Just say "thanks." 

Keep the beer, the gratuitous company-branded candies. And seriously, you can even put promotions and salary increases on the back burner ... as long as you make your workers feel appreciated for their talents, their contributions and jobs well done.

Simple "thank yous" have never been more important, according to new research from Appirio, an Indianapolis-based information technology consulting company.

“We spend more hours working than ever before,” said Harry West, vice president of services product management at Appirio. 

“Work/life balance is constantly challenged by our connected digital lives, and so it really is critical for all employers to consider how they can respect workers’ time and efforts and show appreciation for their contributions every day."

In this market, if good employees don't feel appreciated, then odds are they are going to leave.

The Ideal Boss

Appirio conducted the survey among 657 total respondents this spring using an online survey on the SnapApp platform.

Workers ranged in age from:

  • 18 to 25: 58 respondents
  • 26 to 35: 225 respondents
  • 36 to 45: 205 respondents
  • 46 to 55: 108 respondents 
  • 60+: Five respondents

They're not the first to analyze workplace happiness. On its annual list of the top places to workGlassdoor lists passionate workers, workplace culture and great leadership as hallmarks of top companies. And LinkedIn found talented workers want jobs with "meaning, purpose and a future.

In the Appirio study, about 60 percent of respondents said they consider how appreciated potential co-workers feel by the management when they analyze a job offer.

Only 5 percent of respondents said it was most important to understand how quickly they could climb the corporate ladder. And only 4 percent were most concerned with knowing how often employees were evaluated for raises. 

What do workers specifically want in an ideal boss?

One who acts as their advocate (33 percent). One who gives regular performance reviews and feedback (17 percent). Another 12 percent want to be beloved by senior executives.

“With more tools than ever to facilitate their selection of a better opportunity, the traditional benefits package has little to no retention power where top talent is concerned,” West said.

Attitude Spans Generations

harry west

Perhaps the most telling data in this survey: 55 percent want a simple thank you for a job well done, while only 8 percent expect a successful project to generate a gift or cash reward.

This isn’t ground-breaking news. Other surveys have found appreciation is more important than money, and more than one study has reported that love trumps cash

So is this is just a millennial thing? Nope, West said.

“Consider the book “Generation X,” he told CMSWire. “Published in 1991, it popularized the concept of the ‘McJob’ and described a typical work cubicle — the staple work environment of the emerging services economy —  as a ‘veal-fattening pen.’ Another example is the 1999 movie ‘Office Space,’ which completely centers on the listlessness of people who don’t feel a human connection to their work, or any true appreciation from their various employers.” 

Bad Boss Traits

According to the Appirio study, the worst traits a manager could display were: 

  • Failing to give credit for a job well done (32 percent)
  • Rarely giving praise or expressing support (28 percent)
  • Failing to help navigate the road to a promotion (24 percent)

“Emotional safety at work — the idea that an employee is seen, valued and appreciated — is prioritized over more traditional markers of success,” study authors wrote.

What Bad Bosses Lack

What makes a bad boss? Not building trust, for one. Most companies, West said, don’t train all levels of managers on so-called “soft skills” as rigorously as they did in the past.

“It’s often the case that managers aren’t making employees feel appreciated because they haven’t been shown or taught how to create and engender trust within the workplace,” West said. “But that is not the only role managers serve. Our survey shows that most respondents would rather just know their manager has their back.” 

Managers should establish regular interactions with each of their employees, West said.

“They should have a goal of creating trust in every single one of those interactions,” he added. “Every time a manager interacts with an employee, they have an opportunity to create trust, or reduce it. That’s why we highlight the importance of simply showing appreciation for the efforts of your team.” 

The high-performing worker may not need extensive coaching, but they do need appreciation, too.

“And it goes without saying that the manager’s ability and willingness to provide coaching and feedback wherever it’s needed is another way of creating trust,” West said. “Your workers will then realize that you’re there to help further their career by making them better at what they do.”

Employees on the Hook

Is isn’t all on the boss. Workers must insist on that one-to-one touchpoint, whether they feel they need it or not. 

“If you feel you’re disconnected from your manager’s priorities, let them know immediately,” West said. 

“Many workers today, especially in distributed teams or project-based organizations, rely less and less on their direct line manager for day-to-day direction. But those managers are still there for a reason. Facilitate direct conversations about what you’re working on, and what you need to be more effective, and let them know you’re counting on them to help you be successful. A good manager won’t miss this clue.”

Title image by Matt Jones