Employee Engagement Employee Retention Employee Recognition

How employee recognition drives engagement and retains top talent

Retaining talent is as challenging as finding it. 

Beyond the costs of hiring replacements, low retention rates can significantly impact employee morale and productivity, as replacing and training a departing employee can take time, and those staying behind struggle to handle the extra workload.

While the reasons for which a person might leave a job are manifold, evidence has repeatedly indicated a strong link between high employee engagement and talent retention. 

Today’s employees care about more than just earning a paycheck. They want their contributions to positively impact the business, and they want to be appreciated for who they are and not just what they can do. Furthermore, a sense of belonging — both to their team and to the company’s values — is essential to them.

A crucial part of creating such an environment is establishing a culture of recognition, which fosters engagement and solidifies employee loyalty. The result? Highly engaged employees who take pride in their work, communicate effectively and put their best (and most innovative) steps forward. 

Recognition extends far beyond mere quarterly bonuses. It is about the timely acknowledgment of positive behaviours, strengthening the reward’s meaning, and reinforcing desirable conduct.

7 employee engagement and recognition techniques to adopt

While tailoring strategies to align with your company’s unique culture and ethos is essential, the following have proven universally effective in fostering a positive work environment that retains talent and creates a sense of belonging:

1. Create opportunities for professional development

Talented employees are constantly seeking ways to improve. Companies that facilitate this growth become desirable workplaces.

Clearly define and offer mentorship opportunities, cross-department collaborations, leadership tracks, and sponsored degrees/courses to anyone who demonstrates interest, from new employees in the exploratory stage to more senior contributors looking to graduate to management.

If a software developer in your company expresses an interest in leading a team, offer them a spot in a program designed to hone leadership skills and prepare employees for managerial positions. This could consist of regular workshops, talks from company executives, or a mentorship component where they are paired with a senior leader in the same department for guidance.

For example, Amazon runs Associate2Tech where they train and support front-line employees without any previous IT experience to move into technical roles.

2. Integrate your LMS with employee recognition platforms

Some Learning Management Systems can integrate with employee recognition platforms, linking learning achievements directly with recognition programs. This means that employees can be automatically rewarded or recognized when they complete a course or hit a learning milestone.

Our LMS at 360Learning provides detailed analytics and reporting on each employee’s progress and accomplishments. You can use this data to recognize employee growth and achievement, leading to increased motivation and workplace satisfaction.

3. Offer incentives that employees care about

Incentives for good performance are key to continued motivation. However, not everyone is motivated by the same incentives. A better solution is to tailor incentives to what each employee would most appreciate.

Get creative with your options: while some may like an extra three days off, others might like a fully paid gym membership or a voucher for an exclusive dining experience. 

In addition, be sure to offer the incentive right after recognizing a positive behavior so that there is a clear link between employee action and outcome. 

Microsoft, for example, offers a “Spot Bonus” program that gives instant cash rewards to employees who have delivered exceptional performance.

This is just as true if you’re running a formal employee recognition program. If your program doesn’t include rewards your employees actually value, it won’t have much of an impact. For best results, they should have a good selection of different reward choices, so they choose something they really want.  

4. Listen to what your employees want – and act on it

This seemingly simple point can make all the difference between a loyal and invested team versus one on the lookout for their next jobs. From an open-door policy at the office to an online engagement tool, you should provide the infrastructure and resources to enable employees to share their thoughts, needs, concerns, and ideas in safe and accessible ways. 

For example, Google conducts “Googlegeist” annually to allow employees to give feedback on a range of topics. This helps them collect data on manager performance, job satisfaction, personal growth desires, and other important workplace metrics. The company uses the results to make decisions on internal policies and practices, such as pay compensation and employee retention.

Many online platforms send periodic employee surveys on various topics, and the data from the results can reveal important patterns in employee sentiment and correlations with performance.

Leaders who notice these patterns and make appropriate workplace adjustments will see significantly boosted satisfaction and talent retention levels.

5. Offer community outreach programs

Employees of today often find fulfillment in giving back to the community. You can enable this by partnering with nonprofits and asking for volunteers to contribute there. This gives employees a bigger cause to care about and is also an excellent team-building exercise.

Another option is to give them paid time off to volunteer at causes of their choice. Marriott’s “Spirit to Serve Our Communities” program encourages team members to volunteer in their local communities and offers rewards for doing so.

6. Organize meaningful employee retreats

Unfortunately, many corporate retreats devolve into lacklustre conferences or unstructured weekends. To truly reap the benefits of team bonding and collaboration, each retreat should have a clear purpose, such as ideating for an upcoming marketing campaign, hosting peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing sessions, or celebrating a highly successful quarter. 

Automattic, for example, has previously hosted self-organized retreats where each team was instructed to complete a project in the week-long gathering.

This approach stemmed from their observation that many retreats fail due to time lost on endless team exercises and strategy updates. They believed that time could be better spent on solving a problem and creating something tangible for the customers to use.

This clarity helps keep everyone focused and engaged while providing a platform for creativity, open discussion, and recognition of team successes.

7. Prioritize employee wellness

Burnout became even more prevalent after the pandemic with “Zoom fatigue” and the pressure of being always on at work while juggling home care. Creating professional boundaries and policies that protect work-life balance is important to your employees’ health, and subsequently the success of your organization. 

You should regularly check in on your employees (in-office as well as remote) and encourage them to clock out after work hours and use their vacation time.

In this context, managers can set the right example by taking vacations and not sending emails or messages after work hours.

For instance, Livestorm, a video conferencing software company, has introduced ‘Focus Fridays.’ This initiative allows their employees to switch off non-urgent notifications, avoid meetings, and carve out time for deep, focused work.

This is another instance where your employee recognition and engagement efforts can go hand in hand. A recognition program can help to incentivize participation in various wellness initiatives, and you can even encourage managers and leaders to recognize and reward employees for modeling healthy work behaviours and habits.

Put these techniques into practice with 360Learning & Guusto

While there is no guaranteed one-size-fits-all approach to employee retention, practices like appropriately tailored incentives, learning and development opportunities, and genuine investment in employee feedback have repeatedly been shown to boost employee engagement and instill a greater sense of employer loyalty. Recognition can work in tandem with these initiatives to increase their impact and to help reinforce the culture you want to create.

By redesigning policies to help everyone feel valued, you can reap the benefits of a highly motivated and productive workforce for years to come. Here's how we can help:

Invest in your team with 360Learning

As we outlined earlier in this post, learning and development is one of the best ways to drive retention and engagement. Giving your employees opportunities to grow shows them that you are invested in their future and care deeply about their personal and professional development. 

360Learning takes an innovative collaborative learning approach to employee development, offering a range of tools to help your in-house experts easily pass their knowledge to their peers. Learn more on our website.

Learn more about how recognition drives engagement

If you want to learn more about how employee recognition can underpin other initiatives, check out Guusto's free guide Culture is the Ultimate Advantage, which details the company's philosophy for creating a culture that fosters engagement and retention. Fill out the form below to get your copy:

Culture is the Ultimate Advantage

Set yourself apart using the power of company culture. Stand out to new applicants and motivate your team to do their best work.

Jocelyn Ho

Written by Jocelyn Ho

Jocelyn Ho is the Content Lead at 360Learning, and loves to create content about collaborative learning and development, engagement and leadership.

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