The Recession is Over- 11 Ways to Thank your Employees for not quitting

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Staff Relations And Motivation, Workplace

By Ken Schmitt and Vicky Willenberg

Growing up in an entrepreneurial home made the decision to start my own company fairly simple. I knew the risks would be high, yet the return would be more gratifying than any success I could find working for someone else. I was confident my business plan was strong and would keep TurningPoint competitive and successful even through the start-up phase. Fortunately, my family was on board and in full support of my dream to open a small business. There was just one wildcard: My Team.

I recognize the irony of a recruiter being unsure about the team he is hiring. Years of experience in the staffing industry prior to launching TurningPoint taught me many lessons. One of the most important lessons was that even with due diligence and an intense process for vetting candidates, there is always the chance that the “fit” just isn’t right. Fortunately, building my TurningPoint team was fairly seamless. Together we built the firm’s reputation by providing our clients with a high touch solution! While we successfully filled search after search, internally, we developed a “family culture” that fosters constant and honest communication, transparent financial management and an environment that empowers each employee to think for themselves.

In 2009, as the recession began to make a significant impact on the business, it was clear that my team was actually an ace up my sleeve. When profits dipped and the pipeline slowed to a trickle, my employees could have jumped ship, in hopes of finding a more stable and lucrative job opportunity. Instead, my team stepped up to help weather the storm. They volunteered to take a pay cut, work fewer hours and take on more responsibility. This was not only humbling, but it was their way of saying “thank you” for the hard work and dedication I had put into building this firm.

Things remained difficult in 2010, and in early 2011, but I was able to reinstate their full compensation, and even pay a small bonus here and there. Then, I decided to rebrand the firm. Once again, I asked a lot of my employees, and solicited their insights and ideas at each step along the way. Together, we migrated away from our contingent, accounting and finance model, and evolved into a retained search firm, focusing on placing sales & marketing professionals. As this new model really began to take hold, I was able to offer promotions and increases in compensation.

Within any successful organization, it is easy for employers to move full speed ahead to bring on new talent, forgetting to recognize how much their employees endured during the depths of the recession. Not only did many people experience a cut in pay and hours, many more saw the elimination of their 401k and increased the amount of out-of-pocket expenses for their benefit program, fewer vacation days (or more furlough days), the laying off of friends and colleagues and the expectation that they would now do the job of 2 or 3 people. Each of these sacrifices should be acknowledged, and the employees who endured these hardships need to be appreciated.

Leaders often overlook the contributions and sacrifices made by their employees. In fact, according to Dr. Bob Nelson, a leading expert of employee motivation, engagement, recognition and rewards “58% of workers report that they seldom if ever receive a ‘thank you’ from their boss.” Not only is this a disservice to the employee, but failing to acknowledge a job well done can be detrimental to the company. Maritz Research conducted a poll showing that employees are 5 times more likely to be valued, 7 times more like to stay with the company, 6 times more like to invest in the company and 11 times more like to feel completely committed to the company.

While the job market has certainly improved with more jobs created in 2014 than at any time since 1999, companies are still extremely cautious about hiring and granting raises. While this is certainly not the only way to say “thank you”, it’s time to start thinking about granting a pay increase above the 3% COLA rate. Without this form of “thank you”, companies will find themselves on the wrong end of a resignation letter. It is estimated that the cost to replace a new hire can range anywhere from one-third to two-and-a-half times the employee’s salary. Therefore, it is even more important to retain your current employees. So what can employers do to “thank” their employees, increasing the chance that they will feel appreciated? It’s surprisingly simple…

11 Things Employers can do to Reward Their Staff (That won’t break the bank!)

1. Sit down and talk to your team about what they mean to your department and the organization; share your vision of the team and their career aspirations
2. Offer flexible hours- Allow an employee to “sleep in” and “cut out early”
3. Give the Gift of food: Gift card to a coffee shop or restaurant
4. In-Office Treats: Breakfast or lunch provided in the staff room or even delivered personally on a cart
5. Recognizing Family: When someone puts in the extra hours and effort, it isn’t just the employee who makes the sacrifice. Send a thank you card, flowers or even a gift card to a restaurant for the family.
6. Birthday or Anniversary “Get Out of Office Free” cards provide the employee with a day off on a special occasion without having to use a sick day.
7. Hand-written thank you cards: The art of the hand-written note is quickly being lost, but it’s value is far greater than a quick email.
8. Out of the Office Events: Host a lunch or even a community clean-up day that allows your team to be out of the office and enjoy a bit of socializing. The key to this is to schedule it on a work day- NOT a weekend.
9. Hire a mobile carwash to wash an employee’s car while he is working.
10. One-time grocery home delivery gift card or movie tickets
11. Team night out

As our companies venture back into the black and the excitement that comes along with onboarding new talent grows, it is important for employers to remember those who have been along for the ride- even the bumpy parts. As a business owner myself, I am eternally grateful to my team who accepted and even offered to help during our time of need. We recently spent an evening together as a group, along with our spouses, and enjoyed good food and a great night at a local comedy club. Today I am happy to say that our revenues have more than doubled 2011, and although my team has grown, I continue to treat them as peers and “business partners” rather than employees.

About the Authors
Ken Schmitt is the President and Founder of TurningPoint Executive Search and the Sales Leadership Alliance. Specializing in placing sales, marketing and operations professionals across the country, Ken’s 16 years of recruiting experience have equipped him with the knowledge to serve as a thought partner to his clients for all recruiting, hiring and human capital-related initiatives. Ken sits on the board of Junior Achievement, the American Marketing Association, the San Diego HR Roundtable and is an Advisory Board Member for San Diego Sports Innovators (SDSI).

Vicky Willenberg has served as the Social Media Manager for TurningPoint since 2011. In 2014, she was elevated to Digital Marketing Manager, broadening her participation across all things digital for the firm. A former teacher with a Masters in Education, Vicky is an active and published blogger at The Pursuit of Normal and a marketing professional. She has her finger on the pulse of the latest trends in the recruiting, hiring and leadership sectors.

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