Why is employee recognition such a difficult concept to grasp for so many employers? Does your boss isfear you’ll immediately ask for a raise? Is a thank-you really THAT hard? Or does the boss think, “Gee, Joe does a good job and I’d love to get him something, but I can’t really afford to give him a raise or a bonus.”

Actually, it’s generally been my experience that an employer can’t afford to NOT do something to recognize hard work, and it often doesn’t have to be anything big! Here are some ideas:

* Say thanks. Regularly acknowledge employees’ great work VERBALLY. Point out how these efforts will help the company or assist clients and customers. But here’s the key, don’t overdo it. I once had an editor that had a habit of saying “thank you” for nearly everything you did!  At a certain point you just started to tune her out… it didn’t really mean anything when it was uttered THAT often! But a well-timed, “Thanks, great job Bob, you really put in a lot of work on that account,” can go a long way in lifting up a stressed-out employee. And let’s face it, we all need to be complimented from time to time.

* Put it in writing. Prepare a handwritten thank-you note or copy senior executives on an email about a worker’s accomplishment. On several occasions, I have received a personally signed thank-you note along with a basket of goodies: some candy, cheese, and so on. My wife pointed out that the basket probably only cost this person $10-$15 or so. So what! A busy CEO who took the time out of his busy schedule to recognize my efforts meant the world to me! How motivating! I’m willing to run through a wall for someone like that!

thank you* Give a little. You need not offer food – gift cards, movie passes or tickets to a sporting event are other possibilities for employees who go above and beyond on a project. “Jim, you stayed late every night the last two weeks, and we got the account because of it. How would you like two tickets to Sunday’s Jets game?” Just make sure it’s something the individual would appreciate. If Jim isn’t a football fan, the tickets wouldn’t mean much.

* Publicize achievements. Feature standout employees in a company newsletter or recognize them at a staff meeting. Can you imagine the surprise of Mike seeing his picture and “write-up” in the “3M Times” about how much help he’s been in training the new employees in his department?

No one likes feeling that he or she is taken for granted. As a result, acknowledging staff just once or twice a year for their hard work isn’t nearly enough. On the other hand– regularly saying “thank you” or offering small tokens of appreciation can speak volumes. Employees who feel appreciated are usually happier, more productive, loyal, and less likely to leave for a job with a different company. And it costs so little!