In order to become an ideal workplace, one where employees feel they’re valued and have opportunities for growth, business owners need to create a community and a culture that empowers employees and rewards contributors. Since employees spend most of their time in the workplace, it makes sense that the environment should be one that nurtures them.  People crave feedback, connection, respect, appreciation, time for creativity, time for socializing. Top management will recognize their employees’ needs so they can maximize their potential for success and openly recognize those who make a contribution to their team. It’s necessary to show your high performing employees that you appreciate them either with peer to peer recognition or with recognition from HR.

Managers who build a community and develop programs and strategies to meet the personal needs of their employees will create an atmosphere that attracts, motivates and encourages top talent to stay. It’s critical to seek  your employees’ input on what employees say they need to succeed.  If you tune into their requests and give them the resources they need to excel at their job, not only will your employees become more effective at their roles but your company will benefit from their success.

Forbes recent research noted that organizations that give regular thanks to their employees far out perform those that don’t. Those who recognize the importance of recognition and appreciation as integral components of a winning strategic reward system tend to attract top talent and retain them. Here’s the top five best-practices they discovered:

1. Recognize people based on specific results and behaviors.

Don’t just give someone a reward for being “employee of the month.” Give them an award for delivering outstanding customer service when a particular problem occurred. This creates a culture of “doing the right thing.”

2. Implement peer to peer recognition – not top down.

Recognition from leaders has less impact than you may think. While HR managers believe this is a key criteria for success, employees told Forbes researchers that they feel much better when they are recognized by their peers. Why is this? Peers know what you’re doing on a day to day basis, so when they “thank you” for your efforts the impact is much more meaningful. Top-down recognition is often viewed as political and it rarely reaches the “quiet but critical high-performers” in the company.

 3.  Share recognition stories. 
One of the most powerful practices Forbes researchers identified was “story telling.” When someone does something great and is recognized by their peers, tell people about it.
4. Make recognition easy and frequent. 
Make it trivially simple for employees to recognize each other. Many of the modern programs they studied gave all employees a budget for “points” or “dollars” and they can give them to others online in seconds.  Forbes used one of these systems and the results were amazing. People who do great things are now visible to everyone else!
5. Tie recognition to your own company values or goals. 
Companies like Deloitte and Intuit have recognition programs which focus on the company’s mission and goals. So when you give someone a “thank you” award, the award is tied to your own company’s strategy (customer service, innovation, teamwork, or even a revenue or cost-cutting goal).

These two elements (appreciation and recognition) rarely receive the attention they deserve from business owners, which is surprising because they’re low-cost/high-return strategies. Millenials who make up the majority of new hires today, are known to want feedback from hiring managers: They want to know whether they’re doing well, poorly or average, so it’s important that you tell them.

Glassdoor recently came out with their list of Best Companies to Work for 2013: Employees ranked their companies based on a number of factors:  The Culture and Values, Work/Life Balance, Senior Management, Compensation and Benefits, Career Opportunities and Approval of their firm’s CEO.  Millenials said they appreciate regular feedback from their employers so they could know where they stand and how they could improve. Showing appreciation to your employees by acknowledging excellent performance and the kind of behavior you want to encourage is best done through simple expressions and statements.

For example, you might send a personal note or stop by the employee’s desk to convey your appreciation. Another approach is to combine recognition and appreciation in the form of a public statement of thanks in front of the employee’s co-workers or team, citing specific examples of what they’ve done that has positively impacted the organization.

Now that you know what it should include, take time to review your business’s strategic reward system. Does it address compensation, benefits, recognition and appreciation? Is it aligned with your remaining business strategies? Is it driving the right behaviors for your company, as well as your performance goals? Does it reward senior employees more than new hires?  If it needs adjustments or fixing, don’t wait. It can mean the difference between your business’ success and failure.

The best companies are continuously seeking ways to monitor employees’ satisfaction level and crafting ways to keep them happy so they’re motivated to contribute to the business and are loyal to its mission. Showing you care about your employees will result in building more loyalty and increase productivity at your firm.  There is no downside to showing the love.