don’t risk losing your best people: invest in effective employee recognition
The lagging U.S. economy may be improving, but job numbers out late last week show it’s a long way from bouncing back. According to a survey from Kelly Services, 66% of the world’s workforce is looking for a new job and researchers say the employees most likely to leave are a company’s top talent. Baby Boomers (aged 49-66) are the most likely to switch employers, with a staggering 74% planning to look for another position in the next year, compared with an extremely troubling 69% of Gen X (31-48) and 66% of Gen Y (19-30).
An Aflac survey may explain why people are looking for new jobs. The survey found working in the sluggish economy has often meant coping with greater demands with fewer staff and lower wages and fewer opportunities for promotion, leaving employees feeling quite restless.
“However, demonstrating they care and showing appreciation in ways that are meaningful to their employees are the most important actions company leaders and HR executives can take to prevent their best workers from walking out the door,” says Audrey Boone Tillman, Executive Vice President of Corporate Services at Aflac.
Bersin & Associates’ research echoes Tillman’s statement. The firm found that personal fulfillment is the key motivator for employees looking for a job – not financial gain. Employees reported a strong work/life balance with opportunities for personal growth and advancement was more important than salary and benefits.
A company can effectively meet those employees’ needs with a strategic recognition program that provides specific feedback. In fact, Bersin & Associates found that companies with employee recognition programs that are good at engagement have a 31% lower voluntary turnover rate vs. their peers with ineffective programs. Yet only 17% of employees said that their organizations’ cultures strongly support recognition, so this retention opportunity is often being squandered. The study also revealed:
- Companies need to be better at communicating. Bersin & Associates found that three out of four companies have a recognition program, but only 58% of employees believe their organizations have these programs. This means organizations have a huge opportunity to leverage their recognition programs more effectively by simply improving communications within the company to raise program awareness.
- Effective recognition programs should reward behavior and tenure. Research shows that recognizing employees for demonstrating company values, displaying certain identified behaviors and achieving company goals are far more effective at enabling recognition than those programs that only focus on recognizing service or tenure.
- A perception gap is rampant and everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to recognition. Nearly 80% of senior leaders believe employees are recognized at least on a monthly basis, with 43% of senior leaders saying employees are recognized weekly or more often. This contrasts starkly with the reports from managers and individual contributors: 40% of mangers and only 22% of individual contributors report that their peers are recognized monthly or more often.
This research from Kelly Services, Aflac and Bersin & Associates, reinforces that attracting and keeping top talent is not just about higher wages and better benefits. It’s about understanding that employees are looking for fulfilling work with a good team culture that enables them to enjoy a greater work/life balance. Many of these are easy fixes and you would be well-served to find ways to create or emphasize these opportunities in your organization.