Do you remember way back when when you would receive a gold star sticker from a teacher? With that gold star came a sense of pride and accomplishment for being rewarded for your hard work. While the definition of hard work as you age has changed from learning the alphabet to something a bit more complicated, the sense of pride you feel when being recognized is probably fairly the same. While you may not receive gold stars any more, verbal or any type of recognition is still welcome. Think about your workplace. Do you believe that your employees or you feel valued and recognized? In the world of human resources and administration, I have had many opportunities to notice the differences between employees who do feel that way and don’t. Giving recognition can be quite a simple thing to do and just requires small changes in behavior. It just might make all the difference.

While financial reward can be a really great thing, it’s not necessarily the equal to recognition. In her article “5 ways Leaders Rock Employee Recognition,” Forbes contributor Megan Biro said, “Recognition is a key tool in employee retention programs for a reason: people need more than constructive feedback and positive affirmation.”  Feeling appreciated and recognized is one the basic human needs found on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Think about when you come into the office in the morning. Do you greet other employees by name or does a quick wave suffice? Try to engage in conversation with other employees whenever possible, especially in the mornings. Greet them by name. Ask a question. Showing interest in their lives with allow you to forge relationships, which is incredibly important in the workplace. These polite conversations help others feel recognized.

Also, try to praise hard work in the moment and in context. If you see someone doing excellent work, tell them right then. Biro suggests to acknowledge their work, but in “specific, descriptive, and measured ways.” Things that are expected of employees don’t really deserve recognition such as arriving on time or meeting deadlines, but rather things like going the extra mile or just an obvious good job. According to human resources expert Susan Healthfield, “The foundation of this successful relationship is the leader’s ability to make people feel important.” I have found this to be true on multiple occasions. A good leader lets others know that he or she sees the hard work the employees have put in and appreciates it. But, when giving recognition, you do have to truly mean it when you say it. It’s easy to see right through a fake compliment, so don’t say unless you mean it. This is similar to the age-old saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Authenticity is key.

There are many ways to give out that metaphorical gold star. Whether it’s verbal or a written note, employees will feel valued and continue the hard work, making your workplace more positive and just as productive.