by Shayne Thomas
20 Nov 2019
Employee Recognition Is More Important Than Ever
It’s time to make recognition a part of your talent management strategy
During periods of low unemployment, akin to what we’re experiencing in the U.S. today, it can be really hard to find the best candidates to fill open positions. This is not because those candidates don’t exist, but rather because they have the proverbial “pick of the litter” when it comes to job choice. The skills they offer are in high demand and, thus, they can be more selective than they would otherwise be in a more competitive job market.
In fact, this has become such a big problem that 75% of HR professionals who say they are having a hard time recruiting for open job positions blame this almost squarely on a shortage of skills—and, for some roles, a very specialized skill set—from within the candidate pool.
This is even more of a reason why businesses must not set aside learning and development as an afterthought. In fact, when highly skilled talent is hard to come by, this becomes much more than a nice-to-have; learning and development is truly table stakes. After all, just because you can’t find the “exact” match you’re looking for in a specific candidate doesn’t mean you can’t help a candidate that’s perhaps a 90% match fill in those “gaps” through on-the-job training.
But here’s the hitch. Once you’ve trained these employees, giving them a whole slew of new skills and knowledge that will undoubtedly help them grow and excel in their careers, you’ve created an entirely new HR nightmare for yourself: employee retention. Again, in a job seeker’s market like what we have today, there’s really nothing stopping an employee from jumping ship to take on a new opportunity with more responsibilities and, in many cases, a bigger paycheck.
Employee recognition can make all the difference
This is where employee recognition comes into the picture in a big way. While it goes without saying that learning and development, ongoing feedback, and continuous performance management can go a long way in supporting your employee retention efforts, there’s something truly unique about the power of employee recognition that can’t be forgotten.
Talking about employee recognition in this way seems like a no-brainer. As humans, we perform better in a rewards-based system—even if those “rewards” are only verbal affirmations—than in an environment where we feel as though our contributions are not valued whatsoever.
Unfortunately, only 11.8% of organizations surveyed said that employee recognition was a top people priority. Read the other way, this essentially tells us that almost 90% of organizations don’t think employee recognition is important at all. (Yes, feel free to let out a collective shriek, but then, at the same time, don’t be surprised by your high employee turnover rates either!)
For a second, put yourself in the shoes of a rank-and-file employee (aka, think about your experience in your first couple of jobs). Did you ever work for someone who micromanaged you, spoke down to you, could never say one nice thing about your work, forced you to work late nights without a mere “thank you,” or belittled or criticized you in front of your colleagues or, even worse, senior management? Regardless of what your experience was, think about how it made you feel. Did you have any incentive to stay in that job or keep working for that same person? Probably not. When you don’t feel valued, you’ve got no reason to stick around.
The truth is, there are a lot of horror stories out there. We’ve all had them, yet surprisingly, as we move up in our careers, we tend to forget about them or justify those experiences as a necessity to “earn our stripes.” And in forgetting or normalizing them, it’s uncanny how often those same bad behaviors, perhaps subconsciously, rear their ugly heads in our own words and actions? (This is the epitome of post-traumatic stress disorder!)
Don’t let yourself or your business get in the same rut. Here’s how you can build a culture of recognition that boosts employee retention and creates happier employees overall—a win-win across the board for all involved. Let’s take a closer look.
The benefits of employee recognition programs
First things first, if you fall into the near 90% of businesses mentioned above that haven’t prioritized employee recognition as part of their broader talent management strategy, here are two very important reasons why you should reconsider this entirely.
- Increased productivity
Again, this all comes down to human nature: when people feel valued, they will be a lot more likely to go above and beyond—all the time. Whether it comes down to receiving a simple verbal “pat on the back” during a feedback conversation, a public shout out in front of the entire team, or some kind of reward for accomplishing a specific goal, these kinds of recognition will more than likely motivate an employee to keep on doing even more exceptional work. Not to mention, it’s a perfect way to reinforce and model, by example, the behaviors that you’d like to see across your entire team. Remember, humans are competitive by nature, too, so when they see fellow team members succeeding—and being recognized for their achievements—they’ll be even more motivated to take it a step further.
- Decreased turnover
This shouldn’t come as a surprise at all: research has shown many times over that engaged employees are less likely to leave their jobs. What does it mean to be engaged, you ask? Engagement can take on many forms. Do employees feel challenged by their work? Are they learning new skills regularly or stretching their skills to prepare themselves for new roles? Do they get along well with their managers and colleagues? Do they receive constructive and supportive feedback about what they’re doing well as well as how they how they can improve? A great company culture involves celebrating professional accomplishments just as much as it involves recognizing employees not only as workers but also as human beings. When people feel like they can bring their whole self to work every day and use their work environment as a space for improving their whole self, as a business, you give them far fewer reasons to ever (want to) leave.
Tips for creating a culture of recognition
There is virtually no company in the world that would ever say no to increased productivity or decreased turnover. So, to start building a culture of recognition that drives organization-wide results, here are a few quick and easy ways to make it a part of your company’s day-to-day:
- Encourage social recognition:
Oftentimes, when we hear people talk about employee recognition, we assume that it involves a top-down relationship (i.e. your boss or a senior leader recognizes you for an achievement). That’s really only one part of the equation. Recognition can actually happen between colleagues at all levels. Today’s workplaces tend to be highly collaborative and cross-functional environments. Why keep recognition in a silo? (The answer: You shouldn’t!)
- Build recognition into your talent management platform:
This is essentially an extension of the idea above, but just in a more digital-friendly format. When you log into a Cornerstone-created talent management solution, you can award co-workers badges for job-related accolades (à la “great teamwork”) or to just show someone you care (“you are awesome”). However, you define your badges and how employees and managers can use them is completely up to you. The important point here is that such highly visible forms of recognition really go a long way to giving employees those “warm and fuzzies” that truly make them feel appreciated.
- Encourage frequent recognition (beyond key milestones):
Here’s a fun stat. The most common form of recognition in companies today is when they celebrate an employee’s years of service (i.e. five years, 10 years, etc.). These usually involve receiving a certificate, getting a trophy, being invited to a fancy dinner, and a lot of other pomp and circumstance. Sure, all of that is nice, but there’s a problem: that kind of recognition only happens every five or more years. (And by the time the next big years-of-service milestone rolls around, which is becoming less and less the case these days as people jump more frequently from one job to another, the last recognition has probably been long forgotten!) So, avoid this tendency to only see recognition as a celebration of key milestones and, instead, use it as an opportunity to applaud everyone’s day-to-day wins. And this doesn’t have to involve a lot of pomp and circumstance; it just needs to let employees know that someone in your workplace values them and the work they do.
Hopefully, by now, you’ve been inspired to get on the employee recognition bandwagon. These are just a few ideas to get you moving in the right direction. If your company is ready to take it up a notch by building a culture of recognition, Cornerstone is here to help—badges and all! Learn more today.