Top talent can be hard to come by, while average employees are ten a penny. The average number of applicants per job remains high – research from CV-Library found there are typically 57 applicants for every admin job, with 37 for customer services, 27 for retail and 26 for hospitality – so it can be easy for managers to view junior and low-level staff as ultimately expendable.
Hopefully we’re stating the obvious when we say that people aren’t expendable, even for low-skilled roles with a high turnover, and what’s more if you recognise and invest in them, you’ll reap the rewards of higher productivity, better motivation, boosted morale, and the engagement required to improve retention.
Underappreciation is a real problem
It’s clear that many bosses in the UK see their staff’s salary as providing all the reward required for their commitment. However, a salary is the bare minimum required (by law!) to recognise someone for doing their job – so if that’s all they’re getting, why should they feel the need to do more than the bare minimum in their role?
Disregarding monetary forms of recognition to top up a salary – actually appreciating the work of employees and not taking them for granted is as much a part of a positive work culture as it is a financial consideration.
For example, a survey by recruitment website Monster found that 57% of UK workers thought employees weren’t thanked enough at work, with 54% saying this left them feeling unappreciated, and 41% saying that this left them feeling demotivated as a result.
The link between recognition or reward and motivation is well established – incentives provide a goal for people to aim for, and rewards help build engagement – with non-financial motivators often the most effective. Even something as simple as saying “thank you” or providing positive feedback for a job well done can go a long way.
So if it’s that simple, why don’t all managers do it? There can be lots of reasons why managers aren’t showing their staff some appreciation – perhaps they assume that staff know they’re happy with their work and feel they don’t need to say it.
Or perhaps they really do see staff as expendable – they’re paying them, isn’t that enough? It could also be an element of the old British stiff upper lip – saying anything too positive or gushing is just a bit awkward and embarrassing for some.
There are also many different ways that taking employees for granted can manifest. Maybe something that was once deserving of high praise is now the norm, so the thanks have dried up now that it’s expected. Similarly, if someone is putting in regular overtime without thanks, but is then harshly penalised for arriving late, they will feel similarly unappreciated.
Whatever the reason, it’s no way to inspire your employees to do their best – or encourage the retention of your best talent.
Remembering the little things
Recognition can take many forms in the workplace, from saying thank you, to a full recognition program tailored to your industry – whatever approach an organisation takes to reward and recognition… it’s based around the little things.
A company that talks a big game about its sales incentives or reward platforms, but doesn’t back it up by actually engaging with employees on a personal level is still taking employees for granted.
It’s essential to ensure that there’s a human connection involved in rewarding and recognising your employees, and this can be as simple as tying rewards into personal milestones for staff members, such as birthdays or long-service awards.
Most important though, is the delivery – while digital rewards are very convenient for both managers and staff members, a code landing in a mailbox isn’t exactly personal.
These rewards need to be accompanied by genuine thanks, improving the human connection between staff and managers, driving engagement with the company, and reinforcing the behaviours that the reward has been given for. Where geographical logistics mean this isn’t possible – at the very least the reward should come with a personal message highlighting the behaviour that is being recognised.
Going the extra mile
Once the basics are covered, and managers are communicating with staff to recognise them for their efforts, there are many ways in which an organisation can build on recognition and reward strategies to ensure employees continue to feel valued and appreciated.
Encouraging peer-to-peer recognition is an important part of building a culture where employees feel valued – but it should sit alongside recognition from managers, rather than replacing it. Peer-to-peer recognition – i.e. thanks and recognition from co-workers – is often best achieved through a recognition platform, a site where staff can login and send messages of thanks that can be reviewed by management.
Providing employee benefits is also a way to show staff that they are valued and appreciated – rather than being tied to performance, benefits such as help with childcare or annual leave purchase show staff that, even if they have a bad week performance-wise, the company is still there to support them, and is willing to invest in encouraging them to stick around.
Consider employee personality
One final factor to consider is that people are very different, and may require different things to feel valued. What, to some, may feel motivating and engaging may feel stifling and overbearing for others – and what may be enough for some won’t be enough for others.
A person’s personality can also determine what behaviours they are most likely to appreciate being recognised for – some will get greater satisfaction from being rewarded for hitting targets, while others will see more value in being rewarded for providing great customer service.
How do you learn what people are looking for? The only way is to engage with them, and to ensure they aren’t taken for granted.