3 Recognition Don’ts You’re Doing and It’s Killing Employee Retention

Employee retention isn’t just HR’s problem -- it’s everyone's problem.

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Nearly three out of four employees in North America plan to look for a new job this year.

This disruption in the workforce was recently uncovered after surveying North American employees in our latest report, The Retention Epidemic: Why 74% of the North American Workforce Plans on Quitting.

But employee retention isn’t just HR’s problem — it’s an everyone problem. And it can’t be successfully handled until it is treated as one.

To solve this growing epidemic, business leaders need to refocus their attention to the source of discontent. And we found it: the majority of North American employees (36 percent) say a lack of recognition is the main reason they’re looking to leave.

But having a rewards and recognition program isn’t enough to show employees they’re valued members of your team. We found successful recognition comes down to one thing: meaning.

To help leaders attack employee retention full-force, I’m sharing three examples of frequent recognition mishaps and how to change them.

1. Not delivering specific recognition.

Impacting an employee’s will to stay on board can only be done if they understand what they’re doing well. Take, for example, this note of recognition from a father to his son, both long-time employees at Hamilton, Ontario-based steel company Dofasco.

“The last few years have brought many changes in your life. You worked very hard as a ‘casual’ to get hired on full time. You have matured into a great person and a great father! I am very proud of you!!”

This celebration is moving, but not because it comes from a loving father. Look at the specific details this dad shares about how his son moved up the company ladder and matured not just in his role, but as a person.

Reaching a similar level of authenticity doesn’t happen naturally, but when you get there, the employee experience will be forever improved.

As a leader, it’s up to you to start the chain of authentic recognition at your company. When you see a manager providing positive encouragement to a struggling employee, recognize them by explaining what you’re proud of and how their actions positively represent and impact the company as a whole.

Keep the cycle of specific recognition going by having your managers write down exactly what traits and skills they value in their employees. Then, challenge them to recognize one employee each day who exhibits those specific skills or values.

2. Not making recognition a part of your culture.

Neglecting to include employees in the recognition process leaves a gaping hole in your company culture. But companies that make recognition a priority have employees who fully understand what needs done to reach company-wide goals.

An ideal example of a company making recognition an innate part of their culture is Rogers Communications, a global communications and media company.

Through their High Five program, more than 17,000 employees are recognized and, in turn, understand the company’s values and customer expectations.

“High Five creates an avenue for our employees to publicly express gratitude,” said employee engagement manager Fady Makar. “It reinforces a culture where we appreciate the people that make Rogers a great place to work.”

This public gratitude created a chain reaction, causing recognition to become part of Rogers’ daily culture, directly impacting key corporate goals.

Incorporate your own company mission and goals into your recognition program. If your goal is to increase customer acquisition, publicly celebrate employees who are taking the steps to make it happen. Note what they’re doing well and how their specific actions are improving the overall well-being of the company.

3. Not keeping up with employee needs.

Your finger must always be on the pulse of employee recognition. If it isn’t, how will you understand employees’ unique and constantly evolving needs? The answer is you won’t.

So, get in the know. Send out company-wide polls and surveys to understand how employees feel about their day-to-day work and the organization as a whole. Knowing how employees feel is the first step to making a real impact on employee retention and recognition. Employees’ feelings and opinions give leaders the power to switch up their strategy based wholly on their team’s needs.

Put that feedback to use by analyzing and sharing the results with managers. Now, you’ve equipped managers with information to better understand and lead their teams.

Use this open communication and survey trends to focus directly on areas of recognition employees find most important. You’ll be happy to see less time wasted in guessing how employees feel, and more time actively making them feel valued and seen.

As you become more in tune with employees’ recognition needs, you’ll be able to actively alter and guide managers to improve your company’s outcomes. These actions will have a positive impact on retention, productivity, and ultimately employee happiness.

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