One of the great things about being a recruiter is that you get to learn about the culture and values of many different clients. One of my favorite clients has done a great job of identifying their core values and practicing them. Today’s title comes from one of their core values. It is a simple truth—recognition motivates.

I was once a guest speaker for a community college Human Resource Management 101 class. A segment of my talk was about recognizing and rewarding top performers. An example I gave addressed how recognition not only motivates people to be even better, but also how it’s a killer retention tool. I asked the audience members to imagine my recruiting call to two top-producing sales reps at two different companies. Play along with me.

The first call goes to Alvin at Company A, whose boss takes him for granted, who doesn’t hear from the CEO, and who needs a vacation. This guy wants to talk to me. He is hoping that a recruiter is going to call to discuss a great opportunity. He is ready to interview. He is driven to succeed by his internal engine, but his company isn’t fueling that engine and he’s burning out.

Now imagine my call to Barney, a top-producing sales rep at Company B. This guy was recently mentioned in the company newsletter for adding a new customer and was listed in a press release as being the #1 salesperson in his region. In addition, he just hung the President’s Award on his office wall and came back from a rubber chicken banquet, where the CEO thanked him for his contributions while presenting the award. Barney and his spouse are going on the company trip for award winners: five days and nights in the Bahamas, and he’s also been asked to mentor the new hire, who starts next week.

Barney is motivated, not only internally, but also because his company appreciates him. Barney doesn’t want to interview; Barney doesn’t have time to interview. His company is keeping him interested with new challenges and with pats on the back.

Which of these two guys is going to have the most success in the coming months? Which company will reap the biggest rewards? Which is happier in his job? If you guessed Barney and Company B, you’re right. Which makes more money? Who knows? I don’t.  My guess would be Alvin. You normally have to pay people more to keep them working if they aren’t having fun, and Barney is having more fun than Alvin.

If you’re looking at recognition costs, let’s add them up. The cost of an award to hang on the wall: $29; the cost of a rubber chicken dinner for two: $30; the five days and nights in the Bahamas for two with airfare and spending cash: $1,500. The value of a motivated top performer who is loyal and happy: priceless.

Recognition motivates people to accomplish more, and it also helps retain talent. Turnover is extremely costly. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars for most positions.

Recognition is the most cost-effective motivation and retention tool that I know. The more ways you find to use it and the more people you use it with, the more powerful it becomes and the more prosperous your team will become.