Employee Appreciation Day, observed the first Friday in March, is an unofficial holiday that encourages employers to thank their employees for their hard work and effort throughout the year.

While donuts are great, this day is about more than sweet treats. At the CURT National Conference in February, opening speaker Ross Shafer, American comedian and network television host-turned motivational and leadership speaker, told attendees, “I have found that if I treat people well, I can always turn a profit.”

In a work environment where millennials aren’t scared to change jobs when they’re not fulfilled (21 percent say they’ve changed jobs within the past year – three times the number of non-millennials who report the same), the business case for caring is strong. You’ve dedicated a lot of resources, including time and money, into training employees. Having them leave isn’t only a headache, it’s a hit to your bottom line.

Oh, yea, there’s also the issue of a shortage of skilled trades; in September 2018, AGC reported that 80 percent of construction firms are having a hard time filling positions, both hourly and salaried (those in the office, estimators, foremen, and managers).

Sir Richard Branson, business magnate, investor, author, and philanthropist, perhaps says it best: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

This way of thinking is more important than ever as businesses across all sectors compete for the best and brightest. As of the last business day in December 2019, there were about 6.42 million job openings in the United States (seasonally adjusted). Simply put, employees have options.

So, how do you keep your best employees on the payroll? Keeping them inspired is a great start. This report from Peakon, based on responses from 36,000 employees from around the world, found that employees don’t leave because of too much work, they leave because of too much uninspiring work, and they’re only going to give you about nine months before pulling the trigger on heading elsewhere.

Here’s another piece to consider. Do you provide an avenue for employee feedback? If yes, do you actually follow up….and CHANGE when warranted? Be honest. It’s true that more and more companies are using employee engagement surveys and feedback forms, but when comments aren’t followed up on, any goodwill created will quickly dissipate. Employees need to see the impact of their feedback. Managers need to listen and act.

There is a common saying that “people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses.” The reverse is true, too; an inspiring manager creates more team engagement. Read the leadership books (or listen to the audio versions!), think of the qualities of the managers who inspire you, and create an open dialogue with the people you’re leading.

Ross Shafer also suggested during his presentation that elevating superstars quickly is vital in today’s work environment. “Many of your employees grew up playing video games and leveling up,” he said. “They weren’t getting paid to level up but they devoted hours, days, and weeks to advancing, and they were excited to do it! They still like that continuous positive reinforcement; a once a year review is not good enough.”

Most importantly, no matter your age and the age of the people you’re managing, the most important thing you can do to connect with your workforce is to drop the stereotypes you have of them. Don’t think of Boomers as “Ok Boomers” and don’t think of millennials as lazy kids. Baby Boomers can navigate smart devices and millennials are starting to turn 40 this year.

Brent Darnell – collaboration, emotional intelligence, and generational-gap expert – said it best at the CURT National Conference: “Employees have a lack of loyalty to their company because there is a lack of loyalty from the company to the employee. You, the managers in this room, have to look out for your employees so they’re not the only ones looking out for themselves.”

If topics like this pique your interest, please link up with CURT on Facebook and LinkedIn to connect with more great content that will help you lead your team and succeed in your position.