Not surprisingly, some of the biggest challenges facing HR professionals today are employee turnover and engagement. According to Gallup, millennial turnover, in particular, costs the U.S. $30.5 billion annually.

Just as organizations want the best talent, today’s talent wants to work for the best organizations. Gallup also says, “it’s possible they don’t actually want to switch jobs, but their companies aren’t giving them compelling reasons to stay.” If that weren’t juicy enough, millennials — who now comprise a majority the U.S. labor pool — are also the least engaged of all the working generations at only 29 percent.

Remember that.

The Power of Employee Recognition

It was one of those days I found myself running all day, making up for a lull in deadlines at that time with back-to-back meetings. You could say it was busy, but I love the fast pace. Right around 5:00 pm, I decided to spend a few minutes going through my email and making sure that everyone who needed an answer from me got one. It’s a complex relationship I have with email — responsiveness is a big deal to me, I find it’s a game-changer with relationships.

In any case, I was wrapping that up when an unforeseen project surfaced right at 5:20 pm. You know, one of those you don’t plan for that make for a late night. While it wasn’t the most ideal situation, it surely wasn’t the worst. I’ve never had an issue with the occasional late night so long as it’s the exception, not the rule. Things happen; it’s par for the course.

The “Reader’s Digest” version of this story is that I did end up working pretty late that evening – though fortunately from the comfort of home. It was my job, and I felt good that I was able to contribute when my colleagues needed help. It happened, it was over, and that was the end of the story, or so I thought.

What a Difference a “Thanks” Makes

Something magical came out of that surprise late-night project, though. I received the nicest unprompted note from two of my leaders recognizing my effort that evening. For whatever reason, I instantly felt more accomplished. Shortly thereafter, I got an email from a colleague to several leaders involved in the project with another acknowledgment of my work. I think I blushed when I read it.

I wasn’t expecting the recognition nor did I need it to do the work, but I can say honestly that made the whole experience more meaningful to me. I felt valued and like the people I work for and with truly appreciated me.

Behold the power of recognition. Although it’s only one example, recognition like that doesn’t get old. It’s always a magical feeling when effort is not only appreciated but also openly acknowledged.

Employee Recognition: Low Cost, High Reward

For a business leader, the best thing about employee recognition is that it’s easy, it doesn’t cost a thing and is worth its weight in gold. Recognition makes people feel appreciated; it boosts morale, and when given sincerely, it’s great for manager-associate relationships. (Since we know that people typically leave managers, not organizations, that last bit matters.)

In an article published in Psychology Today, one CEO explained that “workers of all ages, especially the rising millennial population, are motivated by real-time feedback, fun, engaging work environments, and status-based recognition over tangible rewards.” That CEO’s firm, in partnership with another organization, conducted a study that revealed that 83 percent of participants said recognition for contributions was more fulfilling than rewards or gifts and that 88 percent of participants were motivated by leader recognition.

Yet somehow, employee recognition remains a huge leadership opportunity for organizations across the nation. Gallup reported that people’s efforts are routinely overlooked in the workplace. They also noted that, “employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they’ll quit in the next year.”

While there’s no silver bullet for combating low engagement and millennial turnover, employee recognition is an easy option to help. At a price tag of $30.5 billion, can leaders truly afford to overlook the power of recognition in their workplaces?