A Little Gratitude Goes a Long Way

Northwest Florida businesses share employee appreciation advice
Middle Aged Businesswoman Get Congrats And Compliments From Multiethnic Colleagues
Photo by fizkes / iStock / Getty Images Plus

When employees feel valued, they are more productive. They are more engaged in their jobs, a strong team culture results and employee turnover declines.

We spoke with six local business to learn how they create happy and healthy work environments.

Tracey G. Cohen, president of Target Print & Mail, Tallahassee

Tracey Cohen

Tracey Cohen

How do you cultivate a positive work environment for your employees?
At Target Print & Mail, we work hard to create a culture where the employees feel like they are valued and appreciated. None of this is rocket science, but I think we go further than many others in our industry or company size to make sure that our people feel like connected and contributing members of a winning team. Our break room is stocked with snacks and drinks, and we buy lunch for our team at least once a month. We give gift cards or cash gifts when an individual or the entire team has gone above and beyond. We have a daily all-hands-on-deck meeting where we share our expected workload for the day as well as personal, cultural or inspirational tidbits. Our holiday parties are simple, but we celebrate milestone anniversaries with personal gifts like concert tickets and trips. Our managers also work hard to identify standout performance and recognize it publicly.

Why is it essential to show your employees appreciation?
Our company cannot function without our people, and people who feel appreciated and enjoy their work and their work environment will stick around. Replacing employees is expensive and difficult, so we prefer to take good care of the people we have. This is just my experience, but I believe that happy employees also show up to work on time, work a little harder and give more of themselves to the company, which spells success for everyone.

What advice would you give others regarding employee appreciation?
Don’t save appreciation for annual reviews or end-of-year bonuses.  Little things can go a long way. Even a sincere verbal “thank you” or “you rocked that” can make someone’s day. 

Laurie Olshefski, owner of Shimmering Seas Jewelry & Gifts and Coastal Casuals Coastal Lifestyle Boutique, Panama City Beach

How do you cultivate a positive work environment for your employees?
To cultivate a positive work environment, you need to first establish a “Care Culture.” Show that you care as an owner or manager, that you truly care about your employee as an individual, that you care that they are happy in their position. If something seems off, you notice and try to help them through if you can. A care culture helps to create mutual respect, dedication and eventually loyalty. Also be mindful of the chemistry in your team when choosing new employees and when letting them go. A negative spirit can throw off the energy and productivity of a great team. Be proactive, when necessary. Endings need to happen to protect your team.

Why is it essential to show your employees appreciation?
We are in retail, a gifting business. I always say being in jewelry, is the “business of the heart.” Our gifts carry great meaning. So having employees that also care about helping our customers is crucial. If we don’t care about our staff and make them feel special, how can we expect our employees to make our customers feel special? Having a team that beats with one heart is noticeable. The driving beat of the team’s heart comes from the company’s leadership.

What advice would you give others regarding employee appreciation?
Show them your heart, show them appreciation, make them feel special. Know their important work love languages. Are they words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service or quality time-off with family or special life events? Remember their birthdays. Make work fun. Listen to their ideas.

Capital City Bank Team, Tallahassee

How do you cultivate a positive work environment for your employees?
“We have associates rather than employees because we believe belonging, connection, partnership and collegiality are all necessary for building strong relationships, welcoming new perspectives, and conducting business Capital City Style,” explained Beth Corum, chief operating officer for Capital City Bank.

Why is it essential to show your employees appreciation?
“Banking is a relationship business, so the way we serve and support our internal associate communities amplifies our impact as trusted bankers to our clients and loyal neighbors to our community partners,” said Sharon Bradley, Capital City Bank’s chief diversity officer. “Our 127-year commitment to difference-making in the communities we serve extends to our own Capital City family through efforts to grow a more diverse workforce, enhance our internal relationships and nurture a culture of inclusion within our workplaces.”

What advice would you give others regarding employee appreciation?
“Treat associates as your greatest business asset,” said William G. Smith Jr., chief executive officer for Capital City Bank. “Value, engage, develop, promote, empower, learn from and rely upon them. Along the way, recognize and reward your associates’ work often and help them to enjoy moments of humanity, fun and fellowship every day.”

Blake Dowling, CEO, Aegis Business Technologies, Tallahassee

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling

How do you cultivate a positive work environment for your employees?
Keeping employees motivated and engaged is a tall order. Having a good time as a team is even harder and finding commonality to push forward as one is the most difficult to get done. A lot of companies say they have it all covered. They have cake at people’s birthdays, they have a happy hour once a year and they offer great benefits, too. Guess what, that is not enough. That might have worked once upon a time, but today’s work force is looking for over-the-top engagement. To try and reach that status, we have put together a few things that separate us from the norm. First off, we stock the office with unlimited snacks and drinks (including beer after hours) as well as provide a team lunch or breakfast every month. We set up a book exchange in the lobby as well as a stand-up video game unit in the conference room. Once a year, we have the Aegis Concert night and all staff and a guest get a ticket to a concert plus a meal and reception together. We all attended an Edwin McCain performance and this year we saw Charlie Mars play. One of the coolest things we do together is to suit up each year with our custom Aegis Bowling Shirts and attend the Bowl for Kids’ Sake event supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters. That always gets people excited to have some fun and support a good cause, plus the team’s name is awesome, The Lucky Strikes. We also have a new agenda item in our weekly staff meeting that we call Aegis Santa. I used our corporate card points to cash in gifts for staff and each week a team member who goes above and beyond for a client or teammate gets a gift from Santa. The recipients are nominated by their co-workers. Recently, we gave out an iPad and next is a Bose outdoor speaker.

