Business growth is essential, and likely your key focus.  However, don’t forget to recognize the people whose hard work has made your life easier, your business more successful, and growth a real part of your life.  These are your star employees.  Without them, you are owner, manager, human resources, legal, janitor, sales, and accounting all in one.  They make it possible for you to focus on the big picture.

One of the more significant issues we find with business owners is that they can often ignore their best performers.  “I don’t do that atta-boy high-five thing,” you might say.  “If my employees do well, then they will get a raise, and that’s their appreciation.”  If you do this, you will find yourself hearing the phrase, “we need to talk” more and more.  It would help if you gave them the personal satisfaction that they need to stay and produce for you for many years.  Here are three simple practices to show your star employees that you care.

1) Honor them publicly

Make announcements during team meetings about their successes.  Cater a celebratory lunch when your top producers achieve something significant.  Present them to investors, boards, or your customer base at an appreciation event.  Making these grand gestures show your star employee that you are proud of them.  To keep them hidden will make them feel like a hamster in a wheel – your wheel. And with no emotional satisfaction, they will tire of you and move on to somewhere else.

2) Reward them privately

Only rewarding someone publicly will likely make them feel special for some time, but it will wear off if it is the only means by which you tell them they are significant.  They will start to feel like your show pony.  The message you want to send to them is that they are vital.  This wouldn’t be the company it is without them.  Surprise your star employees by giving them an unexpected day off or a weekend outing for their family.  The better you practice step 3, the better you will be at knowing what to do in Step 2.

Note: Some star employees are not outgoing, extroverted people.  Public presentations and responding to champagne-filled chants of, “Speech! Speech!” makes some people anxious and uncomfortable.  Know your star employee and respond appropriately. They made need more private appreciation than public appreciation.

3) Understand their values

Take them to lunch.  Let them know that you appreciate the work that they do.  Tell them that you see how much more they do and tell them that you see them.  This will show them that their hard work is noticed and appreciated.  It will also, for some, give them a sense of satisfaction that they need to find to be able to feel comfortable staying in one job for a long time.  Say the words; inferences don’t work … words do.

Since everyone is unique, you need to take the time to get to know them as a person and not just as an employee.  They will share with you their values and what is important to them.  They will tell you, through their life experiences, what matters.  Is it family?  Is it travel?  Is it a particular non-profit cause?  Learn these things and then apply them to steps 1 and 2.  Then rinse and repeat.

Practicing these three steps will not guarantee that you keep all of your star employees.  Their lives can change; spouses have career changes; people move; things happen.  So when you have a surprise resignation, don’t give up.  Keep practicing, move on to your next star, and keep cultivating that relationship.

Your employees are the extension of your mission.  They are a person, not a machine.  It’s your responsibility to continue to cultivate that relationship.  When you reward high-level producers, they will continue to be high-level.  Take the time out of your schedule to take care of them.  They deserve it, and you will reap the benefits.

Need some ideas on big and small ways to reward employees, check out this link for 121 Creative Ways to Reward Employees:

Perhaps you need to develop a rewards and recognition system.  Here is a great article from. breaking down the process:

If you would love to reward your employees but money is an issue, lists 25 “low cost” ways to reward your employees: