Staff turnover is one of the most non-productive business expenses. The loss of productivity, relational damage with customers and vendors, negative impact on staff morale and additional training time all create significant costs for companies.

Additionally, virtually every business is having to “do more with less.” Resources are tight all over. This is creating a tremendous amount of stress within organizations for managers, supervisors and front line employees whose workloads and responsibilities have increased. Team members are dealing with the loss of staff within their departments and they have fewer funds available for training or technical upgrades.

Related: The High Cost of Sales Team Turnover

Meeting more demands with fewer resources is a perfect recipe for stress that leads to burn out, discouragement and higher turnover rates, over the long haul. Research has shown that one of the primary reasons employees quit their jobs is they don’t feel valued or appreciated. Even as the number of U.S. businesses with an employee recognition or reward program has increased to almost 90 percent of all companies, job satisfaction and employee engagement have declined.

Communicating meaningful and impactful appreciation. Research has shown these are effective ways to communicate appreciation and encouragement to your team members, without spending a lot of money:

1. Personal communication fitted to the individual rather than general communication across the organization. The key component to effective appreciation and encouragement is the sense by the recipient that you mean what you say and that you took time to think about them personally. Conversely, we have found that a global “Thanks for a good job done” email to a wide range of people across the organization actually generates a negative response from most team members, given its impersonal nature and perceived minimal effort to complete.

2. Speak the language of the person you are encouraging. If the action taken to communicate appreciation to our colleagues isn’t what is important to them, we have wasted our time and effort. Communicating encouragement and appreciation that is impactful must “hit the target” for the recipient.  For example, while verbal praise is meaningful to some, others believe “words are cheap.”

3. Expressions of appreciation people value most cost little money. Sure, everyone would like a bonus or a raise but, for most organizations, that is not possible. The ways that people experience appreciation in the workplace fall into five categories: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, tangible gifts and appropriate physical touch.

Related: The Hidden Costs of Employee Turnover

Most of these cost nothing and tangible gifts don’t have to cost much. Some of the ways most cited ways employees report feeling valued include:

  • Receiving a note from your supervisor complimenting you on the good job you are doing.
  • A team member stopping by your office for a few minutes to see how you are doing.
  • Obtaining some help from a colleague who notices you are “buried.”
  • Receiving a gift certificate after you have worked long hours to complete a big project.
  • A “high five” from a co-worker after you have successfully completed an important presentation.

Each person has their own preferred “language of appreciation.” Within each language, there are specific actions that are most valued by that individual. (We have developed an online assessment, Motivating By Appreciation Inventory, that identifies each employee’s preferred appreciation language and actions.)

None of these actions cost much money. The key is to use the right action with the right person, at the right time, with a sincere spirit of appreciation. Then your actions will “hit the target” to encourage those with whom you work, keeping them engaged and employed longer.

Related: How to Prevent Employee Turnover