While bonus checks and promotions
are the tried-and-true way to motivate staff, a new survey shows that a simple thank you is the most treasured non-tangible reward among employees. According to the survey, 35 percent of workers and
30 percent of chief financial officers (CFOs)
cite frequent recognition of accomplishments as the most effective nonmonetary
reward. Regular communication is the second-most-common response, given by 20
percent of employees and 36 percent of
The survey was developed by Accountemps, the world’s first and largest
specialized staffing service for temporary
accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Conducted by an independent
research firm, the survey includes responses from more than 1,400 CFOs from a random sample of U.S. companies with more
than 20 employees, and 536 full- or part-time office workers.
“While other perks are important, what
really matters at the end of the day is that
the manager personally thanks employees
for a job well done,” says Phil Willingham,
senior regional vice president for Accountemps in Houston.
Smart Business spoke with Willingham
about the importance of recognition and
what employers can do to make sure that
employees know that their work is being
Why was the simple thank you ranked high
among the nontangible incentives?
Workers are most motivated by recognition of achievements. Employees want to
know that their input makes a difference
and is valued. A simple thank you is a sincere form of appreciation that an employee’s work is not taken for granted. It is
important for managers to know that this
simple gesture can make a huge impact
and have a positive influence on morale.
How much appreciation is appropriate when
it comes to giving recognition?
Giving praise for the sake of giving praise
is not a good practice. It should be genuine and heartfelt. Managers also need to be
careful about favoring one employee over
another. Well-deserved praise needs to be
spread out among employees.
Another good way to appropriately
praise is to praise entire teams or departments for work well done. This is particularly effective if done publicly in a meeting,
in memos or via the company newsletter.
Why the need for so much recognition?
Businesses today are having an increasingly difficult time finding qualified professionals. There is a shortage of talent across many
industries. Retention is a challenge that businesses want to minimize. The easiest way to
retain workers is helping to make people feel
valued for their work. In the war for talent,
companies have to recognize that employees
have a lot of options, so doing things other
than just providing a job is important.
What should managers do to recognize the
accomplishments of their staff?
The survey shows that saying thank you
is the most effective way. Other types of
recognition are also important, such as
making sure that tenure and anniversaries
are publicly announced and celebrated.
I’ve also seen a trend where managers
have taken this idea to a more personal
level and connected with the employee by
being attentive to what the employee likes
to do outside the workplace. In this way,
the gift or recognition has a personal touch
to it. For example, if a worker is an avid
rock climber, perhaps giving them a gift
certificate for equipment or a book on the
subject. Tying the recognition gift to something the employee is passionate about
shows that the manager cares.
What other ways can managers increase the
level of recognition and communication?
It’s not all on the manager’s shoulders.
The employer can also encourage employees to motivate and cheer each other on. It
is the manager’s job to create a sense of
community among the employees that he
or she manages. Push them to go to lunch
together, brainstorm ideas (which shows
employees they are ‘in it’ together and that
the manager doesn’t have all the answers),
come together to solve problems, provide
mentors to employees (demonstrating that
you care about their future), and recognize
employees by making them a mentor to a
less experienced employee.
In addition, having a formal and systematic
approach to the employee review process is
Are there times when employees ought to
recognize their managers?
Absolutely. Managers should be recognized for significant work milestones,
tenure, production performance and other
accomplishments. However, employees
need to be careful, since their gestures of
appreciation may be viewed by other
workers as wanting to gain favor with the
manager. One way to avoid this is to
include all team members in the recognition.
PHIL WILLINGHAM is the Houston senior regional vice president of Accountemps, a division of Robert Half International.
Reach him at (713) 623-4700 or [email protected].