Retain Top Talent with Employee Recognition Programs

If you’re one of the many employers across the country who struggle to recruit top talent, you may want to look at your rewards and recognition programs to see if you can retain your current workforce. As we know, it can be pretty expensive to replace these workers and even more so in a tight labor market.


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According to new research from staffing firm, Office Team, 43% of senior managers think their company’s employee recognition program is very effective. Yet 58% say their organization could do a better job of celebrating employees’ successes.

We are in Administrative Professionals Week, held annually on the fourth week in April, and many support staff may wonder if they’ll receive special acknowledgment for their contributions. The odds are in their favor: 8 in 10 senior managers said their company coordinates some form of employee recognition during the event, with office celebrations and gifts being the most popular methods.

Senior managers in the latest Office Team survey were asked, “How effective do you think your company is at recognizing employees for good performance?” Their responses*:

  • Very effective (43%)
  • Somewhat effective (44%)
  • Not too effective (11%)
  • Not at all effective (3%)

*Responses do not total 100 percent due to rounding.

Top Ways to Recognize Workers

Senior managers were also asked, “How does your company typically recognize administrative staff during Administrative Professionals Week?” Their responses:*

  • Organize a celebration or lunch at work (43%)
  • Offer a present, e.g., flowers, gift card, etc. (40%)
  • Praise them during a staff meeting or other public forum (35%)
  • Provide a handwritten thank-you note (27%)
  • Bring in an educational guest speaker (14%)
  • Do not recognize administrative staff (20%)

*Multiple responses were permitted.

Additional Findings

Among the 28 U.S. cities in the survey, senior managers in Miami, Washington, D.C., Dallas, and Los Angeles think their organizations are doing the best job at recognizing employees. Respondents in Boston, Salt Lake City, and Des Moines said their companies are least successful.

Midsize firms (500 to 999 employees) are most effective at rewarding staff, according to the research; small firms (20 to 49 employees) have the greatest room for improvement. This should come as no surprise, though, as midsize firms may have more resources to offer better recognition programs than smaller employers.

“There’s no such thing as too much employee recognition,” says Stephanie Naznitsky, Executive Director of OfficeTeam—in a press release. “Whether it’s a quick high-five in the hallway or a leisurely lunch at a local restaurant, it’s important for managers to show appreciation to the people who make their organizations successful.”

Naznitsky adds, “Rewarding top performers is especially important in today’s talent-short market. If employees don’t feel valued at work, there’s a good chance they’ll pursue other opportunities, which can lead to a drop in team productivity and morale.”

Ideas for Recognizing Workers

Retain your top performers, before you lose them to the competition, by recognizing their hard work. Keep in mind that not every “award” has to be monetary. Robert Half offers a few ideas:

  • Celebrate milestones. Organize team lunches or off-site outings to recognize the completion of projects or special events, such as work anniversaries.
  • Spread the word. Share a message sent by a customer or other stakeholder lauding the work of a fellow staff member.
  • Let them show off. Arrange for team members to present the results of a project to company leaders.
  • Support continuing education. Offer tuition assistance for courses that will help employees in their jobs and subsidize the cost of exams required to attain professional certifications.
  • Give the gift of time. Offer time off or extra vacation days for a job well done.
  • Develop leaders. Recognize an employee’s skills by asking him or her to mentor others.
  • Offer the power of choice. Give strong performers the first option of working on desirable or challenging projects.

For small employers, who face tight budgets, keep these ideas in mind when developing your recognition programs. Not only are these suggestions cheap and easy to implement, but you’ll also save money in the long run by not having to onboard a new hire!