Values-Based Recognition for Employee Retention

July 2, 2015

Retaining the best employees is difficult, especially when the economy is on the rise and new opportunities are opening up all around. But keeping your talent is essential if you want to remain competitive.

In the 2015 Employee Recognition Report published by SHRM and Globoforce, employee turnover/retention is the biggest challenge now facing HR leaders. Not surprisingly, employee engagement is a close second. Some 40 percent of all companies surveyed said the loss of personnel was a top concern. Another 29 percent were stressed about finding replacement talent.

Why do employees leave companies: higher salary, better benefits, a shorter commute? There’s a saying that people join a company due to its reputation, but they leave because of their manager.

Perhaps it’s the rise of the notion of free-agent nation with each of us looking out only for ourselves rather than the company as a whole. Maybe it’s generational as there are now more Millennials in the workforce than Generation Xers or Baby Boomers.

Research conducted by Marshall Goldsmith for Accenture found that when high potential leaders were asked why they would stay in their own company versus taking a better offer elsewhere, the answers were never about money. They were always about happiness, relationships, following dreams, and meaning.

I’ve worked for some successful start-ups that had a laser focus on customers, with employees coming in a very close second. Once these companies went public, however, shareholders took over the second if not the first spot. And the top two were the only ones that got attention.

According to the SHRM/Globoforce report, lack of recognition at work is one of the most cited reasons why employees leave their jobs. Employees feel their contribution in achieving the company’s goals are not valued by their peers or manager.

Why don’t we celebrate success? Why don’t we congratulate our peers and our direct reports for their work? The simple act of saying “thank you” or “great job” has somehow become difficult to get out of our mouths.

Many companies are taking steps to address this more formally by implementing specific recognition programs because frequent and immediate recognition have been found to increase employee engagement and reduce turnover.

However, unless these recognition programs are aligned with a company’s values, they will have little effect. Values-based recognition seems to make employees feel they are valued and their contributions are fully appreciated.

And while more than 80% of large companies offer some kind of formal recognition, values-based recognition is still practiced by only a little more than 50% of these companies—though it is on the rise. And with good reason.

In the SHRM/Globoforce report, recognition was perceived to positively impact engagement for 90 percent of respondents practicing values-based recognition versus just 67 percent for non-values-based programs. Retention was also directly affected with 68 percent of values-based programs perceived with a positive impact versus just 41 percent for non-values-based programs.

With your company’s values as a guide, link your recognition programs directly to them in order to reinforce their importance and encourage employees to practice behavior that you want your company to represent.

This will not only enable you to hold on to your best and brightest employees, but also make everyone more engaged, which can boost productivity. Values-based recognition will also attract new job candidates looking for companies that demonstrate their core values in the way they treat employees.

So consider skipping bagel Fridays, the monthly pizza party or generic birthday cupcake each month in favor of specific, timely and frequent recognition that is deeply tied to your company’s core values. This will encourage your employees to stay and be more engaged than just about anything.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/61166346@N06/5954679540″>Retention and Engagement</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Retaining Your Top Talent

March 27, 2013

Now that the U.S. economy is beginning to show signs of life and companies are looking to hire again, it’s important to remember that this also opens the door for existing employees to explore their options elsewhere.

The last thing you want now is to lose your top talent to competitors. But if you don’t focus on the things that are important to these employees, you may find that they will indeed leave for greener pastures.

According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, nearly one-third of employers (32 percent) report that top performers left their organizations in 2012 and 39 percent are concerned that they’ll lose top talent this year. And while two-thirds of workers stated they are generally satisfied with their jobs, one quarter said they will change jobs in 2013 or 2014.

More than 3,900 full-time workers nationwide participated in the survey that was conducted online by Harris Interactive November 2012. The survey explored which job factors are most important to today’s workers.

“What determines job satisfaction is not a one-size-fits-all, but flexibility, recognition, the ability to make a difference and yes, even special perks, can go a long way,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder. “Being compensated well will always be a top consideration, but we’re seeing work-life balance, telecommuting options and learning opportunities outweigh other job factors when an employee decides whether to stay with an organization.”

A better job title is not important to more than half of workers (55 percent), however, upward mobility is key to job satisfaction and employee retention. Other things more important than job title include:

  • Flexible schedule – 59 percent
  • Being able to make a difference – 48 percent
  • Challenging work – 35 percent
  • Ability to work from home – 33 percent

Not surprisingly, nearly three quarters of workers reported that salary increases are the best way to boost employee retention while 58 percent pointed to improved benefits. Other actions workers said employers should take to reduce voluntary turnover include:

  • Provide flexible schedules – 51 percent
  • Increase employee recognition (awards, cash prizes, company trips) – 50 percent
  • Ask employees what they want and put feedback into action – 48 percent
  • Increase training and learning opportunities – 35 percent

Three areas I want to focus on include flexibility, being able to make a difference, and effective managers.

Flexibility
As I’ve written about previously, the flexibility to do the work when and where people want is an important way to stimulate employee engagement.

