If you have already curtailed your employee recognition practices and rewards programs or are planning to cut them, then you need to reconsider. Employees who don’t feel appreciated or valued aren’t fully engaged and motivated. Without a motivated workforce you just might find your business results adversely affected.

Managers have a responsibility to validate the contributions made by front-line employees by first contractually paying them the agreed upon rate of pay and benefits. Believing pay alone is enough for employees to be motivated is like stores telling customers that shelves with inventory is enough to keep them coming back. It isn’t. Stores need to have floor personnel to answer questions and trained staff to move quickly at register lines.

Companies need meaningful employee appreciation programs to keep their workforce motivated, focused and committed. Showing up and clocking in gives the process a full body count, but positive manager communications on a daily basis creates a driven and dedicated front line.

Not long ago, the Gallup Organization developed an employee engagement survey utilizing 12 questions to research and compare results across companies and industries. Interestingly, recognition and praise ranked fourth among the 12 dimensions that consistently correlated with workgroups having higher employee retention, higher customer satisfaction, higher productivity and higher profits.

Jeffrey Pfeffer, a Stanford Business School professor of organizational behavior, said, “Companies that manage people right will outperform companies that don’t by 30 to 40%.” Gallup research also showed that employees who receive recognition are much more likely to be extremely satisfied with their employer. Now here’s the clincher for managers: the vast majority of employees who receive recognition or praise feel it motivates them to improve performance, thus productivity and quality goes up and schedules are met.

Recognition and reward can be a strong solution to making businesses successful. However, recognition programs are only a tool. Recognition practices need to become a way of life.

The key is creating a recognition strategy to define and determine your recognition needs and plan how you will implement what is best for your people and your company. The 2008 World at Work Survey, Trends in Employee Recognition, showed only 48% of companies actually had a written recognition strategy in place to guide their recognition programs and practices. Of those companies who had a recognition strategy, 96% were aligned with the organization’s business strategy. These companies know the value of having a recognition strategy.

This means your recognition practices and programs should work hand in hand in supporting and reinforcing both the business goals and human resources’ objectives.

Many employees say they don’t hear thank you enough, let alone have their manager or immediate supervisor even acknowledge them by name. Before any tangibles are given to employees, try inexpensive, intangible ways to recognize those you work around.

Get rid of using generalities-a sincere “good job” should be a given, not an acknowledgment.

Use the two-part-specificity rule to overcome any unintentional lack of sincerity. For any spoken or written expression of recognition spell out specifically what it was the person actually did or accomplished. Next, tell the person specifically how their actions made a difference to you personally, to a customer or to the company in general.

After interviewing more than two million employees at 700 companies, one Gallup study found “most workers rate having a caring boss even higher than they value money or fringe benefits.” The Gallup study also concluded that how long an employee stays with a company and how productive they are is determined by the relationship they have with their immediate supervisor.

I am reminded what Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa was reported to have said: “A people-building philosophy will make programs successful; a people-using philosophy will lead to failure.”