What do employees want from their workplace? Surprisingly, although salary and benefits are crucial, employees rank a stable and supportive workplace environment as critical to job satisfaction and stability. In fact, respect may be the most appreciated workplace perk, making employees feel valued and motivating them to achieve stellar job performance.

One reason why workplace respect may be so valued nowadays is because of conflict-charged atmospheres in many companies. Rising unemployment rates, fierce competition for jobs, and a decline in general moral values have impacted the workforce, leaving employees feeling isolated and vulnerable. Workers who fail to establish a strong connection to their colleagues and supervisors are more likely to evidence poor work performance.

Want to create a motivating and fair job atmosphere? Consider offering these job perks that matter most to employees:

1. Provide a specific job description with clearly explained duties. Vague job descriptions or unclear expectations lead to frustration in employees who aren’t sure how to do their job well and in supervisors who become dissatisfied with what they perceive as poor job performance. A written job description that is updated annually keeps everyone aware of what is expected in a specific position. Duties that change should be immediately reflected in a revised job description.

2. Ensure courteous and respectful treatment. Coworkers and supervisors who are too busy or inconsiderate to exchange friendly greetings or offer assistance discourage new or struggling employees. Smiles, praise, and words of encouragement are job perks that matter more than bonuses or vacation days. All personnel should be reminded to be friendly and kind, and discouraged from gossiping, backbiting, or unduly criticizing coworkers. Sexual harassment training and diversity awareness programs promote a courteous and respectful work environment.

3. Perform fair and objective performance evaluations. All employees want to be evaluated clearly and fairly, using standard criteria. An annual or semi-annual review provided in writing by the immediate supervisor and with the opportunity for discussion and employee feedback fosters a collegial work environment that helps employees improve skills and develop new qualities. Positive observations from and interactions with coworkers, clients, and customers who have had dealings with the employee should be added to the personnel file and considered during the performance review.

4. Give public recognition when appropriate. One of the most effective job perks is personal and professional recognition of an employee’s special talents or efforts. Exhibiting low absenteeism or tardiness, working overtime hours with a smile, learning a new skill, filling in for an absent employee, covering a vacant position, or going above and beyond expected job duties are behaviors that deserve verbal and/or written praise. This can be done in a company newsletter column dedicated to recognizing employees’ special efforts, sending a congratulatory letter, recommending a promotion, or simply saying – preferably in a public meeting but in an informal way – “Job well done – thanks!”

5. Offer opportunities to advance. When an employee reaches and exceeds his or her potential in a current job, a smart supervisor sees an opportunity to channel the employee’s potential into more challenging duties. This can take the form of a promotion, enhanced job responsibilities, or a revamped job title – with improved pay and perks. Everyone likes to be appreciated, and among the job perks that matter most is the chance to build on current success to strive for loftier goals. It’s a win-win situation: The employee feels proud of the advancement and works harder and the company benefits from another strong performer.

Of course, tangible perks are important too, including additional personal days, flex or comp time, bonuses, raises, and adjusted job duties. But more than financial compensation, perks like the ones mentioned above remind employees of their value to the company. They are proof of past performance and a promise of potentially greater success to come. A positive workplace, affirming colleagues, supportive job strategies, and recognition opportunities ensure employee satisfaction and strengthen company loyalty.