Why is it essential to show your employees appreciation?
It is the right thing to do, leadership comes with choices, and I choose to lead this way.

What advice would you give others regarding employee appreciation?
It takes a lot to build the perfect team, and there will always be more to do and items to improve on, but if you go over the top for your employees, the thought is that they will go over the top for you and your clients.

Nathan Abbott Broker Associate of Abbott Team, Miramar Beach

Nathan Abbott Team 5

Nathan Abbott

How do you cultivate a positive work environment for your employees?
We have a keep-it-real culture with a no-drama environment. Our culture is dependent on respect and love for each other that goes much deeper than a commission.

Why is it essential to show your employees appreciation?
They are the backbone of our company.  Our agents are the producers of real estate sales, and our employees are the support group for them. We are so appreciative of both our agents in the field and our employees who are helping to streamline their efforts.

What advice would you give others regarding employee appreciation?
Create a quarterly bonus structure for successful results.  Also treat them like family because they are.

Gloria Pugh, CEO, AWMAT Moving Warehousing Storage, Tallahassee

Gloria And Dean Pugh

Gloria and Dean Pugh

How do you cultivate a positive work environment for your employees?
Cultivating a positive working environment starts at the top of the chain of command; the business owners/management set the environment via their behavior and actions. The energy exhibited by leadership is quickly picked up by employees. Creating a positive, trusting, respectful and nurturing environment is very important to our company’s values. At AMWAT Moving Warehousing Storage, our employees are our most valued resource, so we show them much appreciation. We appreciate our employees by paying them well and setting them up for success by providing them the necessary training and all the equipment necessary for each employee to thrive in their positions. We also make expectations very clear so there is no confusion as to policies and processes. We are committed to improving our employees’ lives via upward financial mobility. We share the company’s profits with our employees via paid holidays, paid vacations and several bonuses throughout the year. We also maintain a food pantry stocked with fruit, breakfast bars, crackers, popcorn, assorted nuts, chips and more, that an employee can access whenever they want. When an employee feels well taken care of, they do their best to take care of fellow employees, clients and company.

Why is it essential to show your employees appreciation?
Because it’s the right thing to do. Our employees work very hard, and we want every one of our employees to know how much we appreciate their hard work. Our professional team of movers, warehouse men and the management team are our front line. Our front line is a consumer’s first impression. When you have happy employees who feel appreciated, they are going to treat clients with as much appreciation. Happy employees make happy clients. Happy clients are returning and referring consumers. It’s a win, win.

What advice would you give others regarding employee appreciation?
First, pay your employees well including paid holidays and vacation. Make sure your employees are trained well to do their jobs and provide them with all the resources necessary for them to thrive. Employees who feel they cannot thrive in their positions due to lack of training, limited resources, unreliable equipment and lack of knowledge of expectations, policies and processes become frustrated very easily. Frustrated employees can become very unhappy. Frustrated and unhappy employees are not good for business. Treat your employees with kindness and respect. In my lifetime, I have been mistreated by former employers and I have witnessed the mistreatment of employees by employers. It’s a painful experience and one not easily forgotten. I always tell folks, we treat our employees the way we want to be treated: fairly, honestly, kindly, professionally. In short, we want a positive experience. So, it’s up to you as a business owner to set up that positive environment not just for your employees but for your clients and the wellbeing of your company.

Rachael Gillette, president, Studer Community Institute, Pensacola

Rachael Gillette

Rachael Gillette

How do you cultivate a positive work environment for your employees?
Cultivating a positive work environment is a crucial part of a leader’s job and it takes work every day. Positivity is contagious and negativity even more so. Employees look to leaders on how to act and behave, so it’s vital to model positive behavior. Cultivating a positive work environment starts with the mission, vision, and values. Then you must have systems and processes in place, such as starting meetings with “Mission Moments” and “Wins” to connect the hard work that the team is doing back to the organization’s mission and values. Another tactic is to regularly meet one on one with employees to connect, asking specific questions such as “What is working well today?” “Who has been helpful to you, so that I can thank and recognize them.” Personal, handwritten thank-you notes, sent to the team member’s home, let spouses or parents know how much they are appreciated, and that is really special.

Why is it essential to show your employees appreciation?
The key drivers of employee engagement include reward and recognition, receiving support to accomplish work objectives, and being cared about as a person.

People want to know that they are doing work that is meaningful, that it’s making a difference and that it’s noticed. Making recognition a part of work culture is much more likely to create a loyal and engaged workforce than fear. When employees feel appreciated, they in turn appreciate the opportunity to get to do the work, and appreciate the customers, so it creates a positive cycle.

What advice would you give others regarding employee appreciation?
Do it daily and make it part of the culture. Don’t wait for someone to go above and beyond to recognize and appreciate them. Do it as often as possible because people respond positively to positivity. Enjoy it! It’s so much fun finding ways to recognize team members and celebrate the positive.

Categories: Management