Everyone wants to be treated with respect, whether it’s professionally or within the realm of their personal relationships. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that workers — contract, freelance, full-time, part-time — want to feel appreciated at work and are more productive when they hear respectful phrases such as “thank you” or “you’re an important part of the team” and “we couldn’t have done it without you!” However, too many companies neglect the importance of these simple, easy to implement interactions between managers and employees.

The Desire for Human Connection

According to a recent survey conducted by Appirio, forty-seven percent of workers are less than fully engaged in their current job. The survey also reveals that bonuses and extravagant compensations are not enough to keep your workforce productive. It turns out that top talent is looking for more — a human connection with their employer and colleagues.

The desire for a human connection at work is not a new concept. Consider the book Generation X, published in 1991. It popularized the concept of the “McJob” and described a typical work cubicle — the staple work environment of the emerging services economy — as a “veal-fattening pen.” This visual accurately describes many employees’ feelings even today, and instantly shines a light on the inhuman 9 to 5, clock in and clock out, sit in a gray box working environment. The truth is, this type of setup was designed and approved by executives who see a worker as merely a number, converting minutes spent at a desk into dollars in their pockets.

The problem with this scenario is that time spent working on a project isn’t necessarily a representation of the quality or efficiency of work. Executives out of touch with their workforce don’t stop to think that engaged employees can produce better work at a faster rate than those looking at the clock every five minutes.

New Technology Broadens Awareness

While the need for human connection has been an overlooked problem for awhile, what is new today is the raised awareness brought on by technology. Through strength in numbers and access to new smart devices, new generations are demanding more from their employers. Today, employees use Glassdoor to broadcast their employer’s unfair treatment; they seek out better job opportunities through LinkedIn and use the platform to sell their skills to companies with favorable employee reviews; and they can quickly and easily find the right professional connections to help them find a better career match.

While employees today demand better technology, most companies continue to use outdated tools and processes for everything from Human Resources to Finance, Procurement and Payroll services. This is causing a disconnect that is costing companies time and money. The longer they wait to change and modernize their business, the harder it’ll become to stay relevant and competitive in a world where the ever changing needs of workers and customers necessitate the attention of executive leadership teams.

Challenging Employer Behavior and Thinking

It’s a new age for the customer, but it’s also a new age for the worker. Job seekers have more power than ever before and they are demanding that companies catch-up. While many companies are starting to talk about employee engagement, most still think it is solely a Human Resources issue — which it is not. Engaging a workforce is a company-wide effort, and needs to start at the top in order for real change to occur. Digital initiatives have already revolutionized how companies interact with their external stakeholders – the same techniques can do the same for engagement with internal stakeholders too.

When you look at the way our work-lives have changed over the last decade or so, the timing is more than right (if not overdue) for drastic changes to take place. We spend more hours working than ever before, and work/life balance is constantly challenged by our connected digital lives. This makes it critical for all employers to consider how they can respect workers’ time and efforts and show appreciation for their contributions on a daily basis. Because, in this market, if good talent doesn’t feel appreciated, there’s nothing at all to keep them from leaving. Technology has opened up entirely new opportunities for top talent, so employers need to come to the table armed with more than just a competitive compensation and benefits package.