What do employees want to get for their time at work? Recognition.

Let’s start off with a solid truth: Most employees work for money. Not many of us work for love of the job or interest in the company –most of us work to earn the money (and benefits) to feed, clothe, house and insure ourselves and our families. But it might surprise you to know what is the second most cited reason that employees work for their employers:  Recognition—that most human need for our work to be noticed and our backs to be patted for work well done.

In a fascinating article by Pamela Stepien of the National Judicial College, the author (an HR professional herself) plotted this discovery based on a model taken from academia: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, an adult education methodology. Maslow’s Hierarchy is like a ladder where one cannot proceed to the next level if any needs below are unfulfilled. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs looks like this:


Presuming you provide fresh air, water, access to food and allow your employees enough time to sleep and offer a safe work environment, Physiologic and Safety are covered. The next couple of steps up the ladder speak directly to an employee’s need for recognition. Social addresses the fact that all people want to belong to a group where they are accepted and feel needed. To “belong” is one of the driving characteristics of humans in general. Esteem is about the self-esteem and confidence everyone feels when a job is well done or a task mastered.

At the very top of the ladder is Self-Actualization –the need to fulfill oneself and, as The US Marine Corp puts it, to “be all that you can be.” When this achieved, it unlocks the gates, allowing a person (employee) to be express their creativity and spontaneity and feel well pleased with their jobs. This is also that zone where employees can begin to “think outside the box”–a state to be encouraged by enlightened employers –taking the focus off themselves and on to how to solve problems, finish tasks and suggest new processes that will help make everyone’s job (and therefore your company) better.

How then does a company employ recognition to achieve this desirable (and, from the company’s point-of-view, very useful) state of Self-Actualization? Recognize your employees for work well done and for good effort expended. Become a cheerleader for your employees. Not only pat them on the back, but so so publicly and often. Let the team with whom they work know of an individual’s effort and shout it company-wide. Not only thank the employee face-to-face, but publish the feat in the company newsletter and announce it at department and company meetings. Increase vacation days, hand out bonuses or spa days and vouchers for dinners out. Make use of the company’s frequent flier miles to give-away free trips. Let anyone who worked overtime to complete an important task have time off to make up for it and don’t count it against their vacation days. In all ways you can, make a fuss.

The days of the gold watch at the end of a career are over. In order to motivate and retain good employees who work hard for you, let them know how much they are appreciated.  Applause—especially from the boss—is cheap at twice the price. A little recognition will come back to you in the guise of contented, motivated and self-actualized employees.

Arrow Staffing can help you find those employees who will deserve such recognition. Call us today.

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