A common theme running through media reports, blog posts, industry research and even my interactions with companies evaluating strategic recognition programs is the tendency to take employees for granted during a recession. Of course, such an attitude also leads to retention and engagement issues as well.

A survey by Robert Half International is particularly telling. Senior executives were asked why top-performing employees left with unhappiness with management being the top reason at 35%, limited opportunities for advancement as second and lack of recognition as third. This is close to the survey results from AchieveGlobal that found: “Attrition among high-performing employees is largely catalyzed by insufficient compensation, lack of growth opportunities, and employee contributions not being recognized.”

Do you want to retain or even increase your competitive advantage? Then you must not take your employees for granted. Here are three ways to show your employees you appreciate them and their efforts.

1. Demonstrably value your employees: Show them you know what their strengths are. Put them in roles or give them assignments that let them flex their muscles. Give them opportunities in your strategically important functions. Then don’t forget to tell them why you are doing this – because you recognize their talents and need their contributions to succeed.

2. Communicate and recognize: Be accessible, address concerns openly, and recognize effort frequently and appropriately. There is much fodder for the rumor mill in most organizations today. Pre-empt the rumors by giving regular status updates. Say thank you. Let people know their efforts are valid, worthy, noticed and above all, appreciated.

3. Prevent poaching of top talent: Companies that manage to get the above points right stand a better chance of retaining their top talent. Or put another way, keep their competitors from poaching their top performers. The entire U.S. state of California is facing a retention challenge of mega proportions as surrounding states aggressively campaign to poach individual talent and even entire companies. Keep your competitors away from what makes you better than the rest- your people.

Are you taking your employees for granted? If not, what are you doing to show your employees you don’t take them for granted and keep them from being poached by the competition?

Derek Irvine, Globoforce