Why you should recognize and reward your workers

Mother Teresa said, “There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

Charles M. Schwab, first president of U.S. Steel Corp., said, “I have yet to find a man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.”

Management studies show that 46% of employees leave a company because they feel unappreciated. Sixty-one percent say their bosses don’t consider them important to the company, and 88% claim they never get acknowledged for the work they perform. Surveys on what motivates employees show that appreciation is the number-one motivator.

Watching the Oscars this past Sunday night, it was clear that this annual ceremony brings recognition of their efforts to all the nominees. The show of appreciation for a job well done is motivation to be part of this stellar group again. It’s the same in any business. Recognition and appreciation go hand in hand to reinforce the feeling of self-worth, and that as a team member they are useful and important. It helps workers to feel confident that if they work hard, do their best, demonstrate commitment, and make meaningful contributions they will be recognized and appreciated.

According to The Manager’s Guide to Rewards by Doug Jensen, Tom McMullen, and Mel Stark of The Hay Group, people are motivated by more than money. Their Hay Group employee opinion surveys suggest that recognition is the most meaningful reward. It’s instrumental in reducing turnover, increasing productivity, and in creating a positive work environment. They go on to say, “Many managers would agree that rewards and recognition naturally go together — so much so that many compensation and benefits departments today are being renamed ‘Rewards and Recognition.’” Employee efforts that get recognized get repeated.

Appreciation is a fundamental human need. Employees respond to recognition because it confirms that their work is of value. When this happens, their satisfaction and their productivity increase. In its meta-analysis research, the Gallup organization has found the following cost benefits to employee recognition:

  • Increased individual productivity.
  • Greater employee satisfaction.
  • Direct performance feedback for individuals and teams.
  • Higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers.
  • Enhanced teamwork between employees.
  • Better quality employee retention and lower turnover.
  • Better safety records and fewer on-the-job accidents.
  • Lower absenteeism and on-the-job stress.

According to Kim Harrison, author of Creative Ideas for Employee Recognition, “Recognition is an important factor even at higher levels of management.” She quotes Dr. Lawrence Hrebiniak, professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania as saying, “What’s absolutely critical is that the organization celebrates success. Those who perform must be recognized. Their behavior and its results must be reinforced.” 

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