How recognition can help you flatline turnover

How Recognition

6 mins, 8 secs read time

If you are not giving proper recognition to your directs, you’re missing out on a secret weapon for reducing staff turnover. Why? According to studies, employee appreciation remains an essential driver of employee experience as well as workplace culture, which, in turn, helps with retention.

Many HR specialists also argue that recognizing employees has a massive effect on business outcomes including ROI, sustainability, productivity, financial results and the like.

Employee recognition positively affects graph
Source: SHRM Using Recognition and Other Workplace Efforts to Engage Employees

But the problem is that most leaders spend a lot of time and effort on employee appraisal without getting any tangible results. That’s why I put together this guide, which is bound to give you that warm, bubbly feeling every time you give recognition to your direct reports.

So use it to skyrocket your retention rate by creating a positive culture in the workplace.

How Often to Give Recognition

First things first. How often should you recognize the effort of your directs? Monthly? Quarterly? Yearly?

The research says you should verbally praise people once a week at least. Now that might seem like a short time frame, but it is important to understand that when employees do not get ongoing recognition, they might start asking themselves: If no one cares, what am I doing this for?

The dopamine bump employees receive from being recognized for a job well done wears off quite quickly. And it takes constant exposure to praise to build a repeat loop.

Patting your direct on the back once a year does not cut it. You need dish out your feedback and recognize your employees at least once a week. — Piotrek Sosnowski, a Co-founder & VP at Zety.

So how do you easily implement frequent recognition into your company culture? Here is a quick and dirty tip from Zety’s line managers:

Start the weekly with a quick thanks. Chances are you are always present at the weekly meeting. This means you can leverage them to give recognition to team members for their recent small wins. With that in mind, make sure you do not only single out your top performers but give praise to each and every person no matter how small their wins might be.

Four Awesome Methods for Employee Recognition

Introduce Peer Recognition

According to research, people feel a lot better in the workplace when their colleagues recognize their achievements.

Four methods for employee recognition graph
Source: SHRM Using Recognition and Other Workplace Efforts to Engage Employees

But you don’t need research to tell you that. Colleagues are the people your employees spend the most time with. They know what it takes to get the job done and it feels much more authentic when peers give kudos, not you.

This is when you might start wondering… How do I implement peer recognition? Is there a way or perhaps even a tool?

In fact, there is quite a lot of tech available out there, ranging from the #kudos channel in Slack to full-fledged apps. I suggest trying out Hi5, which is a tool that allows co-workers to give recognition to each other in real time. At the end of each day, your employees are shown a list of fellow workers who they can choose to give a high five to along with GIFs or images. Once finished, every person receives one or more high fives. Cool, huh?

But peer-to-peer recognition is only a part of a larger employee recognition program. Let’s dive into how you can kill it when recognizing your directs.

Make Sure the Recognition Matches the Effort

Picture this. There is Raj, who stayed late on Friday to finish up a time-sensitive project— Kudos! On the other hand, there is Tattiana, who came up with a major improvement that will save your company hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run— Nice!

Should Raj and Tattiana each get the same level of recognition? Perhaps a Starbucks coffee card?


That’s because the value of recognition should match up to the effort made. That is why you need to set clear parameters for your recognition efforts. You need to know what warrants a “thank you praise” like a Starbucks card as opposed to something that is more valuable, like a couple of extra days off.

If you fail to appropriately give recognition to each and every team member based on the effort put in, it can leave an unrecognized person with a sense that their work is not appreciated enough. And that will cause the employee to sniff around in search of better career prospects.

Make Your Praise Specific

There are people who love coffee. And there are those who love going to movie theaters.

Do you know what is going to happen when you present a Starbucks coffee card as a thank you to someone who is crazy about going to the movies? The person might think the gift is a bit thoughtless, even if the gesture is kind.

That is why recognition is not one size fits all. People have different likes and interests. And as a leader, you need to recognize your employees’ efforts with something that would be of true value to them.

Pro tip: Employees who go above and beyond should be given a choice of what the item of recognition will be. Awesome programs like BlueBoard allow employees to choose the experiences that best fit their interests.

Ensure Timeliness

Imagine you went on a vacation for a few days. When you come back, you see that one of your employees – Linh – ran a couple of marketing experiments and collaborated with a sales team on a shared project, going above and beyond.

Now, there are two scenarios. You might say something along the lines of, “Linh, you did an amazing job last week. I am really impressed!” and offer a little thank-you treat.

This immediate reaction with positive reinforcement will help create a sense of pride and joy in Linh and encourage her to overachieve in the future.

But there is a different scenario. The one in which you say nothing for at least one week. Do you know what is likely to happen?

Linh may start wondering why all the effort that she put in went unnoticed. Then she will start to feel resentment. And next time you are away on vacation, she will be less likely to set her best foot forward. That is why praise should be given as early as possible.

Now, you might be saying, Max, this sounds obvious to me. It sure is, but there are plenty of companies out there that wait for months or even quarters to give recognition to workers who go the extra mile. So empower yourself to immediately recognize the effort if you want people to keep on killing the game.

Bottom line, recognition should be part of your company’s DNA, period. If done wisely, it improves workplace culture and helps companies mitigate one of the top workforce challenges: staff turnover. Now is the time to put your best foot forward and praise your people.

Also check out these 3 easy steps for building a hiring process that promotes a higher employee retention rate.