The premise of Results Only Work Ethic or ROWE is that employees are paid for results rather than hours worked. This provides both the freedom for employees and the results for employers. ROWE is based on the assumption that employees will do more and better work when given the latitude to decide how and when it is done.

In order to do this, of course, requires that these results are closely tracked and measured. If companies can do this and also trust their employees not to take advantage of the flexibility, then they should provide an opportunity for many to work at home.

Making a Difference
When it comes to being able to make a difference, employers need to continually remind workers the importance of their individual and collective contributions. Ensure that no matter the position, every person in every company knows how their contribution leads to the success of the organization. All of us can lose sight of this the further we are from the customer or the end result of our individual efforts.

Having a boss who reminds us of the benefit of our direct contribution can mean the difference between job satisfaction and the need to look elsewhere.

Effective Managers
Another thing to keep in mind is that people are attracted to and seek jobs at companies based on their reputation. On the other hand, people leave companies because of a bad boss. Although it may not show up directly in the research due to fear of retribution, many employees choose to leave a company not because they want better compensation, but because they don’t like their boss.

This dislike could be based on many factors, but it is worth looking into before it becomes an epidemic. Many managers and directors simply never got adequate training and instruction on how to be effective at leading people.

Talented people won’t let an incompetent or unfair manager stand in their way of job satisfaction, and will move on if necessary.

Ensure that your managers and directors know how to motivate and lead people in a way that brings increased productivity without sacrificing employee engagement. This may require training, mentoring, coaching or other interventions that are vital to keeping your top talent.

Don’t let your top talent leave now that the economy is improving. Instead, determine how you can provide what your employees need to increase overall productivity while also what they want to raise employee engagement. Then they will stay.

Genuine Praise Makes Good Business Sense

February 9, 2010

Having worked in for-profit and non-profit organizations provided me with an appreciation for both environments. In the for-profit sector, the pay was typically better and I generally found a greater sense of urgency for getting things done. In the non-profit sector, I felt a sense of altruism for what I was contributing to society and I received a great deal more praise. This last item always made me curious as to why giving praise to employees was not more widespread in the for-profit sector.

It turns out that giving an employee genuine praise often goes a lot further than even monetary rewards, and that makes good business sense.

According to a 2003 Gallup survey outlined in the book, “How Full is Your Bucket?” by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton, 61% of American workers received no praise at work. And the biggest reason people leave their jobs is because they feel unappreciated.

Through their research of some four million employees in 10,000 business units and 30 industries worldwide, they found that workers who do receive regular recognition and praise: 1) increase their engagement among colleagues, 2) increase their individual productivity, 3) receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers, 4) have better safety records and fewer job-related accidents, and 5) are more likely to stay with their organization.

All of us need recognition and reassurance in our work lives just as we do in our personal lives. Praise increases the pride we take in our work and that improves job satisfaction as well as the quality of our products and services. Praise reinforces our relationships with co-workers and supervisors. Praise also keeps us from feeling that we are taken for granted and it builds company loyalty, which is all too rare these days.

So if praise is so vital to productivity, customer satisfaction, workplace safety, employee engagement, and employee retention why aren’t more organizations dishing it out more liberally? There could be many reasons. For instance, some managers, directors and executives simply are not comfortable with giving praise. This could be due to their family or educational backgrounds, or because the corporate culture doesn’t encourage it. Some may believe that a paycheck and standard benefits package is sufficient and if you want a pat on the back, you should get it in your personal life.

Whatever the reason for-profit organizations skimp on this simple strategy, it is time to reverse the impulse to hold back praise and instead let it flow.

Here are some suggestions for delivering praise in your organization:

Praise with purpose. Your purpose in praising someone at work is not to get him or her to like you. The purpose is to increase employee productivity, engagement and retention. Praise should not be confused with a compliment. You compliment someone on their sweater, but you praise them on their skill at finding a solution to a business problem.

Praise with honesty. Employees can easily see through an empty statement that lacks genuine appreciation. This can damage your credibility and possibly make things worse. Instead, genuinely deliver praise on something you see them do that is beneficial to the organization.

Praise with specificity. Target the praise you offer someone and don’t just say “great job.” Instead, say something specific such as, “That presentation you gave this morning was informative and has generated a lot of buzz around here.” Or ask an employee for his or her input on a specific project or problem. Soliciting someone’s advice or opinion is praising their intelligence and it makes them feel valued.

Praise in public and reprimand in private. This can be tricky if the employee is easily embarrassed, but publicly praising an individual employee can often improve morale of all employees. Simple kudos during a meeting or in a company newsletter can be good forms of public recognition. Just as important, leave all reprimands or critical feedback for private meetings.

Praise also does not have to come only from those on the top as praise should emanate in all directions throughout the organization. And it is likely to be contagious. Give it a try in your organization. Catch someone doing something especially well and tell them why you personally think that is so great. You may find in this little act that you end up appreciating your own job a little more.

Mark Craemer                      www.craemerconsulting.com

Employee Feedback: Is There Ever Enough?

