Two of my favorite people in the world are my wife’s older sister, Susan and my brother-in-law, Doug. They are just about the most genuine, easy going, loving and caring people I know. My kids LOVE Aunt Susan and Uncle Doug. They come on many of our family vacations. They are not only our closest relatives, but also our closest friends.

Neither Susan or Doug went to college. High school sweethearts – they have lived in the same humble home since they were married thirty-seven years ago. The best parents I know. Both of their children graduated college – one as a gymnast at the United States Naval Academy and the other a nationally ranked gymnast at the University of Minnesota. The hardest working people I know. Doug works three jobs – one of them loading UPS packages on planes during the nightshift. Susan has been a dental assistant and a physician’s assistant all her career.

Last month I had an interesting conversation with Susan. She was sharing with me how much she loves her job – working at an oral surgeon’s office. She was going on and on about how well her boss treats (and recognizes) her and her colleagues.

Previously, Susan worked for the same podiatrist for over twenty years. As an hourly worker, she only called in sick twice in two decades. Yes, twice. The foot doctor’s patients LOVED Susan. She cared for them. She made them feel comfortable during painful procedures. She knew every patient’s name. She was devoted to that doctor and office staff, just as she was a devoted wife and mother.

In twenty years, this podiatrist rarely recognized her. Never gave her an unexpected bonus (other than a small Christmas bonus). Never sent her on a trip (other than a three-day trip to Tucson – that was given from a patient) or gave her a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant. And when she left her job, five years ago, the doctor took her to lunch on her last day – after twenty years – a damn lunch! No recognition. No going away party. No cake. No meaningful hand written letter. Nothing. Susan shared that she cried all the way home. She was not looking for money or a gift. She wanted to feel valued, to feel appreciated and to feel honored – for giving twenty years to something and someone.

Some organizations know how to handle their employee’s departures with graciousness and love and others don’t. And some people know how to recognize and build their teams and others do not.

I’m sure you know that people are our most valuable resource. But, yet, sometimes we miss the mark on making our people feel valued, feel appreciated and feel honored. Whether your people have worked two years or two decades, we have an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the lives of people that choose to follow us.

Don’t wait until people leave your organization to acknowledge or recognize them. However, when one of your employees calls it quits and moves on to another opportunity – on their last day – the litmus test is this – will they smile or cry their way home.