The most successful businesses recognise that the more gratitude that’s given to a company, the better it performs. People are, after all, your most valuable resource and having an employee recognition program that celebrates them is a great way of ensuring quality employee retention.

While some firms dangle remuneration and benefits as a carrot for meeting goals, it’s also important to look beyond monetary rewards when showing staff recognition for a job well done. And this should be integrated into your employee retention strategies to improve the retention rate.

In Page Personnel’s Talent Trends 2022 The Great X report, where we dived into how the great resignation has affected the employment market in Australia and what employers can do to navigate during these unpredictable times, 46% of employers surveyed see the act of gratitude, recognition and appreciation as an important contributor to employee retention.

Related: Why candidate experience matters and how to do it well

What is employee recognition, and why does it matter?

Recognition is a way of supporting your staff to let them know their work and contributions are appreciated. It’s publicly acknowledging them for who they are and what they do, making the workplace feel more engaging, inclusive and human.

The Great X report found that just 59% of employees in Australia say that their company cares about their well-being and happiness. Staff are instilled with a sense of purpose and feel valued and respected when they know they’ve positively impacted your business and the team. And as a result, they’re less likely to seek other job opportunities outside the organisation. Now, it’s part of human nature to desire positive affirmation.

In the long run, this translates to higher employee retention and better employer branding — often key factors of consideration for top talent in the market.

Happy employees are less motivated to job hunt

In fact, out of 1,500 respondents polled by SurveyMonkey and Bonusly, 63% of those who were “always” or “usually” recognised said they were “very unlikely” to job hunt in the next three to six months. By contrast, only 11% of those who are “never” or “rarely” recognised would say the same.

The study said 43% of the unrecognised group are “extremely likely” to seek work elsewhere – but only 9% of the happier cohort would. Out of all respondents, 82% stated that they were happier when they were recognised at work, which drives up motivation and productivity by several notches, creating a positive company culture and effective workforce.

Related: The first step to a good employee attraction plan is a great employee retention strategy

Employers need to keep reevaluating their reward policies

Employee recognition has long been a cornerstone of effective management, yet this is an art few have mastered. Proper staff appreciation looks beyond the numbers to value the people behind this success. As such, organisations worth working for are always reevaluating how they reward their employees.

Sizeable workforces mean less attention is paid at an individual level. Hence, business leaders must constantly rethink the way they keep their employees engaged and fulfilled, and at the same time, support the organisation’s goals and core values. Unfortunately, the larger the company grows, the more this becomes a challenge.

Here’s how you can build an infrastructure around recognition and use it to bolster employer branding and company culture, preserve a more productive workforce, reduce employee turnover and boost employee retention.

3 Tips to create a meaningful employee recognition program for better employee retention

1. Be specific: Make your compliments count

Recognition is always more meaningful when tied to a specific accomplishment as opposed to a generic compliment — be it hitting a sales goal or finally achieving a career breakthrough.

Being specific also makes it easier for employees to relate the recognition to their work and create job satisfaction. This approach encourages them to repeat the successful behaviours while acting as motivation to match, or even better, their performance.

2. Be creative: A successful recognition program doesn’t always have to involve cash

In order to reap the benefits of a culture infused with gratitude, rethink what it means to show appreciation in the workplace. A successful recognition program doesn’t always have to involve cash, which in most cases will only temporarily boost employee morale.

Employees are hungrier for career growth. They want to be rewarded with new professional development opportunities to grow and develop additional skill sets — whether it’s through classes, mentorship programs, online learning platform memberships, or networking events.

Rewarding your employees may be as simple as accommodating personal responsibilities and even side projects in their lives for more work-life balance. Recognition can also come in the form of flexible work arrangements. The Great X report found that 60% of respondents prefer hybrid work arrangements while 28% love working from home.

Companies can implement flexible working schedules that allow employees to balance work and personal life. One way for companies to come across as people-first is to offer flexibility in hybrid or remote work, demonstrating that the employer cares for their employees, which leads to better employee retention.

Now, employers and employees may view flexibility differently. While one may argue that flexibility should be given freely and not dished out as a reward, one should understand that employers need to access the perimeters of offering flexible work schedules, which is dependent on the business model.

3. Be timely: Do it consistently and promptly

In the same way, that old news is far less relevant. Giving recognition months after the work has been done isn’t nearly as meaningful as when it is given promptly.

Late appreciation can even be contrived – or even a last-minute attempt to win back employee trust. Make employee recognition a conscious priority and have formal systems in place, so you won’t miss a timely opportunity to recognise your employees’ achievements.

Related: 4 key strategies to attract talent in 2022

Employee recognition also improves employee engagement and boosts employer branding

According to Gallup, only one in three workers surveyed has strongly agreed that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days.

