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Employee Appreciation: How to Retain Your Best Talent – Wendy Ferguson

A Commentary by Wendy Ferguson – BHRLR, CPHR

It’s bonus season and while companies prepare to dole out the cash, some HR departments are bracing themselves for a mass exodus.  It is not unusual to see a spike in attrition after the big spend.  Yes…salary, bonuses and benefits are critical, and let’s face it… generally, people do work for money.  However, people often depart because of something altogether different.

Here’s what I know for sure – employees respond to appreciation.  Recognition confirms they are valued, wanted and needed by others.  Consequently, their job satisfaction and productivity heightens and they become motivated to maintain or improve their output.

Just as in any other relationship, if appreciation is missing you’ve got some real issues.  I’m talking about the non-monetary form of appreciation.   You may be thinking, ‘a nice raise and a bonus IS showing appreciation’, but think of the teenager with the parent who just gives them money to keep them happy rather than spending time appreciating or acknowledging them.  What eventually happens to that teenager?  They become disengaged and entitled…maybe even run away in search of something else.  The workplace is no different in that regard.  Yes, you need to provide for your employees, but if you don’t show them some other form of appreciation, there is high probability they will leave, or at the very least become disengaged.

So, what can you do as an employer to appreciate your employees and retain your best talent?

Be specific when telling your employee why he or she is receiving recognition.  “Good job”, “you rock”, “you’re a rockstar” are all positive comments, but they all lack power.  “You’re report had a substantial impact on the committee’s decision to move ahead.  Your remarkable job of emphasizing the key issues and presenting the information allowed us to weigh our options before making our final decision.  Because of your work, we’ll be able to cut our budget by 10% without having to reduce our workforce”.  What would you rather hear?  The first comments lack sincere appreciation.

Acknowledge employee accomplishments throughout the year – not just during annual compensation time.  Timely appreciation will enhance positive feelings.  This will boost your employee’s confidence in their ability to do well in your company.

Determine how each employee prefers to receive appreciation.  Employee recognition is subjective.    Some employees may prefer public recognition while others may prefer a private thank-you note…or just cash.  Ask them what works for them.

Fairness and consistency are essential.  Your employees need to perceive that each person who makes a similar contribution are equally likely to receive recognition.

In my experience, too much emphasis is placed on money as the only form of employee appreciation.  It’s often far from the truth.  In fact, the majority of reasons why employees quit their jobs are within the control of their employer.  Problems with culture, working conditions and relationships are all factors that will push your best talent out the door.  Stay in touch with what they are thinking and how they are feeling and appreciate their efforts. Pay close attention to engagement surveys, exit interviews and stay interviews.  Make employees feel relevant.  Because if you don’t, someone else will.

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