Top Talent Stays When They Are… Appreciated

Who doesn’t love to feel appreciated? Appreciation is a good thing. And who wouldn’t want more a good thing? Good’s good. Get it where you can. Of course, you’ll want to hang around if you’re feeling the love.

So it’s no surprise then when report, “A study by Bersin and Associates revealed that companies providing ample employee recognition have 31% lower voluntary turnover rate. A low turnover rate is a strong proxy measure of overall satisfaction, while decreased turnover is an important metric for significant cost savings.”

Or when, “40% of employed Americans say they’d put more energy into their work if they were recognized more often”, according to a report by the Harvard Business Review.

Or that, report “Companies who have a strategic employee recognition program in place report 71%+ higher engagement levels among their staff, than companies without a program.”

Which is all well and good. But how best to show appreciation? What appreciation do people genuinely appreciate and where might you focus your energy for the best results? Dr Paul White co-author of Rising Above a Toxic Workplace offers four conditions “that need to be present for employees to feel completely appreciated:

  1. Communicate Regularly. This varies by workplace, and any cadence is fine so long as it’s more than once a year during an annual review.
  2. Tailor to the Recipient. Some people like a fist-bump, while others prefer an email. Show additional gratitude by recognizing how each employee likes to be thanked. 
  3. Personal & Individualized. Relate your appreciation to the specific accomplishments of individual team members.
  4. Be Genuine & Authentic. Your tone of voice, facial expressions and posture must match what is being conveyed verbally.”

David Novak also advises in his Harvard Business Review piece – Recognizing Employees Is the Simplest Way to Improve Morale

  • “Keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of people aren’t simply motivated by a paycheck. They want to work hard and contribute and be noticed and respected for their efforts. If you truly appreciate them in your mind and heart, your attitude will come through naturally in what you say and do.
  • “Show respect by sharing as much information as possible. Sam Walton summarized this better than I can: “The more they know, the more they’ll understand. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them. If you don’t trust your associates to know what’s going on, they’ll know you really don’t consider them partners.”
  • “Ask lots of questions — not simply to your direct reports, but to as many frontline people as possible. One question I loved to ask is, “What would you do if you had my job?” Maybe the response will be a useful suggestion, in which case you should acknowledge it and implement it if possible, to prove that these conversations aren’t just for show. Even if you don’t get any great ideas, such discussions can still have a huge impact, as long as your staff sees that you really thought about their suggestions.
  • “Celebrate first downs, not just touchdowns. Publicly recognizing and rewarding small wins keeps everyone motivated over the long haul. Don’t be the Negative Nelly who says, “Well, it’s great that you just closed that new sale, but we’re still $5 million behind budget this year!”
  • “Make recognition as fun as possible. Take your business seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Over the years I’ve given out rubber chickens and plastic chattering teeth to recognize exceptional contributions. Which do you think people are more likely to display and tell their friends about — a rubber chicken or a fancy pen?
  • “Make it personal. Another interesting point from the OGO research: 76% of people save handwritten thank you notes. A customized, thoughtful gift will have a bigger impact than something mass-produced, regardless of the price tag.
  • “Make it timely. Don’t wait for monthly meetings or annual performance reviews. The OGO survey respondents reported an average of 50 days since they last felt recognized in any way at work. That’s way too long. Good things are happening all around you; notice them and seize any opportunity to acknowledge them.
  • “Finally, remember recognition is a privilege, not just another item on your to-do list. As a leader you have the privilege of feeding people’s souls and helping them feel great about themselves. And by feeding their souls, you’ll feed yours in return”.

Some great advice there – top talent stays when they are appreciated.

But of course, every company, every culture, is different. And different environments will demand different approaches. Whether you run the most elaborate of Employee Appreciation Days, share lavish rewards and away days, give away the smartest new tech or splash out on big bad bonuses there’s one single act of appreciation that everyone appreciates whoever and wherever they work – a simple, sincere, “thank you”. Such a great place to start.

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