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Why Employees Value Appreciation Over Bonuses

image for TijanaM/Shutterstock
TijanaM/Shutterstock
  • It is a human need to be recognized and appreciated.
  • While a good salary may be a good incentive for employees, they may still leave if they feel their efforts are not appreciated.
  • The organization must ensure that employees not only receive a good salary, but feel valued and appreciated.

Though getting a raise or bonus is nice, it's not the most important factor in employees' happiness. Employees are motivated more by bosses who let their staff members know when they're doing a good job and advocate on their employees' behalf. A study from Appirio, a provider of cloud-based worker and customer experience solutions, found that this appreciation is more important to employees than the prospect of getting a promotion or a cash bonus.

Specifically, 60% of the workers surveyed said that when they're analyzing a job offer, the most important factor is knowing whether management appreciates employees, while only 4% said they were most concerned with how often employees are evaluated for raises.

"While recruiters may think focusing on total compensation is the best way to win over a prized candidate, workers would rather assess the chemistry between their prospective manager and the team – and for good reason; a manager can make or break the employee experience," the study's authors wrote.

A greater percentage of those surveyed said they would rather work for a boss who always had their back than have a clearly defined career or a results-driven bonus structure. 

"While fair-market pay and benefits get the candidate to accept an offer, the dynamic of the manager-employee relationship may be a better indicator of employee satisfaction," the researchers wrote.

Although the Appirio report only surveyed professionals in the tech industry, experts agree that employees in any field want to feel appreciated.

"Our survey found that appreciation, connectedness and emotional safety all outrank compensation as important factors in career decision-making," said Harry West, head of worker experience solutions at Appirio, in a statement. "Employee engagement can't be solved by simply showering workers with raises and bonuses – companies must be dedicated to providing transparency, support and technologies that keep high-end tech talent happy."

Sometimes, a simple thank-you is all it takes to put a smile on an employee's face. The research revealed that 55% of the workers surveyed value receiving a thank-you from their managers for a well-done project, while only 8% would feel disappointed if the same project didn't result in a monetary reward.

"While managers might think their direct reports are disappointed when big projects don't translate into equally big raises, the majority of workers again value a human expression of appreciation for a job well done," the study's authors wrote.

Members of a team should be allowed to show appreciation for each other regularly during meetings. A badge of honor should be given to the staff member the team feels performed better than usual during the week. This creates an atmosphere of teamwork, respect and appreciation. Members who may not be exceptional performers can be appreciated for their improved efforts on the team. This will encourage everyone to put more effort into their work and relate better to everyone.

Allow employees who perform well to have some time off (in addition to their regularly allotted PTO), affording them greater work-life balance. They could spend this time with family or pursuing their hobbies.

"I think the most valuable way to recognize an employee today is through time – that is, time off, time to do something else besides work," said Mark Valenti, president and CEO of The Sextant Group. "It could be family, a hobby, a charity or a short vacation. I don't think it needs to be routine or regular, and [it] has the most value when it's unexpected."

Employees feel valued in an environment where their views are heard. Your company should have open channels to give feedback. Install suggestion boxes where employees can provide feedback anonymously. You could also encourage them to fill out questionnaires on what they feel needs to improve in the organization. They should be allowed to address how your company's management is handling their issues.

Some platforms allow employees to earn points when they complete tasks. You can use an online portal that shows how many points each person in the company has earned. Points can then be redeemed for prizes such as gifts, cash awards, vacation time or work-from-home days. Show appreciation for your employees in ways that are meaningful to them. 

It is difficult to concentrate on work or accomplish manual tasks when hungry, so regularly feed your employees. Provide snacks and tea during breaks. Feeding your employees not only makes them work harder but makes them feel appreciated.

Send cards to your employees on their birthdays. Give them shoutouts on their anniversaries of employment with your company. Have awards for milestones in years with the company, such as five years,10 years or 20 years.

Promote staff who perform well, giving them chances to lead special committees and attend professional association meetings. They can also represent the organization at philanthropic events and display their talents. While promotions may not always come with huge salary raises, the recognition for good performance encourages employees to put in extra effort.

Start traditions in your company that your staff can look forward to. For example, you could have a gift-giving day for employees to show appreciation for each other, or a day for wearing a specific kind of attire or celebrating different cultures. You could also start treat days or other traditions leading up to the holidays around the end of the year. 

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