How Employee Recognition Can Make or Break Your Company’s Retention Strategy

March 1, 2018

Why is it that some companies and corporations do a great job of not just hiring the best people, but also retaining them for years to even their entire career? Is it money? A shiny plaque or trophy at the 10-year, 20-year, and 50-year mark? What is it about recognizing your top employees that can make or break your company’s retention strategy?

Consider this, according to recent studies, at least 57% of job candidates agree that a company’s reputation for being a great place to work is the top consideration for them accepting a job. If your company has no retention strategy and isn’t recognizing and rewarding the good work your employees do and the contributions they make, then you might not only be losing too many existing employees, you could also be turning away the best candidates for open positions as well.

So what are some good ways beyond great salaries and good benefits to keep your workforce happy longterm and day to day? Below you’ll find 4 fantastic ideas for taking your employee recognition to the next level.

1. Bigger, better recognition and more often

If your business is like most, you’re probably giving out length-of-service awards for employees who have been with you for a significant amount of time, usually beginning at the 10-year mark. Often custom designed trophies are presented at a special event or en masse at the company year-end party.

But this is a retention strategy leftover from an era when most workers stayed in the same career path at the same company for their entire adult life. That just isn’t the case for most workers in most industries anymore. As a result, the 10, 20, and 30-year trophies or plaques aren’t very motivating for most of your employees who don’t have the same mindset as workers from long ago. In this 2016 report from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average length of time an employee spent at a current employer was just 4.2 years.

Of course, you still want to recognize the individuals who remain with your business for an extraordinary amount of time, but you also should consider giving out major awards every year for different types of outstanding achievements from your employees. Trophies or plaques can be awarded to employees for a whole host of achievements including trophies for:

  • Innovation
  • Systems or Processes Improvement
  • Team/Morale Building
  • Customer or Client Satisfaction
  • Most Sales
  • Outstanding Personal Development
  • Outstanding Professional Development

2. Nominate outstanding work for industry awards

You may or may not know that the entertainment and automobile industries aren’t the only ones who have awards that recognize outstanding achievements in areas of their industries by individuals and companies. Consider nominating any work by an employee or team of employees on a project or product that has helped take your company to the next level, that performed well, or that got a lot of engagement from people outside your organization.

Some industry award nominations involve entry fees and/or membership to an organization and depending on your company’s budget you may not be able to enter all of them or the most expensive of them, but even being entered or nominated for a local award in your industry can greatly improve your top employees’ morale and make them want to stay with your business.

3. Don’t forget the little things

Besides larger achievement awards once a year, don’t forget to reward performance on a regular basis for smaller scale achievements or outstanding achievements as they occur. Have incentive programs that reward employees with cash prizes or gift cards to the movies, popular eateries, or for coffee at their favorite coffee house.

Surprise your employees with handwritten thank you cards and call out employee achievements on social media and display employee achievements on company bulletin boards and in company newsletters. Get employees involved in recognizing each other’s achievements and complimenting their colleagues as well. You don’t have to go overboard, but it’s amazing how far just a little extra appreciation and recognition can go to improving your employee retention rates.

4. Don’t spoil things on day 1

Think back to any first day you’ve had at a new job. If you were welcomed, introduced to lots of colleagues and even treated to a coffee or lunch by your new team or with your immediate supervisor, how did you feel? But what if instead, when you arrived, nobody was ready, you weren’t introduced to very many people, and nobody invited you to eat with them. Now how would you feel?

If an employee doesn’t feel valued on the first day of a new job it can affect the rest of the time they work for you. That’s because making a great impression on employees and ensuring their loyalty goes beyond the interview. If that culture you advertised online and in the interview disappears the minute an employee starts working for you, then you’ve got a big problem.

You don’t have to hand out a happy first day of your new job trophy, but do consider giving new employees a tour, including making sure they meet senior leaders and even if you’re too busy to take them for a coffee or to lunch, make sure you have a group of colleagues in their team or another supervisor invite them to eat with them whether that’s lunch in the breakroom or a small group outing to the staff’s favorite cafe.


While you don’t have to reward your employees for every little thing, you do have to make them feel appreciated and show you value their contributions to your business with more than mere verbal praise.Having several different employee recognition plans in place, from every day incentive programs and contests for meeting weekly goals to major awards for various outstanding achievements, including custom trophies and plaques, your employees will be happy to work for you longer and your company will develop a reputation as a great place to work!

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