Does your work environment resonate a culture of gratitude and appreciation?

Even if you are a two-man operation, you have to realize that showing appreciation to your teammate is crucial if your business is going to be as productive as you want it to be.

According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, individuals that voluntarily leave work cite lack of appreciation as one of the major reasons for leaving. And even though a large majority of employers and supervisors can attest to having shown gratitude to employees that perform well, only about 17 percent of employees report those supervisors do a good job at appreciating them.

What brings about this disconnect?

Employee Recognition Programs

Almost all employers have some form of employee recognition program, where employees and best performers are recognized and rewarded for their good work. Where most employers get it wrong is that these programs rarely appreciate, but rather recognize and reward. The motivation gained from such programs is short-lived, and soon work issues crop up again.

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As well intentioned as these programs are, they have their setbacks. Many times, recognition programs are generic and impersonal. Generic meaning that the nature of the rewards and, at times, sentiment are exactly the same, year in and year out (certificates, gift cards, vouchers, cash rewards, electronic gadgets, and so on), and everyone is bound to get the same gift. This makes the gesture feel impersonal.

Recognition programs are also infrequent. These activities tend to be held at certain times of the year, and the rest of the time employees have to find the motivation to work from other sources.

Appreciating Your Team

Appreciation in your work environment doesn’t have to follow the recognition-program style. In your case, appreciation has to be woven into your company culture. To do this, four conditions must be met:

1. Appreciation Must Be Frequent

You don’t have to wait until the end-of-year performance review to say, “Good job, Mike.” Rather, make appreciation as frequent as your interactions with team members.

2. Appreciation Must Be Personalized

Individuals are different, and a one-size-fits-all approach to conveying appreciation rarely bears fruit. It has to relate to individuals in your team and their specific actions. People don’t mind hearing “Great job, everyone,” but what would really motivate and keep them going is “Thanks, Molly, for staying late to finish working on the presentation” or “I appreciate you cleaning up the meeting room after we were done.”

3. Appreciation Must Be Authentic

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of conveying appreciation is doing it in an authentic manner. What makes appreciation authentic?

Your tone of voice and facial expressions convey a lot about your genuineness. How you relate to your team member in private has to be same as how you treat them in full view of everyone, otherwise they’ll know you’re faking it. If previous cases of showing appreciation have always been accompanied by an ulterior motive, team members are unlikely to take it seriously.

4. Appreciation Is Best Conveyed in the Language of the Recipient

Every individual has their own unique language of appreciation, according to Gary Chapman and Paul White, co-authors of the New York Times bestseller, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. These languages include tangible gifts (cup of coffee, gift cards), words of affirmation (thank you, nice work), acts of service (going out of your way to help on a project), quality time (spending time with individuals to demonstrate support), and appropriate physical touch (celebratory high-fives and pats on the back).

Appreciation’s Effect on Your Bottom Line

When you strive to make appreciation genuine, personalized, and frequent, you’ll notice a change in the attitudes and behaviors of your team. They’ll be more cheerful, open to helping each other out, and more apt to go out of their way to ensure the business meets its objectives. To borrow an engineering analogy, appreciation is the oil that makes the machine’s parts work smoothly and effectively. A well-oiled machine is efficient and productive, two qualities that will be evident in your work environment.

In conclusion, you have nothing to lose by cultivating appreciation and gratitude in your business. Your regular genuine show of appreciation will do a lot more good than a once-in-a-year gift card, and the extra effort employees and teammates put into their work will translate to more benefits and sales for your business.

Maria Elena Duron is Editor-in-Chief of the Personal Branding Blog. Duron is a small business marketing coach with Buzz to Bucks, and the creator of #brandchat – recognized as one of the top 12 business and marketing chats. She is a published expert on branding and marketing in Entrepreneur Magazine. She speaks regularly to small businesses on internal and external marketing that focuses on the talk that yields profit and appreciation marketing as a certified facilitator with the 5 Languages of Appreciation at Work.