It’s also common for employees, especially top talent, to feel that their efforts are ignored by their managers, and those who do not feel adequately recognised are twice as likely to quit in the next year. With this mindset, it’s hard for employees to feel motivated and gain a sense of accomplishment and value in their hard work.

What top companies like Apple and Google do to give recognition

Apple, for example, is one such company that has understood and recognised the efforts of its workforce as integral to the company’s success over the years. The Cupertino-based firm has offered perks such as extended, paid holidays during Thanksgiving following a very successful year. But it has also thoughtfully customised the reward based on location and job role, by offering employees in different parts of the world the same paid time off during an equivalent holiday.

Google, meanwhile, has created the ‘gThanks’ program, in which employees can give recognition to their co-workers for a job well done. This recognition programme goes even further by allowing staff to nominate each other through the peer-bonuses program, whereby colleagues can receive a bonus of US$175. There’s even a so-called “Wall of Happy”, where staff can place thank-you notes and emails that spotlight their team members' hard work and achievements, to thank and motivate others.

With these initiatives, it’s little surprise that Apple and Google have been consistently ranked highly in Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For” list and in Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work” list every year.

The direct link between appreciation and retention shouldn’t be ignored

As one of the key drivers for productivity, employer branding and ultimately, employee retention, effective employee recognition should be an integral part of a company’s HR employee retention strategies. It becomes part of a company’s workplace culture, too. Companies experiencing high employee turnover should review their employee recognition and benefits policies.

A survey by Achievers found that 44% of respondents who were planning to switch jobs cited a lack of recognition as the number one reason, while 69% said that a better recognition program would encourage them to stay.

Implementing the right management tools to keep track of performance and highlight exceptional work will give your employees the extra push they need to stay motivated and stay on in a company — even more so during mentally trying post-covid times.

Discover the latest in our 2022 Talent Trends report, The Great X: This survey report covers what hiring professionals need to know to address talent attraction and employee retention for the year ahead.

It also highlights a change of times in the hiring outlook as job candidates and employees now prioritise their well-being more than ever. Download our report to find out more.

Read more:

How to build a high-performing team
How to help build an inclusive workplace for women
Strategies for onboarding employees in a hybrid workplace

Creative Employee Recognition Ideas to Celebrate Your Team

Employee recognition is an integral part of fostering positive company culture, promoting employee retention, and maintaining high levels of employee morale. Recognising employees isn't just about annual awards or cash incentives; there are many ways to appreciate your staff creatively. In this blog post, we’ll share some creative employee recognition ideas that will help you build the perfect employee recognition program for your workforce.

1. The "Wall of Fame"

Consider dedicating a space in your office, or on your company's intranet for remote workers, for an employee recognition wall. The wall of fame can spotlight an employee's efforts, showcase their achievements, and demonstrate excellence in their role. This public staff recognition serves as a visible sign of your company's appreciation and can be a motivating factor for the entire team.

2. Social Media Shoutouts

Leverage your company's social media platforms for employee recognition efforts. Share positive customer feedback received by your team members, highlight employees who have gone above and beyond, or even showcase a behind-the-scenes look at the work of your best employees. This form of employee recognition not only makes the individual feel appreciated but also builds your brand by showing the human side of your company.

3. Peer Recognition Programs

Encourage employees to recognise each other. A peer recognition program fosters a culture where team members appreciate each other's contributions. It can be as simple as a "kudos" message board in the break room or an online platform where employees can shout out their co-workers.

4. Personalised Rewards

Understand what kind of rewards your employees prefer. For some, a personalised reward, like a gift card to their favourite restaurant or a book by an author they love, can make them feel valued. This personalised touch shows that you know your employees as individuals and appreciate their unique interests.

5. Experiential Rewards

Experiential rewards can offer memorable ways to recognise employees. Consider offering a cooking class for a team member who loves to cook or a photography session for an amateur photographer. These experiences can make your recognition program stand out and help employees feel truly valued.

6. Surprise "Thank You" Notes

Never underestimate the power of a heartfelt "thank you." Surprise employees with handwritten notes from senior leaders or peers, acknowledging specific achievements or contributions. This small gesture can have a significant impact on how employees feel appreciated.

7. Professional Development Opportunities

Recognise your top performers by providing them with professional development opportunities. This could be attending a conference, enrolling in a course, or having one-on-one mentoring sessions with a senior member of the team. It's an excellent way to recognise employees and invest in their growth simultaneously.

8. Health and Wellness Rewards

Show appreciation for your team by prioritising their physical health. Offering a monthly wellness class, subsidising gym memberships, or even gifting a wellness package can demonstrate that you value your employees' well-being.

Remember, the goal of employee recognition programs is to reward employees and make employees feel appreciated and motivated. By incorporating some of these creative employee recognition ideas, you'll be well on your way to fostering a company culture that values recognition and celebrates each team member's unique contributions.

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