Boost Retention Through Employee Recognition

If employees are heading for the exits, try tying recognition programs to your organization’s values.

By Jen Schramm Jan 26, 2017
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​What’s your most vexing workforce management issue? If you’re like many of your colleagues, it’s retention. That was the No. 1 challenge identified by HR professionals in 2016, just as it was in 2015, according to survey findings from the Society for Human Resource Management and Globoforce. As organizations step up their efforts to hold on to their top talent, the survey shows that employee recognition strategies are evolving apace.

Indeed, acknowledging and thanking workers can help HR address many issues, which may be why 81 percent of companies use recognition in one form or another. Three out of 5 organizations (60 percent) said their program was tied to their organization’s core values, up from 50 percent in 2012.

Most HR professionals said their company’s recognition practices had a positive effect not only on retention but also on engagement, culture and employee happiness. And that’s not all. When recognition programs were linked to organizational values—in other words, when they reinforced the outcomes and behaviors most associated with the company’s guiding beliefs—the programs were more likely to lead to a higher perceived return on investment among employees. To this end, some organizations require a person who nominates a worker for an award to provide an explanation of how the employee’s actions demonstrated corporate values. In addition, well-aligned efforts were also associated with instilling and reinforcing corporate principles, maintaining a strong employer brand, and meeting learning and development goals.

It’s impossible to predict the future, of course, but retention is not likely to get less challenging anytime soon. As leaders learn more about the positive outcomes that can result from a values-based approach to recognition, more of them may start thinking about those efforts in a strategic way, perhaps even as part of the strategic planning process.

[SHRM members-only resource: ToolkitManaging Employee Recognition Programs]

If you don’t already have a recognition program, consider adopting one. If you do, make sure it is aligned to the organization’s core principles to get the best outcomes—and possibly a significant competitive advantage. As the survey report states, “rewarding employees for embodying organizational values demonstrates the organization’s commitment to these values. This can help align workplace culture with these values and develop trust among employees.”   

Jen Schramm is manager of the Workforce Trends program at SHRM.

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