It’s not what you pay your workers that keeps them loyal to your operation. It’s not the benefits, the training or the promotions, either. According to human resources expert Jeff Haden, treating your employees with respect is the best way to retain great people.

“If you want to be considered a great employer — and you certainly should — providing your employees with higher pay, better benefits, extensive training and greater opportunities are definite factors,” Haden writes in Inc. magazine. “The problem is you might not have the resources to do all that. That's okay. You can still be a great employer, because one thing you can give your employees is more important: Self-respect.”

Several studies echo this sentiment. According to a survey conducted by Sirota Survey Intelligence and the authors of The Enthusiastic Employee, employees who feel disrespected at work are three times more likely to leave their jobs within two years’ time than those who feel they are treated with respect. And research conducted by Achievers, a provider of employee rewards and recognition software, finds that 35 percent of workers feel their company is not inspiring them to do their best at work every day, resulting in lost productivity. Workers feel that being recognized once every seven days would provide them the right amount of recognition, but Achievers found that the feedback must be immediate in order for it to be effective.

There also seems to be a perception gap when it comes to recognition: A mere 9 percent of workers reported being recognized regularly at work but 57 percent of CEOs thought employees were getting that regular recognition. In addition, 24 percent of workers reported getting instant feedback while 54 percent of CEOs said they provided workers with instant feedback.

Regardless of how often they’re being recognized, Haden makes it clear that it’s easier to recognize some employees than others. But, he insists, treating anyone with disrespect will affect everyone.

“Some employees aren't outstanding,” he says. “Some are far from it. They aren't as smart. They don't work as hard. They make bigger mistakes. Some employees ultimately deserve to be let go. Regardless, every employee — no matter what their level of performance — deserves to be treated with respect.”

He offers pointers for ways to redirect and educate employees without making them lose face in front of others. And, he notes, this is the only way to ensure you’re getting employees’ best work.

“Talk to me privately about a mistake I made, focus on how I can learn from that mistake and improve, and I'll quickly forget any initial embarrassment I may feel,” Haden writes. “Make me feel stupid, especially in front of other people, and I will never forget how it feels — and I'll never learn from my mistake because I will only remember the way you treated me. Self-respect is a lot like trust. Once lost, it's almost impossible to regain.”

Dairy farmers needn’t rely on pay, benefits or promotional opportunities to make employees feel respected and valued — which is good news, since it seems there’s never enough of those to go around.