High Fives All Around! – Appreciation and Retention Strategies

Tanis Harms, Community Learning Network

1 10 22 November 2016

Why is Conveying Appreciation Important?

Regardless of where a CALP location is in Alberta or whether they are large or small, one similarity in the non-profit CALP world is the ongoing issue of retaining staff and volunteers. Often the reasons someone leaves a CALP are beyond an employer’s influence such as the person is moving, changing seasons of life (for example: having babies, retiring, going back to full time work), changing health conditions, changing financial needs (for example needing more hours or a better paying job), and others. At times though, the reason a staff member or volunteer may leave a CALP could be due to not feeling appreciated in the organization. In fact, “The number-one reason most Americans leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated. In fact, 65% of people surveyed said they got no recognition for good work last year” (Gallup, Tom Rath and Donald Clifton, How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life, 2001 Retrieved November 10, 2016 from: http://www.globoforce.com/gfblog/2014/25-great-statistics-on-employee-recognition/)

As I get to know the individuals involved in the CALPs around Alberta – whether they are board members, staff, instructors/facilitators or volunteers – I am continually impressed with what great people we have in our system. The passion, care, creativity and skill that each one brings to our CALPs are what help make our system so impactful throughout our provincial communities. If possible, we want to “keep” these individuals as long as possible!

From an organizational level, retaining staff is also a smart business move. Not only are funds and time invested in training these individuals, but their experience grows the longer that they are with organizations...and that experience leaves with them when or if they go.

One day I’d love to sit down and have coffee with you (okay, tea in my case) …and ask you the following questions:

  • “When in your life, professionally or personally, have you felt truly appreciated?”
  • “How was appreciation shown to you?”
  • “Who showed you appreciation/who was the source of showing it to you?”
  • “What was your response – short term and long term?”

My guess is that it would not take long for you to answer! When we are shown appreciation in ways that are meaningful to us, it stands out in our lives and motivates us. Often it leads to a deeper loyalty or bond with the person or organization who showed it to us. Why would this be any different for those who work with our CALPs?

What Are Our Appreciation “Languages”?

Each of us shows and understands appreciation differently, and Gary Chapman has described some of these in his book, “The 5 Love Languages” (see http://www.5lovelanguages.com/ for more information). It is important to not only learn the languages that you and the individuals in your CALP organization show or give, but also which ones they best understand being communicated to them. Be aware that often we speak and understand multiple languages! The 5 main languages Chapman describes are the following: Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, and Physical Touch

Appreciation On the Cheap in the CALP World

“This is great and important,” you may say, “but how in the world can I afford these things within our CALP budget?” Good news! Within the CALP Grant Guidelines, “Volunteer Recognition” is an approved budgeting category….so why not make the most of it?

Appropriate and affordable ways to “speak” some of these languages in your CALP

1. Receiving Gifts

Gifts don’t have to be big or expensive! Gift cards, “Pamper Packages”, Stationary goods, a surprise treat, some homemade baking, etc.

2. Acts of Service

What could you do to make their day easier? (Help them prepare for a course; Clean their office for them; Make them a much needed morning coffee or tea…)

3. Quality Time

Provide opportunities for quality communication and relationship building. These could include regular get-togethers….which include business along with some team building time.

4. Words of Affirmation

This can be done verbally one on one, in a group, and/or written formats. Be sure to be as specific as possible in what they have or are doing well.

5. Physical Touch

Don’t get all awkward on me here - this simply could mean a high five or a side hug to indicate they are appreciated.

Other Retention Ideas

6. Clear Communication

An easy and affordable way to do this is to have regular meetings sharing pertinent information and providing time for questions or concerns. This shows that each person has a “say” in your organization, and that it is valued.

7. PD opportunities

These can be both large and small scale opportunities for those who are wanting to learn and grow in their development. Internal PD is also great (watch a video or invite a local guest in).

How Do I Know the Most Meaningful Ways to Show Appreciation?

Most simply – ask! Have each individual fill out a form which indicates some of their preferred ways of being appreciated, communicated with, etc. Here’s a sample that you may wish to adapt for your organization: Get-to-know-me Questions

Being intentional in showing various ways of appreciation to each individual in your organization will help not only with retention, but will also grow a positive team atmosphere resulting in a stronger CALP team all around!

What other ways do you show appreciation to those you work with? Please share in the comments section!

Tanis Harms
Regional Support Staff
Northern Alberta


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