heard the story of a kindergarten teacher who found a feather in her mailbox every week – a proverbial feather from her principal. Of course, as an employee, you quickly realise that this isn’t real appreciation.”

“Appreciation, of course, is much more than a compliment to any good performance. It also means giving honest feedback, asking someone why a deadline was not met. Admittedly, there is nothing more difficult than having an open, assertive conversation so that your employee can move forward afterwards. Many executives therefore struggle with these so-called soft skills.”

Bart continues, “That appreciative attitude fits very nicely with Mensura’s friendly, business-like approach. Only through assertive communication and sincere attention will you find out why someone does or does not function well within the agreement framework you have defined.”

“You explore the reasons behind a behavioural pattern together, so that the employee can learn something new about themselves. A pat on the back has a much more lasting effect than a bonus because the latter immediately becomes an acquired right – which means you have to come up with something else next time.”

What is Mensura’s friendly, business-like approach?

  • Friendly, business-like dialogue is the foundation of any positive absenteeism policy. On the one hand, you define clear agreements so that employees know their responsibilities well. On the other hand, you build a friendly bond of trust through sincere attention and open communication. How to find the right balance in friendly, business-like dialogue

What is the link between appreciation and absenteeism?

Ludo explains, “A 2022 Gallup study says that if employees feel valued, 73% of them are less likely to experience burnout. You also keep people on board longer, as 56% say they are less likely to look for another job.”

Bart continues, “Appreciation is especially important in the choices people make around absenteeism. We all have a down day from time to time, but it’s your feelings in the workplace that determine whether you end up calling in sick. Do you feel valued as a team member and colleague? Then you will be more likely to work anyway, if your health allows.”

Can a culture of appreciation lead to presenteeism?

Ludo explains, “Not if you express that appreciation in an authentic way, but, of course, that’s a challenge. Appreciation is always personalised, and a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work here. So make an effort to really get to know your people. What is genuine appreciation for some may immediately come across as pampering to others. If you find that balance, you automatically come across as authentic.”

Bart continues, “Appreciation is also in phrases like ‘You’ve worked enough, go home’. You have to protect some people from themselves. That’s the manager’s role as well: to show genuine concern and deal correctly with someone who cannot set their own limits properly.”

Specifically, what do employees desire in terms of appreciation?

Ludo explains, “I have delineated five major themes in my book, based on research and my own experience. It is about job content, workplace, leadership, organisation, and pay. Every company should scrutinise these: what do these domains mean to us? How do we deal with that policy-wise?”

Bart continues, “Many aspects of appreciation only become a problem when they are not present. For example, every employee expects their workplace to be in order by default. Is that not the case? Then that can just suddenly become a demotivator.”

Valuing your employees: five domains

  • The content of the work: people want to be meaningful, contribute to a bigger picture, and have the opportunity to develop themselves. Autonomy is very important here; micromanagement doesn’t improve anything or anyone.
  • The workplace itself: everyone wants to be able to work in a comfortable way, both at home and in the office. A good atmosphere among colleagues is essential, even in hybrid working conditions.
  • Leadership: employees expect their manager to be trustworthy. It has to be someone who dares to tell the truth in an authentic way, even if it’s ‘I don’t know’.
  • The organisation: an organisation must instil confidence in its employees. This applies at several levels: room to make mistakes, a good image, the social importance of the work, the financial health of the company, a clear strategy, etc.
  • Pay: this isn’t a motivator per se, but can be a demotivator. It will only come into play if it is not equitable. Everyone wants to be rewarded in a reasonable way.

Building a culture of appreciation is no easy task. What must you pay attention to?

Bart explains, “Employees should obviously not be pampered too much. Those who consciously fail to meet their responsibilities should expect consequences.”

Ludo continues, “There is still a lot of work to do to get that culture of appreciation into the company, but remember that appreciation does not need bells and whistles. Dealing authentically with your people will take you much further.”