This blog was written by Elizabeth Burt, Senior Leadership Consultant at Helpside.

Let’s play a fun party game. Name your favorite company policy. What you don’t have a favorite? Of course, you don’t! Most of us think of creating new company policies after there has been a particularly frustrating employee incident. We don’t stay up late reading through sample employee handbooks unless we are looking for a means to fall asleep.

Right now, there is a lot of focus on harassment in the media, and this extra attention and scrutiny has created a spike in concern about our work environments. One common request is for help in developing different types of employee policies such as gossip policies, social media policies, etc. all with the goal of preventing problems and protecting the business from future complaints.

Don’t get me wrong, creating and delivering an employee policy guide to every employee is the bare minimum, best practice we recommend. However, creating a policy for every little behavior you hope to see in your employees will do nothing if your company culture is broken. Once you have established your company polices and communicated those to employees, the compliance leg of the race should end, and the leadership leg of your company culture marathon should begin.

Which wolf are you feeding?

There is a Cherokee legend about a father telling his son that he has two wolves inside him; one evil and one good. When the son askes him which wolf will win, the father replies, “the one you feed.” This is the same with your company culture. We could spend countless hours trying to create policies or processes with the idea of preventing behaviors and ensuring compliance. But why feed the compliance wolf, when your energy is better utilized in feeding the recognition wolf? Appreciation is a fundamental human need. We respond to what is recognized. When you recognize behaviors, the bad or the good, you are demonstrating to employees what is important.

Would you rather start off each day watching what time your employees clock in to discipline employees who are a few minutes late?

Or spend that energy thanking your employees for being dependable, available, and taking care of your customers?

Would you rather call an employee into your office after a meeting to discuss their aggressive behavior towards another team member?

Or spend that energy recognizing and thanking the employee who successfully redirected negative comments during a meeting and got everyone back on track?

Now go out there and start a kindness culture!

Kindness is measurable and has a ripple effect. Remember that movie Pay it Forward? Well, the University of California San Diego conducted what has come to be known as the “kindness study.” The study found that a single act of kindness typically inspires several more acts of generosity and kindness. But as you are reading this, I know you already know this to be true. When was the last time you were recognized at work? How did it make you feel? I would bet money that you left the exchange and you something kind or caring for those around you. What leaders do and say makes an impact beyond the one employee they show appreciation for. And it does not even have to be anything big to start the ripples.

Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Be timely. Share your thanks as soon as possible after you observe the above and beyond action.
  • Be specific. Tell the employee exactly what he or she did to earn your thanks and why it is important to your organization. Avoid any criticism in the note. This is not the time and place for that.
  • Be sincere. You don’t have to go overboard with your praise. Your comment ort note can be short and sweet.
  • Be frequent. Sincere thanks never get old. Research shows people in high performance cultures need praise from their supervisor at least every seven days, and praise should be given five times to every one criticism.

When leaders focus on recognizing employees for the types of behaviors they want to see more of, employees do more of those preferred behaviors. When we work in an environment where people are recognized for their kind behavior and treat each other well, the happy factor goes up, and the unhappy (non-compliance) factor goes down.

For even more ideas on creating a recognition-rich company culture, check out our Recognition Toolkit.