No matter the environment – whether at work, at home, in our friendships, in our accomplishments – the majority of us need to feel valued in what we do.

In fact, according to a survey conducted through the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence, only about half (51 percent) of the U.S. workforce say they feel valued by their employer. This may be the same 51 percent of currently employed adults who, according to Gallup data, are actively searching for new jobs or watching for new opportunities.

How employees hide contempt

Employees do not wish to lose their jobs, so being openly honest about how their value might be overlooked is often pushed aside.

Supervisors do not ask; or the employee smiles, nods, and carries on with his/her work. These employees often contribute much to the business and do their work without verbal complaint. But either within themselves, or externally after hours, they vent and then pick up the bitter routine the following day.

In other words, there just isn’t clear communication between employees and their leaders.

As one of millions of consumers worldwide, I interact with employees weekly. Whether it is in person, over the phone, or via email or chat, communicating with company representatives is key for my understanding of how a company operates and how this benefits me, as a paying customer. If I interact with the same people, they come to know me, my habits, and even how I think. And I learn a lot about their company and its operations.

For example, my weekly food shopping schedule is pretty set. I visit the same stores on the same days, at roughly the same times. If I’m a bit later than usual, the store personnel will teasingly point out that I’m running late that day! I’m on a first-name basis with many of the workers, and we chat frequently about the food, our weekend plans, and our work life.

I appreciate that people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts with me, and often I will ask them about their work at the store – how they enjoy it, the benefits they receive, and ultimately, the communication they have with management. And the employees are candid with me. Some offer praise for their employer, but others will not hesitate to share their disdain, if appropriate.

Whether I’m shopping for food, visiting clothing stores, or grabbing tea, when employees share their complaints, most offer the same grievances: management doesn’t communicate, the company doesn’t appreciate their hard work, they never know what’s going on.

The common thread with employee concerns? They are rooted in value.

When a company doesn’t appreciate the hard work of its employees, the employees’ productivity takes a nosedive. When productivity is down, escape for the employee is eminent, and the company’s retention is affected.

Are your employees valued by your company? By you? How do you know?

Why employees need to feel valued

Employees who need to feel valued are searching for something beyond a paycheck (although that often helps!). They desire to work in an environment where their accomplishments are noticed, their roles encompass more than basic tasks, and their hard work is contributing to something great. In other words, they yearn for meaning in their work.

Employees who feel they are not valued will often give the business only their basic attention or what is needed at minimum to keep their job. They lack motivation, are typically depressed or at very least unhappy, and may take their frustration out on coworkers or customers. They may also show up to the job late, extend their lunch hour, and take frequent breaks.

Further, their skills are not shining: they make recurring mistakes in their work, or allow responsibilities to slide by ignoring tasks or passing the blame on to someone else. And in the background, they are searching for employment elsewhere.

Alternately, employees who feel valued are happy. They are motivated to give everything they have, including more of their skills and time. They thrive in a positive environment.

What leaders can do

Employees view praise and increased quality responsibilities as contributing factors to value. When management and other coworkers seek their advice and input, the satisfaction they experience encourages them to go beyond their duties, and their happiness increases.

Therefore, leadership must be on the alert. Have frequent one-on-one – as well as group – conversations with your team. Encourage your employees to be open and honest, and keep your reaction in check – they will be open with you only if you respond calmly and meaningfully.

Be clear about your expectations and help your employees understand how they can contribute to your goals, as well as the company’s. Express how meeting those goals will personally benefit them.

Additional suggestions for leaders:

  • Assign special projects and value-adding tasks to employees whose skills are a good fit in these areas.
  • Praise them when you can, and give them credit for their hard work. Explain how the entire team working for a common goal contributes to positive results.
  • Set a positive example by getting your hands “dirty” working side-by-side with your employees. Offer help to employees who might need extra encouragement.
  • Seek input from your employees and act on appropriate suggestions.

What employees can do

If, as an employee, you feel your value is overlooked, be honest with your supervisor. Express your concerns and offer ideas of ways your supervisor can be your cheerleader.

Also, let management know your goals to move ahead within the organization. If you have skills that you feel might be put to good use, let them know what they are and how you’d like your assets to be used.

On a more global level, companies continually seek to innovate. If you have ideas to help further your employer’s big-picture goals, speaking up and offering solutions for the good of the organization will go a long way with your supervisor and those above him/her.

A concluding word to the wise

Sensing we are not valued can have a detrimental psychological effect on each one of us. When you have a particularly exasperating day, try to reflect on the positives within that day. Focus on all the positive benefits from doing your work and how they might be contributing to the company’s goals.

And of course, every single day, give your best to your work. When you’re asked to take responsibility, fulfill that and go beyond if at all possible. Productivity is good … but quality is better.

The communication that comes from the organization is also a contributing factor in how your employees feel about their value. Check out the article: Negative communications: How they should be delivered and the effect on employees.

(Information taken from pg. 4 of the report: Your company’s most important asset – and 7 reasons why it is struggling)

How to strengthen your company’s most important asset

What is a company’s most valued asset? And how can you strengthen this?
My Free report“Your company’s most important asset – and 7 reasons why it is struggling” – will help you understand your organization’s most valuable market of focus, the reasons why it is not solid, and where you need to look for improvement. Download it here.