January 25, 2010

One of the challenges I encountered in my previous career was getting too little time with my boss and receiving too little feedback on my performance. Not getting regular accolades for what I did especially well and constructive feedback for how I could improve, left me at a loss for how to best provide my boss and the company with what they needed from me.

I am not in the minority. According to a recent study by Leadership IQ, 66% of employees say they have too little interaction with their boss. This number is up from 53% in May 2008, the last time this study was conducted, and could indicate that the recent recession played a part in the results.

And while 67% of employees say they get too little positive feedback, 51% also said they get too little constructive criticism from their boss. On top of this, employees who say they didn’t get enough feedback were 43% less likely to recommend their company to others as a great organization to work for. The survey included 3,611 workers from 291 business and healthcare organizations in the U.S. and Canada.

Too often organizations view opportunities for interaction with the boss and feedback as part of an annual review. In my experience, annual reviews are seen as an HR necessity rather than an opportunity to improve performance and strengthen relationships between managers and employees. These reviews typically focus too heavily on past performance, salary increases and potential promotions. The fact that they are done only once a year and often viewed as a burden to many supervisors, annual reviews are not fully appreciated for what they can deliver.

Employee feedback needs to be provided more frequently and needs to be effective so appropriate action can be taken immediately. Looking at it from an appreciative standpoint, feedback can open the door to constructive dialogue between a worker and his or her supervisor. Constructive feedback can help build upon and spread what is working well and it can minimize or remove what is not working so well. And the best feedback should not be one way in nature, but allow for true give and take so there is an opportunity for better understanding and to strengthen the relationship.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, employees may join a company because of its prestige and reputation, but they leave a company primarily due to their relationship with their immediate supervisor. Strengthening this relationship through regular dialogue can lead to greater employee engagement, increased productivity and potentially long term retention.

Organizations should demand that managers increase the amount and quality of feedback they give employees because it makes good business sense. This feedback needs to occur more than once a year and should include praise for positive performances as well as detailed constructive comments so that immediate corrective action can be taken if necessary. This is important not only because employees will feel better about doing their jobs, but because it can directly impact overall productivity as well as employee retention and recruitment.

Mark Craemer                           www.craemerconsulting.com

Great Managers Key to Employee Retention

December 18, 2009

During this time of economic recession and double-digit unemployment, it may seem odd to focus on employee retention. But I contend this is exactly the right time to identify and strengthen relationships with your best managers because they determine whether your best employees stay or leave the company.

Recent research on employee retention found that people leave managers, not companies. If there is a turnover problem in your company, first look at your managers because managers trump companies. Employees may join a company because of its overall prestige and reputation, but the employee’s relationship with his immediate supervisor determines how long he will stay and how productive he is while there.

Great managers, like great coaches, focus on people first and then on the actual plays. Similarly, a great novelist often begins with characters rather than a plot. And the skill set of managers is not necessarily the same as that of leaders. It is important to look at your managers not simply as leaders in waiting, but recognize the unique managerial gifts and strengths they contribute to the organization as managers.

Organizational consultant and author Warren Bennis said that managers do things right and leaders do the right things. Leaders should be concerned with looking outward and focusing on the future for the organization, while managers should be looking inward and on the immediate details of the daily operations.

In their book “First, Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently,” Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman argue that great managers do the following:

1. Select an employee not only for her unique experience, intelligence and determination, but for her talents. Knowledge and skills are competencies that can be taught, while attitudes and beliefs are talents that are difficult to teach. Talents are recurring patterns of behavior productively applied. And they can have great value to any organization.

2. Set expectations by defining the right outcomes, rather than the right steps. Great managers communicate clearly what is expected of each person in order to accomplish the organization’s goals. Rather than direct each employee on the specific way to do their job, great managers provide freedom and support to the individual to get the job done well and on time.

3. Motivate the employee by focusing on his strengths rather than weaknesses. Great managers often act as coaches by providing clear feedback on what the employee is doing well as well as not so well. The best managers help build confidence by recognizing and utilizing each employee’s unique talents. Simply stated, stress what works and minimize what does not.

4. Develop the person to determine the right job fit and not necessarily the next rung on the corporate ladder. This often runs counter to what most of us think is necessary in many organizations. The fact is many people are not suited for nor do they want to be executives in a company. Great managers determine how to recognize and fully utilize an individual’s unique talents and enable them to be successful wherever they are in the organizational chart.

According to the Gallup Path to Business Performance, sustained increase in shareholder value must begin first by identifying employees’ strengths and second by determining the right fit for them. These steps are then directly followed by hiring great managers and creating engaged employees. Without these first four, there can be no loyal customers, sustained growth, real profit increase and, finally, stock increase.

The key to excellent performance then is to first find the best match between an employee’s talents and role. Identify and cultivate those talents so that they may be best put to use in the proper role to meet the organization’s goals and objectives. Finally, make it clear in no uncertain terms what outcomes are expected and let the individual employee determine the specific steps to reach them. In this way, great managers can keep employees fully engaged and help retain the best employees in the organization.

Mark Craemer                                    www.craemerconsulting.com