Gold Coins On EdgeIn February 2013, a California couple headed out with their dog for their daily hike. Walking through their Sierra Nevada backyard, they noticed a rusty can lid in the moss. They pulled the can out of the dirt and examined it. Inside were $20 gold coins – real, mint, uncirculated gold coins from the late 1800’s.

In all the couple found over 1400 gold coins buried in five cans on their property. The appraised value of those coins is over $10 Million US dollars.

The coins are offered for sale on Amazon, if you’d like to own a piece of history.

Theirs was a remarkable find – solid gold, buried under foot, ignored for more than a century.

Leaders have solid gold, buried under foot, in their organizations, too. That gold is ignored too often. The solid gold in organizations? Talented, committed employees.

The research on employee recognition is consistent: most employees say they are not thanked for their contributions. In my Great Boss Assessment, only 51% of 345 global respondents agree that their leader regularly honors their efforts as well as their accomplishments. That means that 49% of respondents do not receive such recognition.

In response to another Great Boss Assessment item, “This leader regularly gives credit, thanking team members for ideas, efforts, recovery, and delivery,” nearly 55% agreed. That means that 45% do not receive frequent credit or thanks for such contributions.

Josh Bersin’s 2012 research found that 87% of recognition programs in organizations today focus on tenure, not contribution (!). In digging deeper, Bersin’s researchers discovered that tenure-based rewards systems have virtually no impact on organizational performance.

His researchers did find that companies that scored in the top 20% in what he calls a “recognition-rich culture” had 31% lower voluntary turnover rates. These companies’ talented, engaged employees did not leave on their own – they stayed, contributed more, and felt more appreciated.

Bersin’s research shows that the number one reason why people leave organizations is because of a lack of recognition at work.

How can you address this issue in your team? Good things happen in your team and company all the time, every day. Notice these good things and express gratitude for them. Celebrate them!

Create a culture where leaders thank their people, often – for their skills, their contributions, their teamwork, their attempts and their results.

Create a culture where peers thank their peers, often. Create a culture where cooperative interaction is more frequent than competition.

Have fun with recognition. Sometimes a pizza lunch (have a salad available, too!) is more appreciated than a certificate.

Your talented, engaged employees will stay, contribute, and enjoy an inspiring work environment.

What do you think? How do your leaders express gratitude to the “solid gold” team members in your organization? Is effort and contribution noted? Add your comments, insights, or questions below.

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S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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Reader Interactions


  1. AvatarBob Bennett says

    You’d be amazed at how much a simple thank you can mean to someone. Most people show up, clock in, and do their job just fine every day. But when someone does something outside of their normal responsibility they deserve a little thanks! It means that you are watching and noticing when someone goes above and beyond.

    • S. Chris EdmondsS. Chris Edmonds says

      I totally agree, Bob!

      And, as I think about how my best bosses helped inspire me, I remember them going out of their way to praise & thank not only for the “above the call of duty” activities but for the day-in, day-out activities as well.

      It meant the world!



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