As the popular Barrett Strong song goes, “The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees. I need money.”

Most employers seem to share this mindset. The popular wisdom says bonuses or gifts are the best employee motivators. However, it turns out that the number one way to motivate employees is absolutely free.

Positive feedback from a supervisor is something employees want but rarely get. A sincere “thank you” or “well done” has been proven to makeemployees happier and more productive at work. While many managers already know the value of praising their employees, it’s puzzling that the majority of workers report receiving little to no praise from their bosses.

Studies have shown a direct correlation between the amount of constructive employee feedback and level of engagement. And companies with engaged employees tend to see higher levels of productivity and profits.

A recent article in the New York Times about Yahoo and their embattled CEO Marissa Mayer is a perfect illustration of how NOT to do it. Jeff Bonaparte, a senior VP at Yahoo, called out Mayer’s lack of praise as one of the reasons for the company’s decline. He makes an interesting point when we consider Yahoo’s many well documented struggles with Mayer as CEO.

Bonaparte says, “Marissa is the type of boss that makes you feel like you’re disappointing her at all times, so I always feel like I’m on the verge of being fired. It’s never, ‘Way to go, Jeff!’” Wow. That’s a tough assessment of Mayer, but an even tougher work environment if you’re a Yahoo employee. How can you do your best work for a CEO like that? Well, you can’t—at least for long.

Are you telling your employees “Way to go!” and giving them a pat on the back when they deserve one? Giving positive feedback can be as simple as sending an email to thank someone for helping you on a project. Even better is providing praise and thanks in person. If you can, walk down the hall and tell a colleague how much you appreciate all the things she does for you.

One minute of your time spent each day praising your employees will likely reap huge rewards for your company in the future. Open up an email right now and give it a try. It won’t cost you a thing!

Want to learn more ways to help your company succeed? Contact Cecond Opinion today.