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 appreciated.
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 critical.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.