In addition to being a fan of his work in general, I love Shawn Achor’s latest book, Big Potential. The premise behind the book is simple: we’re optimally productive working alongside others compared to when we’re working solo. As the quote goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
In the book, Shawn digs into the financial value of true, genuine praise, and the positive effects it can have on employee retention. As Shawn writes:
“[When an employee] received four or more touchpoints of praise or recognition in a quarter, the retention rate increased to 96 percent over the next year. New hires have an 80 percent retention rate, but if they get one more touchpoint of praise, nothing happens. If they get two, the retention rate stays about the same. At three or four touchpoints of praise, the retention rate is 94 percent. That’s stunning. Given that the cost of replacing an average employee could be around $40,000, if we do the math we see that every single short touchpoint of praise was worth $10,000!”
Something else begins to happen after employees receive more than four instances of praise over a year: the amount of praise they give to their peers doubles. After four instances of genuine praise, a tipping point is reached at which positivity spreads. Emotions are contagious—we know all too well how negative emotions spread. But positive emotions spread, too. Praising and recognizing your team can inspire optimism, gratitude, and even happiness.
In Big Potential, Shawn also offers several strategies for providing more genuine praise. A few of my favorites:
- Don’t provide comparison praise. If you provide feedback along the lines of “this report was the best out of anyone on the team,” you’re not praising, you’re comparing. Avoid compliments at the expense of others—at work or anywhere else.
- Only provide authentic praise. As Shawn writes, “the research is clear that if you give people inauthentic praise, it backfires by eliminating trust.” Praise can lead to a positive, cascading, domino-like effect of higher performance and satisfaction. Inauthentic compliments can do the opposite. Be real and genuine with the praise you give.
- Don’t only praise the highest-performers. These individuals likely don’t achieve success by themselves—they rely on those who make less visible contributions as well. It’s easy to overpraise those whose accomplishments are most visible—but don’t neglect those who make their success possible. While these individuals aren’t as often recognized, that doesn’t make their contributions less valuable. You lift the entire team when you praise less visible contributors.
In an era of shrinking budgets, ballooning workloads, and great stress and anxiety, productivity gains at a team level can be hard to come by. Take time to genuinely recognize those who work for you. They won’t only feel more appreciated, grateful, and supported—they’ll also stick around for longer and save you money in turn.