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Why your current recognition program is doing nothing to improve employee turnover

Having a recognition program is more than checking a box of things off a list offered by Human Resources, and if treated that way, it will do no favors in the ways of employee turnover. Think of it as baking a cake. If you don’t have everything you need for the recipe, you have a few ingredients, but nowhere near enough to baking an actual edible a cake. Let’s take a few minutes to review some key elements to a successful employee recognition program.

Recognition awards complement all levels of achievement

Employees do great things in all shapes and sizes every day. Sure, not all of them are worthy of a significant prize, but many are worthy of some kind of recognition. With that in mind, your recognition program should account for the small deeds along with the significant ones. It may take more than one program or one that can build those deeds into something meaningful.

Think of it this way, as you walk through your office, observe what people have displayed in their workspace. You are most likely to see some “Thank you” cards and other notes of appreciation. Things like that cost little to nothing, but they meant enough to be memorialized on several desks and workspaces throughout the office. What does that tell you as a leader? It says that even the little things matter. It tells you that missed opportunities for recognition are missed moments of joy to be shared on the team.

Sometimes those giant accomplishments are by a stroke of luck in combination with the employee’s initiative, which is excellent. We don’t want recognition opportunities to be just as rare, however. We want to keep up the momentum of everyone else so they, too, have a chance at a nice reward through a series of small accomplishments. A program like Work2Live’s Lifestyle Spending Account (LSA) enables your employees to save up their good deeds and bundle them into a meaningful experiential reward that they will remember and associate with the company for years to come.

Recognition awards that are meaningful and desired

Value is more than just cost. I say this because some awards carry more extended value than the price paid for them. That little thank you card on someone’s desk is a perfect example. A reward of value is something that employees are excited to receive and will remind them of their accomplishments beyond the moment, and maybe even beyond their tenure with your company.

Some examples of pick-and-choose programs will pack together a defined number of items to select with a budgeted price. These are put together with little thought except for the cost. When an employee receives an award to select one of these gifts, they find themselves underwhelmed by their choices. To get a feel for the impact, take a look at trends of what has was selected in the past.

For example, I recall a program with a former employer where the most frequently chosen awards were a flashlight, a pocket knife, and binoculars. This result was across both sexes in a metropolitan city of IT professionals. I looked around at my colleagues with this discovery on my mind. They were not the outdoorsy type. I inquired with a couple to learn the reason for their selection. The consensus was that was the only thing that “didn’t suck” and they gave it to someone else. What we learned is that particular level of the recognition program was a complete strikeout when it came to anything meaningful.

Even if you find a shortage of suitable awards for a defined budget, another idea is to allow the employees to either save and bundle multiple awards or have the opportunity to pay the difference themselves for something greater. Work2Live’s Lifestyle Spending Account enables employees to pay the difference if they see an experience that excites them. They can apply the award dollars to their choice of experiences and still appreciate the supplementation that made that experience possible by your company’s recognition program.

It takes a village

I used to work with a leader who was dead serious when he said that his employees were recognized twice a month (on the 15th and the 30th). If you were guessing payday, you would be correct. He insisted that it should be enough for his team. How do you think his team felt about that? As they watched other teams in the organization enjoy the morale boost of shared recognition and celebration of those going above and beyond, how motivated were they to go that extra mile for this leader? If you were to go back and compare the retention records by the teams, I’ll bet you would find some extreme differences between the group that motivates each other and the team that is driven by a paycheck. It doesn’t take long for them to realize that they can get a paycheck anywhere.

A recognition program is more than a tool. Recognition programs should be part of the culture. That culture is cultivated from the top leadership down to the front line employees and practiced at all levels. This culture doesn’t occur instantly, either, but the practices of recognition should be learned and mandatory for all levels of leadership. Only then, you will see those positive effects start to spread throughout the company and eventually be noticed and identified by your customers.

The practice of recognition should be in the way of cadence:


Have you ever gotten tired of being praised? We promise you that it never gets old for your team, either. Remember that according to Gallup research, your high performing teams receive praise weekly from their leadership. It shouldn’t be a chore to accomplish this. Use praise and recognition as a way to motivate and encourage behaviors you would like to see repeated.


Always be specific with your recognition! Describe exactly what the employee did to earn your appreciation and why the action was essential to the organization and the customer.


Share your appreciation as soon as possible so the entire team can share in and enjoy the glow of accomplishment.

As the culture starts to cultivate and grow, you will notice appreciation being shared not only by management but also between colleagues as a standard practice. As you reach that pinnacle, you will know that your recognition program is finally starting to affect your employee retention positively.

What are you waiting for?

Work2Live is easy to enroll and start creating that culture in your organization. You can enroll today or contact us for a live demonstration of how the program works for you and your employees.

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