Management tip: Top 3 ways to express your gratitude to employees

Communication is keyManagement, listen up.

You’ve got some good employees working for you. Yes, I know. He is a screw up. You’re right. But the rest of them? The rest of them are diamonds in the rough. The leaders of tomorrow. Pure gold.

But you’re losing them.

Right now, as you read this, they’re busy reading want ads, networking with friends, trying to find ways to get out from under your oppressive and dogmatic regime.

Oh wait. That was a little harsh. Likely true, but harsh.

They are considering their next gig, though. Trust me.

What to do? What to do? Those are some really smart folks, and it would be a shame to lose them. Without them, you would be all alone in a sea of imbecility.

If only there were some way that you could reward those employees for their effort.

Don’t go all white. This isn’t about money. It’s not about a raise. And it’s not really about benefits.

In fact, here’s the shocker: money doesn’t even make the top three.

So, what are these mystical, magical rewards your employees want?

  1. Actually expressing your gratitude.
    If you have an employee who has been doing exemplary work, why not do something completely random. Like actually telling them they’ve been doing good work. Employees need feedback. Without feedback, your employees are guessing. And likely guessing incorrectly. This guessing exacerbates their ignorance. Ignorance breeds fear. Fear breeds contempt. And pretty soon, you’re scratching your head wondering why your star has decided to move on to greener pastures. So tell them. Whether they ask or not. Tell them.
  2. Assigning meaningful and challenging work.
    Yes, yes. We all realize that someone has to take care of the scullery work. But that doesn’t mean it all has to be ditch digging. Got a really good ditch digger? Why not try expanding that employee’s horizons with more challenging work? Like reporting on the latest ditch to the executive team, allowing them to launch an innovate ditch-digging process, or encouraging them to begin training and managing other ditch diggers? Even better yet, why not ask them what they would like to try doing? Maybe your star ditch digger isn’t–horror of horrors–interested in digging ditches her whole life. Maybe, if you asked, you would find some other projects on which you could focus her. Projects that would give her a sense of fulfillment. Make her feel like she has some meaning in the organization.
  3. Letting them know what’s happening in the rest of the company.
    How much do you like it when everyone knows a secret and they won’t tell you? Not very much, I bet. This is how it is working for most managers. They go to meeting after meeting. Absorbing interesting things from other departments. Learning about screw ups. Finding out about successful projects. And yet, when you all-too-well informed managers meet with your employees, what do you do? You ask for even more information. How about a little quid pro quo? Cough up the details. Dish the dirt. Part of feeling like a team is having a common lexicon, a common folklore, and sometimes, just sometimes, having a common enemy. So let your employees know what you know. All of it. As often as you can.

Sensing a theme here? No? Well go back and read it again, then, jerky. I’ll wait.

Okay, how about now? Sensing a theme?

That’s right. It’s all about communication.

Good. What else? That’s right. It was a trick question. There are two themes.

Don’t give me that look. What else?

That’s right, trust.

Trust and communication.

And that is what keeps employees happy. Before raises. And before perks.

About Rick Turoczy

More than mildly obsessed with the Portland startup community. Founder and editor at Silicon Florist. Cofounder and general manager at PIE. Follow me on Twitter: @turoczy
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