Think about all the things you do in a day at work. And think about what single act has the most profound effect on your own morale and sense of wellbeing. Is it the free lunch and the cashless vending machine? Is it the beer fridge or the vodka shed on a Friday afternoon? Is it the slide connecting you to your colleagues on the floor below? Is it the opportunity to make a difference? Is it being empowered to make decisions and trusted to do things your way?
Of course, most of these things are important in varying degrees to all of us, however, thanks to life’s rich tapestry, it turns out that we’re not all the same. All of us are turned on (and off) by different things in different ways and at different times.
That said, the one thing that picks us up more than anything is a heartfelt and deserved pat on the back. Research in 2011 revealed that self-esteem boosts are rated more highly among American university students (aka today’s workforce) than food, remuneration, time spent with friends, drinking alcohol, and even sex.
If you manage people, never forget that real-time recognition has the power to transform a person’s mood, commitment to the cause and level of performance. So before you spend a fortune on formal reward and recognition systems, a shiny new annual appraisal framework, indoor skyscapes, AstroTurf flooring, helter-skelters, jumbo bean bags and padded cells, just remember that the occasional pat on the back is likely to be the most important thing you can do at work today.
And it won’t cost you a penny.