Thanks... Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2007
While bonuses and other expensive perks have been traditional ways to motivate staff, a new survey shows that a simple “thank you” is the most appreciated nontangible 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 was the second-most-common response, given by 20 percent of employees and 36 percent of CFOs. The survey was developed by Accountemps, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals.

“Very often, managers think that it takes a lot of money or expensive perks to motivate employees,” says Chuck Cave, vice president for Accountemps in Cleveland. “However, we have found the two greatest motivators have nothing to do with money: recognition and communication.”

Smart Business spoke with Cave about the importance of recognition and how employers can create a culture of open communication and appreciation of employees.

Other than a simple thank you, are there other ways managers can thank their staff?

A thank you always works well; so does a handwritten note or an e-mail. That said, however, while recognizing the accomplishments of an employee on a one-onone basis is important, it is also imperative that people get recognized in front of their peer group as well. One way to do this is during a staff meeting, or an e-mail that copies the peer group and top executives in the company. This has the added benefit of motivating others in the company to excel, particularly if they like public recognition for their efforts.

What should employees do if they feel they are not getting enough praise or communication?

Employees are often reluctant to be open about what they need. However, during any one-on-one meetings with the manager, when he or she says: ‘Is there anything you need from me?’ — that is the opportunity to bring up the need for more recognition. The employee needs to be prepared to give examples of good work that have gone unrecognized. Clearly, this is a topic that employees don’t often feel comfortable addressing. However, employees need to realize that there are times when managers are caught up in the fast pace of work life and will neglect to recognize accomplishments among staff. Good managers, however, know the importance of recognition.

What are some ways that managers can increase the level of communication and appreciation with their staff?

Money may not always be there in a company to shower employees with bonuses, lunches, networking events and other perks. However, nonmonetary tools that are always available are good communication and recognition. As our survey pointed out, these tools are probably the most effective in helping keep employees motivated and happy, which is the key to retention.

Recognition and communication go hand-in-hand. Many times, employees want more communication — because it’s during these talks with the manager that recognition often happens.

One way managers can gain a higher level of communication with their employees is by blocking off time to meet with them throughout the week. Not every manager can meet with every single employee every week (and if there is a staff of 60 people, it is next to impossible to do this). However, if a manager has the typical six to eight people who are reporting to him or her, then time-blocking can be effective. For example, once a week the manager can meet on a rotating basis for an hour with one employee. After six to eight weeks, the manager would have met with everyone on staff.

The number one reason cited that employees decide to leave a company is because of their relationship with their superior. Communication and recognition can go a long way in creating a work environment where an employee wants to stay. And — as the labor market continues to get tighter and tighter — anything a manager can do to create a healthy work environment and culture helps with retention.

What other ways can managers better express their appreciation for their employees?

One powerful way is through a mentoring program. It sends a strong message to the mentor that his or her experience is valued enough to formally pass it on to the next generation of workers, and it expresses to the employee that he or she plays an important enough role in the company to provide a mentor.

Another way is to pull a department together to brainstorm ideas. This sends the message that what employees think is important. It also has the added benefit of encouraging dialogue and helping to set a common goal for everyone to reach. Again, this sets up a positive environment for recognition all around when the goal is accomplished.

CHUCK CAVE is the vice president for Accountemps in the Cleveland area. Reach him at Chuck.cave@rhi.com or (216) 621-4253.