Friday 3rd March is National Employee Appreciation Day in the UK. It's a day when businesses make an extra effort to show their appreciation for their people. What better day to stop and think about how we are celebrating our people is there?
As businesses strive to create positive work environments, increase employee engagement, motivate and retain their employees, business leaders are realising that having an employee recognition strategy that covers employee appreciation and recognition is becoming increasingly important.
One effective way to achieve this is by implementing employee appreciation and recognition programmes. Recognising employees for their hard work and contributions helps create a strong, inclusive culture that fosters engagement, motivation, and loyalty among the entire workforce, including those often forgotten distributed teams. With National Employee Appreciation Day in mind, I want to delve a little deeper into the important role that employee appreciation and recognition play in retention, and explore some simple strategies for building a genuine culture of recognition in the workplace.
The Link Between Employee Appreciation and Retention
Employee recognition programmes have been shown to have a significant impact on retention rates. According to a survey by Glassdoor, 53% of employees would stay at their company longer if they felt more appreciated. Now that's either very sad, or a fantastic opportunity, depending on your perspective. How much money would you save on recruitment and training if you could just hold on to more of your people; not buy giving them more money, but just by showing your appreciation more often? Additionally, we know companies that do prioritise employee recognition are more likely to have higher levels of employee engagement, motivation, and productivity, all of which can lead to better business outcomes, including better customer service.
Moreover, recognition programmes are vital for attracting and retaining top talent. A report by PwC found that recognition and appreciation were among the top three non-financial motivators for employees, and that they played a critical role in attracting and retaining top performers. Therefore, companies that fail to recognise and appreciate their employees risk losing not only their top talent to competitors, but also potential new employees too.
Creating a Successful Employee Recognition Programme
To create a successful employee recognition programme, I believe a company must first understand the importance of aligning any recognition strategies with its company values. This can help align effort and make employees feel that their work is more meaningful. It will help contribute to the company's mission, ultimately fostering a sense of collective pride and ownership.
Perhaps more importantly it will help encourage the desired behaviours the company sees as vital to their success, reaffirming those attitudes and actions that the company sees as important to delivering its vision and mission. The right programme can really highlight the importance of the company values, and take them from being an interesting and eye-catching wall mural to being firmly in the mindset of the business.
One way to achieve this is by simply recognising employees for showing behaviours that align with the company's values. For instance, if one of the company's values is innovation, employees who come up with new ideas and solutions can be recognised for their contributions. Indeed, openly recognising and highlighting such behaviour could spur more employees on to share more of their ideas, leading to even more innovation opportunities. Similarly, if teamwork is a core value, employees who collaborate and support their peers can be recognised for their efforts in that area.
Recognition is most impactful when it is shown genuinely, timely, publically in front of peers and is a surprise. For instance, gathering employees together and recognising them immediately after they have completed a challenging project or achieved exceptional results can be more meaningful than recognising them several weeks or months later by post. Similarly, recognising employees for specific contributions, rather than general efforts, can help them feel that their hard work is truly valued and seen. If it feels like the recognition is a generic cycle of thanks, that's passed out in turn to each member of the team, and doesn't really tie back to a specific effort, it can actually be quite divisive.
Another critical aspect of employee recognition is providing a variety of creative employee recognition ideas. In fact, before you decide on your recognition programme speak to and involve your people to understand what would mean the most to them. Ask them for their ideas. This can help keep the programme relevant, fresh and engaging, ultimately fostering a sense of excitement and anticipation among employees. Some creative ideas for employee recognition include:
Peer-to-peer recognition: This can involve employees recognising each other for their contributions, either informally or through a formal programme. Peer recognition can help build a sense of camaraderie and teamwork among employees.
Top-down recognition: This involves senior leaders recognizing employees for their hard work and contributions. This can help employees feel that their work is valued and appreciated by the entire organization. I've seen simple "Catch A Star" cards work incredibly well here. This is where a leader or manager presents an instant piece of recognition or tangible reward in the moment; like a shopping or day-off voucher to an employee for an effort that's gone that extra mile.
Use of recognition platforms: Recognition platforms can provide a streamlined way for employees to recognise each other, and can help ensure that recognition is timely and consistent.
Thinking about how you are going to reward employees is also an important part of any employee recognition programme. Again, rewards should align with desired behaviours and be tailored to each employee's preferences, where possible. As highlighted above, rewards can range from a simple thank-you note, to a day off, a gift card, or a company-wide recognition event. But, companies can also consider offering non-monetary rewards, such as opportunities for professional development, greater autonomy in their roles or even opportunities to join special project teams or decision forums.
The Impact of a Lack of Appreciation on Employee Retention
A lack of recognition and appreciation can have a negative impact on employee retention. According to a survey by Achievers, 82% of employees feel that they do not receive enough recognition for their contributions. This can lead to employee disengagement, low motivation levels, and ultimately, higher turnover rates. It just feels so daft to me, that business leaders are putting great talent at risk, just because recognition isn't more font of mind. We're so conditioned to sort out issues, that often we gloss over success. Clearly, that's a risky strategy, but one that is so easy to change.
It's not just about individual employees either. A lack of appreciation can create a negative company culture, where employees do not feel valued or supported by their colleagues and superiors. This can lead to decreased collaboration, productivity, and job satisfaction among employees, ultimately resulting in a negative impact on the company's bottom line.
Strategies for Building a Culture of Recognition
To build a culture of recognition, companies must first identify and prioritise employee appreciation and recognition as a core aspect of their company culture. As I mentioned earlier, this can and should involve creating a recognition programme that is aligned with the company's values, goals, and objectives. Additionally, companies should ensure that the programme is accessible and inclusive for all employees, regardless of their role or level within the organisation. If it isn't available to everyone, you risk further alienating groups of employees and encouraging even more resentment and siloed working.
On the contrary, companies that can successfully encourage employees to recognise and appreciate each other's contributions through peer-to-peer recognition programmes can strengthen and foster a truer sense of teamwork and collaboration among employees, while also reinforcing the positive company culture they are striving for.
As well as in the formation phase of any programme, to ensure the continued success, relevance and usage of their recognition programme, companies should also continually gather employee feedback and use it to improve the programme over time. This can involve conducting employee surveys or focus groups to gather input on what employees value most in terms of recognition and rewards, as well as encourage new ideas to keep the scheme fresh.
Ultimately, a successful employee recognition programme should be an integral part of the company's culture that's inline with its overall goals and objectives and in-tune with its employees. By authentically and consistently recognising and appreciating employees for their hard work and contributions, companies can foster a positive and engaged workforce, with willing increases in productivity, higher retention rates, and better business performance.
Employee appreciation and recognition are critical for creating a positive, enabling company culture that encourages and nutures employee engagement, motivation, and loyalty. By implementing a successful employee recognition programme that is in lock-step with the company's values and goals, companies can continue to sustainably attract and retain top talent, and drive successful business performance. It comes down to prioritising employee recognition and appreciation as a core aspect of organisational DNA, and gathering and using employee feedback to continuously improve the programme. All these things done well can really contribute to sustainable success for everyone.