Employee turnover can challenge any business, especially during a global pandemic and employee shortage. The most frequently asked question is what should a company do to stay ahead of the curve and retain valued employees?

Employee recognition has long been regarded as an effective method for retaining high-performing employees, reinforcing behaviors that reflect company values, and encouraging high performance within an organization. Providing timely, meaningful recognition may help in overall retention efforts. People will work harder and create higher quality work when they feel appreciated and valued. And in turn, will likely remain with an organization that recognizes their value and contributions.

However, many employers fail to deliver programs that are sustainable or effective at recognizing and rewarding employees for their positive behaviors. Too often the rewards are either not aligned with the expected outcomes or the programs collect dust from lack of use and commitment from management.

For successful recognition and rewards program, employers should consider that a one-size-fits-all incentive or program may not be the best approach, simply because employees have different views on what matters to them.

In a recent O.C. Tanner Institute 2021 Global Culture Study, with responses from over 40,000 workers from worldwide companies, over 70 percent of the participants indicated that they felt recognition is most meaningful when it’s personalized. Meaning that managers must be diligent in learning what motivates their employees and to understand how they want to be recognized.

Money, believe it or not, is not always the best motivator or incentive. Some employees value public recognition, whereas others may prefer one-on-one commendations. Other workers may enjoy tangible and meaningful one-time gifts, such as an on-the-spot reward like a personalized gift card or a small token of appreciation.

“Research shows that employee appreciation scores increase when a leader personalizes the recognition experience,” said Meghan Stettler, director of the O.C. Tanner Institute.


Creating the Incentive Program
Whatever the reward, recognition programs should be easy to maintain, simple to implement, and be memorable. Many employers have good intentions when creating an incentive program but may not get it right or fail to deliver. Incentives and recognition may not always have to cost a lot but should be timely, based on performance criteria, and designed to be deployed quickly and easily.

There are many variations of solid recognition programs that organizations can create. The first step before implementing a program is to seek to understand and identify what your organization can afford and what your employees find satisfying. This can easily be done through an anonymous employee pulse survey or engagement survey. Uncovering what your unique work culture and people would like to see and then devising a recognition program that corresponds to those interests may take time upfront but will allow for an easy roll-out later.

Recognition programs can come in all shapes and sizes, dependent on the needs of your organization and the size of your budget. Here are a few specific approaches to try:

  1. Peer-to-Peer
  2. Leadership Driven
  3. Anniversary Milestones and Service Awards
  4. Project-and-Performance Based
  5. On-the-Spot Recognition


Routine and sincere appreciation can come in all forms while leaving an indelible mark on an employee’s morale. It’s not necessarily the monetary value or the value of a gift that is given, but that it’s given with meaningful and sincere appreciation for a job well done.

Rewards and recognition, when used properly and regularly, can drive positive behaviors within a company and encourage continued success among employees. Even if it’s a simple thank you card, or an email either can go a long way in engaging an employee.

If your organization is considering or needs assistance in implementing an employee recognition program, our HR Consultants can help you develop and tailor a program specifically for your work culture and organization. Contact us today to discuss a meaningful and valuable employee recognition program.