Public Service Announcement: Please Ignore This Advice from SHRM

I think the SHRM weekly email distribution list may have been hacked because that’s that only acceptable explanation for what I found in my email box this week.

The subject line of the email stared with “Employee Appreciation Day,” and that was enough to get me to open the email.

The first bullet point in the email was this:

Like bad HR tips from The Office

It was like driving past a car accident. I knew I shouldn’t look, but I couldn’t help myself. Here’s what I found when I followed the link:

On behalf of all the employees of (company name), please accept my appreciation for the excellent job you and your staff have done over the past several months in (enter the project or performance the employee is being thanked for). It was an enormous undertaking but went smoothly and efficiently!

Thanks to your leadership and dedication combined with your staff’s teamwork and energy, we are now enjoying (the result of the work). You and your employees should take great pride in this accomplishment.

During the next few days I hope to personally thank each member of your team but, in the meantime, please pass along my gratitude and that of all the employees of (company name).

Sincerely yours,

(President or CEO)

Oh. My.

To get HR advice this bad, you usually have to make time to watch an old episode of The Office. Where do I even begin?

1. Let’s start with “Employee Appreciation Day” itself

One day a year of appreciating your employees is enough, right? This is the wrong message to promote if you are the largest HR association on the planet. But, intentions were probably in the right place, so I’ll let this slide.

Our research into what employees feel makes a “best place to work” reinforces that among the most important factors is feeling valued and appreciated at work.  If you are going to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day at your organization, it should be a grand gesture to employees that goes above and beyond the appreciation you already show EVERY OTHER DAY of the year.

2. Nothing says “I appreciate you” like a mass, template email

It’s devoid of any true thought from an executive leader who you probably don’t know. If sending this email at your organization would be viewed as a positive step, there are much deeper issues you should be concerned about.

Instead, maybe take a look at how to show appreciation to your employees all year long.

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Maybe consider coaching your executives on sharing some individualized, sincere notes of thanks to employees throughout the year. Even better, consider a way of making appreciation a part of how you do business every day.

3. It’s an insincere, inauthentic communication

This does more damage than not communicating at all.

If your employees suspect that you don’t really care about them, don’t prove them right by sending out an awful communication like this one. As a society, we have developed a pretty finely tuned BS detection system to defend against the constant stream of lies and manipulation that flow constantly towards us in the media. We will see through your half-hearted attempts to trick us into believing you really care about us.

Spend some time to understand what really matters to employees when it comes to recognition and appreciation. For many, if you want to show true appreciation, give them a cash bonus or some unexpected time off or a throw us a party. Bottom line, don’t say anything that your (leadership, HR, management) actions don’t back up.

Bad advice you should never, ever follow

So here’s the bottom line, please do NOT, under any circumstances, follow this ridiculous advice from SHRM unless you are actually trying to make your culture worse.

Happy Employee Appreciation Day!

Jason Lauritsen a keynote speaker, author and advisor.  He is an employee engagement and workplace culture expert who will challenge you to think differently. 

A former corporate human resources executive, Jason has dedicated his career to helping leaders build organizations that are good for both people and profits. 

Most recently, he led the research team for Quantum Workplace’s Best Places to Work program where he has studied the employee experience at thousands of companies to understand what the best workplaces in the world do differently than the rest. 

Jason is the co-author of the book, Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationships. Connect with Jason at www.JasonLauritsen.com

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3 Comments on “Public Service Announcement: Please Ignore This Advice from SHRM

  1. Well said! Whenever I get a mass communication that is obviously a template, I just delete it and roll my eyes. Employee appreciation is best shown through small, frequent gestures. Otherwise, it’s similar to kids who will behave for just the few days before Christmas, hoping that it will convince Santa to forget how bad they were the rest of the year…

    1. Instructions: Complete and submit form annually.
      Dear (insert name of organization):
      It is so great to work at (insert name of organization).
      I especially want to thank (insert SHRM) for their professional support that helped get me to where I am today (insert number of miles from Cleveland).
      Signed (insert employee ID Number)

  2. Jason – I thought I’d never side with SHRM on anything, but really, it ain’t that bad. Sure, there are better and more effective ways to show appreciation to employees, but it does acknowledge a completed body of work by specific employees. At least the CEO is making the effort, and if s/he actually follows through with a visit to the individuals, either as a team or individually, then it becomes real meaningful.

    Message templates are a fact of business life, whether we like it or not, and using one shouldn’t be interpreted as being either insincere or inauthentic, nor do I believe it will do harm to whatever culture exists. Optics aside, recognition from the boss is always a good thing, and I don’t see anything in the message that would piss anybody off.

  3. Thanks Jason. At a time when brands are endeavoring to manifest authenticity (a fools errand for them), it is remarkable but unsurprising that many still adopt pro forma approaches such as this. Thanks for calling out that mechanistic actions such as this still present themselves in our workplaces.

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