Need to Keep Employees From Quitting? Start Recognizing Them

Need to Keep Employees From Quitting? Start Recognizing Them

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There’s no doubt about it — The Great Resignation has arrived, with 1 in 4 members of the workforce actively pursuing new job opportunities right now. Your key to keeping your employees from quitting? Employee recognition.

Employees leaving? Check out the other pieces in our employee retention series:

Employee turnover: More than an HR problem

When every departing employee costs a company up to six figures in lost productivity and employee replacement costs, heightened turnover isn’t just an HR problem anymore. It’s a serious business problem.

Fortunately, a key factor driving nearly 80% of employees to quit their job is totally fixable. Yep, that’s right — 4 out of 5 departing employees cite a lack of appreciation as a factor in their decision.

When employees feel recognized and appreciated for their contributions, they’re happier, more productive, and highly unlikely to look for a new job. But when they don’t feel recognized, they often feel apathetic and disconnected — leaving the door wide open for companies who do have a reputation of recognition to win them over.

So, how can you become one of those companies?

Bonus reading:
The Power of Employee Recognition & Rewards

The power of employee recognition

For starters, let’s look at an organization who have experienced the power of employee recognition: Arrowhead Credit Union.

Arrowhead Credit Union was losing employees to competitors’ big-bank perks.

Recognition and rewards at Arrowhead Credit Union were inconsistent across the board, and its multigenerational workforce felt disconnected, leading to high turnover. The credit union knew it needed to create a strong culture with consistent recognition throughout the company to improve retention.

By using public, peer-to-peer recognition to close the gap in its company’s workforce, Arrowhead Credit Union connected its employees across departments, locations, and generations — and reduced the employee turnover rate by 49%.

Read the case study:
Arrowhead Credit Union Cut Employee Quit Rate in Half


Recognition is clearly a power tool when it comes to motivating, aligning, and connecting teams — all key drivers of retention. So, how do you make it work for you?

How to give effective employee recognition

Recognition isn’t rocket science. However, most organizations just aren’t getting it right. Showing the type of gratitude that binds teams and boosts business should be social, timely, specific, and clearly tied to something concrete.

1. Make employee recognition peer-to-peer

We often think of recognition in terms of top-down (meaning, manager-to-worker) — and plenty of research confirms that employees do value that.

But a multitude of studies also reveal that employees equally appreciate, or even prefer, recognition from their teammates. Why? Colleagues see a higher volume of each other’s daily contributions, giving them more opportunities to get a pat on the back from someone who truly understands their work. So recognition from peers can feel more authentic than top-down recognition, which sometimes comes across as obligatory.

What’s more, having the ability to give and receive peer-to-peer recognition conveys to each and every person within an organization that they have a voice. And don’t we all want that?

2. Give employee recognition in real time

When extending those kudos, high-fives, or metaphorical gold stars, the sooner the better.

Feedback in general is better given while the subject is still fresh—and recognition is no different. Giving timely recognition ensures:

a) appreciation happens rather than getting lost on a to-do list or forgotten, and

b) makes a clear connection in the recipient’s mind between the outcome and their behavior.

3. Make employee recognition clear & specific

A recent Deloitte study revealed that people most appreciate being recognized in four overarching categories: success, knowledge or expertise, effort, and living core values.

But to have the highest impact, narrow recognition to the exact behavior where someone excelled. If their content knowledge led to a quality decision in a meeting, cheer for that! If they’ve lived out the values of the company in an interaction with a customer, let them know you noticed.

Try this formula: “When you contributed X, it enabled us to achieve Y.”

By tying praise to specific actions, it becomes more meaningful and longer lasting.

Bonus reading:
Rethink Recognition: Why Service Awards Don’t Work Alone

How to create a culture of recognition

“Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” — Gladys Bronwyn Stern

One third of employees say they’re willing to take a salary cut in exchange for a job where they feel seen and heard. Recognition creates an environment where people consistently know their work matters — that they matter. Here are some tips for getting started:

Recognition should be easy to share

So why aren’t we already sharing more recognition? One reason often cited by managers is that it takes too much time.

By making the process of giving recognition intuitive, accessible, and systematized through the use of a digital platform, you can change the game for a whole company. Making it visually engaging, seamless to use, and easily accessible in mobile format is even more powerful.

Recognition should be year-round, not a quarterly or annual event

A simple, sincere “thank you” is the single thing employees crave most (beyond even gifts or celebrations). They just want to be acknowledged for their contributions on a daily basis.

Saying “thank you,” frequently builds a strong culture of gratitude, where workers know their efforts are seen and appreciated. Once you’ve built that foundation, big celebrations can feel even more meaningful.

Recognition should be social or visible company-wide

No two people are the same. It’s a great idea to proactively ask employees how they like to be recognized. Some are grateful to receive praise in private.

Others thrive when you share accolades publicly or on a shared company recognition feed. For employees who prefer praise to be public but narrowly visible, consider sharing a note with their team acknowledging their contributions. In short, pump the praise to the volume each employee sets, and be enthusiastic with the biggest megaphone you’ve got.

Encourage managers and leadership to model sharing recognition

Whether you’re building a culture of recognition from scratch, or trying to change existing patterns, it can take some momentum to get started. That’s why it’s important to get managers and senior leaders involved early. By setting the tone from the top down, the rest of the team will start reaping the benefits, and the thank you’s will spread like wildfire.

Attach recognition to meaningful rewards

Recognition alone is a game-changer. But paired with meaningful employee rewards adds a dynamic dimension.

When you layer rewards on top of recognition, you pack a one-two punch when it comes to reinforcing core company values, and incentivizing participation in company-wide initiatives. Some companies allow workers to order company branded clothing, others fund lunch with colleagues of the employee’s choice, others offer access to leadership—like a day golfing with the CEO.

(Need some ideas? Here are 25 out-of-the-box employee rewards to try on)

Have a platform that brings it all together

When you let technology do the heavy lifting, recognition is a joy to give and receive. Having a one-stop solution that pulls all the pieces together can make the difference between “Nice idea — I’ll get to it later.” And “Where has this been all my life?”

Looking for an employee recognition solution?
See the Employee Recognition & Rewards Buyer’s Guide

Make recognition easy with WorkTango

We hope this article helped you understand the link between employee recognition and retention and turnover, and also gave you some great insight into how to build an effective culture of recognition. It’s one of our specialties. And if you like what you’ve read, we’d love to connect.