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If You Don't Have Time to Thank Your Employees, Think Again

Aug. 10, 2016
One way to improve staff retention is to let them know their work is appreciated.

As I was driving into my office, after a 10-day vacation, I was thinking that while it was nice to be away, I was happy to go back to work. I like what I do, I enjoy my colleagues and I feel valued.

As if on cue, the radio announcer was talking about a survey that found appreciation was what mattered most to employees, even ahead of salary. Without this "pat on the back," employees would even leave their jobs.

How hard is it to show appreciation? Why wouldn't a boss thank an employee for a job well done? A number of reasons might be at play. For the older generation, a paycheck is a "thank you" and therefore no additional praise is necessary. Time could be a factor as today's workforce is doing multiple jobs, so managers might feel there is no time to stop by an employee's desk to thank them. And economic pressures might lead managers to feel that appreciation isn't necessary since their employees should be happy to even have a job.

While those reasons might have merit, employees don't see it that way. A recent study by Career Builder found that 50% of the respondents feel underappreciated. And many will leave their jobs for just that reason. A Forbes study found that 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as a key reason for their departure.

Appreciation can take a variety of forms, often just simple feedback. A colleague of mine once said to me that she wished her manager would tell her something, anything, even it's bad news, rather than just ignoring her work. A Gallup study reflected that sentiment when it discovered that employees who receive feedback about their strengths show nearly 15% less staff turnover and nearly 8% greater productivity.

Having covered the manufacturing world for the past 10 years, I think this industry is doing it right.

I have yet to walk through a manufacturing facility that doesn't have a wall covered with employees' photos thanking them for a job well done. And that's just the first basic step. Most have extensive recognition programs complete with a variety of prizes.

But it's the public recognition at company-wide ceremonies that have always impressed me. At a recent factory tour in Puerto Rico, I was quite surprised to see managers hugging employees as they handed out awards for teams that created improvement projects. The feeling of appreciation was palpable in that room.

There are a variety of ways to show appreciation. To me the best is when I have worked really hard on something and a manager takes the time to say thanks for a job well done and acknowledges that I put in extra time to ensure the quality was high. It doesn't even have to be face-to-face, as an e-mail works fine, too.

An important, but overlooked, way to show appreciation is to take the time to explain, in person, to an employee how their work fits in within the goals of the overall organization. Many studies have shown that workers need to feel part of the larger organization. Along with this a manager can take the time to discuss the future goals of the organization as well. The message here is that the employee is so valued that they deserve to know where the company is going.

To further emphasize the importance of the employee's value, offer to provide training or some type of further education that will help the employee fulfill their role in the company's future.

For me personally, feeling appreciated is one of the top reasons why I like, and stay, at my job. Sometimes it takes a vacation to realize that.

About the Author

Adrienne Selko | Senior Editor

 As Senior Editor for MH&L  Adrienne covers workforce, leadership and technology. 

She also manages IndustryWeek’s Expansion Management, exploring how successful manufacturers leverage location to gain competitive advantage. Her coverage includes the strategies behind why companies located their headquarters, research institutes, factories, warehouse and distribution centers and other facilities where they did, and how they benefit from the decision.

In the past, Adrienne has managed IndustryWeek’s award-winning website, overseeing eNewsletters, webinars, and contributed content. 

Adrienne received a bachelor’s of business administration from the University of Michigan.

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