Nothing says "I love your work" more truthfully than a bonus or a raise.
By the way, it is proved by countless experience that once salary is good enough, it is disconnected from happiness at work.
Good pay and respect will bring you way further than good pay, bonus and "you are my slave".
That's not any different then what they OP is saying. The issue people have at finding good programmers is that they aren't paying enough.
Yes, other things matter, but if you start off by offering minimum wage, a "Good job!" doesn't really matter.
For me, high-enough regard can mean someone whose work I know of and can appreciate on its merit, or it can mean someone who used my software by choice.
For example, if my boss' actions don't show that he's interested in my happiness at work and he thanks me for making his pet project happen, it means nothing to me. But, if a customer, or someone whose work I admire, tells me they like the software I created, they've just made my day.
If an employee says to the boss "Hey, I think I'm worth X more than you're paying me", and after extensive "due process" the answer comes back from management as "No, and you can't have more time off either", that's a clear sign that the decision makers have, at best, limited respect for that employee's work. Verbal claims of respect, at this point, are almost offensive.
That said, on the other hand, piles of cash but nary a kind word is also not very respectful.