By John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC, BV Staffing + Consulting
Gallatin, TN

When it comes to keeping good people, money isn’t everything.  Challenge, growth opportunities, flexibility, great co-workers, meaningful work and recognition (often in non-monetary forms) are examples of things that matter more to most of your people.  When those things are missing, talent people walk.

The battle for talent has resulted in a proliferation of perks in the workplace.  While they may have worked to recruit some folks, and no one will complain about getting them, there’s no evidence that perks actually help you hang on to your stars.  If highly marketable employees (Translation: experienced BV employees) are bored, don’t like the boss, or see no career future with you, a massage on Friday afternoons won’t keep them.

Your smart bet is to focus on rewards that work and that are within your control.  Start by noticing that not everyone is the same, and not everyone wants the same reward.  Here’s a brief list of requests that employees have made to their managers:

  • An award, preferably given in front of my peers
  • A thank you, in writing, from my boss
  • A note to my boss’s boss about my excellent performance
  • My boss actually implementing one of my ideas
  • A chance to go to lunch with senior management
  • A small memento or gift
  • More freedom or autonomy
  • A seminar or training class

Many managers wrongly assume that everyone likes or wants the same types of rewards and recognition.  Ask your employees what kind of recognition or reward they most appreciate.

Praise can help you retain your top employees, but only if it’s detailed and relevant.  Try using one of these “openers” the next time you offer praise:

  • “You really made a difference by …”
  • “You got my attention with …”
  • “You’re doing top quality work on …”
  • “One of the things I enjoy most about you is …”
  • “You can be proud of yourself for …”
  • “What an effective way to …”

If you’re struggling to think of other ways to reward and recognize your employees, try this.  Think about yourself.  What would really demonstrate how much you are valued?  Taking account of individual differences, you can use your own list to think about how to reward your employees.

Here are a few “creative reward” ideas that managers are using:

The Golden Genie – I got these great wind-up toys from McDonalds – little genies that walk around.  When someone deserves a pat on the back, I put the genie on their desk and let it walk around.  Then I grant them any non-monetary wish they have.  I’m amazed; so far there has been nothing I’ve been unable to grant.

Personalize the Paychecks – I write a personal note every two-week period, and it goes with their paychecks.  Every two weeks, it forces me to think about something I noticed and appreciated.  I’ve gotten great feedback on that.

A Great Idea – I give out a light bulb filled with candy to anyone who comes up with a great idea and brings it to me.  I generate excitement that says “keep those ideas coming.”  I give several a month.  People actually try to save the candy because they like leaving the light bulb on their desks.

Be the Best – Once a quarter, I ask my team to submit someone else’s accomplishment that impressed them.  I read over all the accomplishments and give a day off to the award winner.  It gives me a chance to see accomplishments I never even knew about, and it gives everyone a chance to recognize their teammates.

Your stars want recognition for work well done.  Begin by assessing your pay scale to sure it’s fair.  Then praise your good people.  Find creative ways of showing your appreciation and you’ll increase the odds of keeping them.

John Borrowman