We must never underestimate the power of being appreciated ... or of feeling needed.
Earlier this week, my Compensation Cafe colleague, Globoforce's Derek Irving (author of the new book Winning with a Culture of Recognition, your new definitive source on strategic recognition) wrote a great post on the value of saying "thank you". Derek referenced studies from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology which have quantified the impact of expressing gratitude on our willingness to complete a work task. He also shared a quote, an excerpt of which I show below, on the reasons people respond as they do to being thanked.
...the experimenters found that people weren’t providing more help because they felt better or it boosted their self-esteem, but because they appreciated being needed <emphasis mine> and felt more socially valued when they’d been thanked.
People do more because they appreciate being needed.
This brought to mind a conversation I had many years ago with a manufacturing technician who worked in a plant where I had been charged with doing a wage audit. It was suggested that I have a one-on-one with him, as he was a long-tenured employee who was widely respected by his peers. He detailed for me, in a matter-of-fact manner, what he (and his fellow workers) felt were some of the biggest employment concerns, including the work environment in the old and poorly ventilated plant, the aging and outdated equipment, and the below-market wages. I asked him why he stayed, when he could very likely have found a better paying job (because he was right about the wages), in a more up-to-date plant, somewhere else right in the local area.
I'll never forget his response.
He looked at me for a few seconds, then drew himself up straight in his chair and replied: "Oh, I couldn't leave this place. They need me here."
Certainly we should pay employees competitively for the skills they bring and the contributions they make in the workplace. I think we are sometimes reluctant, however, to let our top employees know how important they are, how much we need them, because we feel it gives them a bargaining chip we'd rather they not have... when the truth is that this might solidify their commitment to our organizations in a way money never could.