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Why Saying 'Thank You' Is More Important Than Giving Employees a Raise A new study shows employees want more recognition, not just office perks.

By Lisa Evans Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


You know the success of your business rests on the shoulders of your employees. That's why you offer them a raise, put a ping-pong table in the staff room and provide other "cool" perks, like an office beer fridge and weekly yoga, right?

But a recent report by TINYpulse shows all those perks may be for naught if employees aren't also receiving the occasional "thank you."

The report, which comprises data from more than 30,000 employees across more than 500 organizations, showed employees who received recognition were much more likely to rate their workplace as more fun. What's perhaps most shocking is that 70 percent credited their peers for creating an engaging environment, as opposed to perks and amenities.

"Money, perks… you don't have to keep trying to one-up the company next to you in terms of what perks you're offering but how you treat your employees on a regular basis plays a key role in how to keep your employees satisfied," says Laura Troyani, employee-engagement guru at TINYpulse.

Related: 4 Ways to Instill and Promote Transparency in a Workplace

The report revealed the impact positive interactions could have on employee satisfaction and retention. "When you have strong positive workplace interactions with your peers, and with your managers, it has a very strong impact on employees' likelihood to stick around," says Troyani.

Unfortunately, many workplaces aren't doing a great job at recognizing employees. According to the TINYpulse's 2014 Employee Engagement Report, 79 percent of employees don't feel strongly valued for the work they put in.

Why is recognition important? A lack of recognition, Troyani says, may be responsible for high turnover. "Employees want to work for an organization that not only values their work but that shows them appreciation," she says. In fact, the employee retention specialist Globoforce found that 55 percent of workers would leave their current job for a company that recognizes its employees' efforts and contributions.

So, how can you improve employee recognition?

Praise employees for a job well done.

Saying "thank you" can go a long way toward improving employees' perceptions of the workplace, but Troyani says, acknowledging why you're grateful can have an even more powerful impact. Saying, "Thank you for working on the weekend," for example, recognizes the action of the individual, but adding, "You really helped us meet this tight deadline," is even more powerful because it highlights the reason the action was important and reinforces the positive behaviors you want to encourage in the organization.

"Reinforcing behavior creates a norm within your workplace community that these are the types of behaviors you want," says Troyani.

Related: 5 Signs Your Corporate Culture is Doomed

Improve peer-to-peer relationships.

Too often, recognition is offloaded to the manager-employee relationships, but peer recognition is perhaps an even more powerful way to facilitate feelings of appreciation and create a positive workplace culture.

"When employees were asked what the number one motivator was for them to go the extra mile, the majority listed peers and colleagues as their number one motivator," says Troyani.

TINYpulse's data show that collegial, positive, motivating peers can have an even greater impact on employee retention than a raise.

This shouldn't come as a surprise, considering the importance of workplace friendships in improving morale. In a recent Globoforce study, having a friend at work was a key contributor to employee happiness and productivity. Seventy-one percent of employees with friends at work reported loving their companies, compared with only 24 percent of employees who didn't have friends at work.

Retention was also affected by workplace friendships. Only 21 percent of employees with friends at work said they would leave their company for another job, compared with 42 percent of those who didn't have a workplace friend.

Creating collaborative workspaces and hosting social events is a great way to facilitate office friendships, but allowing employees to recognize each other's efforts, such as by posting "thank you's" to a recognition wall, for example, is a great way to not only improve relationships but builds a culture of recognition.

Related: 'Gamified' Employee Training Works Brilliantly but Is Loved Little

Lisa Evans is a health and lifestyle freelance journalist from Toronto.

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