Recognition Rules! A Talent Retention & Team Building Imperative For Uncertain Times
Howard has just rejected a second offer from a former employer. When asked (off the record) what was missing in the offer, he responded bitterly, “there isn’t enough money in this world to get me back into a company that treats people like disposables. I put up with it as long as it took to pick up some skills I needed. Then, I was outta there.”
The New Balance of Power
Skill shortages have flipped the balance of power in the workplace, creating a new model where talented workers like Howard can call the shots. Particularly, in leading-edge organizations that need to continue relying on hot-skilled knowledge superstars who are usually quick to migrate to greener pastures.
Understandably, organizations often assume that the best antidote for a talent retention problem is to throw more and more money at people. Of course, compensation and benefits have always been, and will continue to be strong attraction factors during the hiring process. According to experts, compensation and benefits are the top two reasons why candidates accept jobs. However, once on-board, money usually becomes an entitlement in the minds of employees, and ceases to be a motivator.
And, speaking of superstars, even Gretsky, The Great One, announced to the world that opportunities for more time with family and friends ultimately overshadowed all other motivational factors.
One Size Fits One
Most organizations that are successful in thwarting this spiraling of compensation pressures are exploring innovative ways to give employees more of what they want. And, they are discovering that what employees want is quite a bit more complex than just “show me the money.”
There are many non-monetary strategies that have proven to retain top talent in study after study. Recognition, one of the most cost-effective, is both one of the easiest and one of the most difficult.
…easy because creative managers can develop an unlimited array of powerful ideas that do not require big budgets and complex organizational interventions.
…difficult because the only way recognition strategies really work is when they are individualized, one-size-fits-one plans. Just as there are no longer any average customers, there are no average employees, either. Each employee¬ is unique, with a personal value system that will drive their satisfaction in the workplace. So, the real challenge in talent retention is in the diagnostics. Finding ways to figure out each person’s “X” factors … those motivators that will keep that one single individual with the organization, committed, happy and working at top productivity.
Once you’ve done the diagnostics, recognition will almost certainly be on the list, in one way or another. It’s a big arena, and covers those things that people require in order to feel valued, needed and appreciated.
Eight Guidelines to Grow Recognition
Here are 8 guidelines, some old – some new – that might give you ideas for enlarging your existing recognition options. Most are no-cost.
Guideline #1. Look for opportunities to reach out to the family. For employees with children, allow them to bring their kids to work so the whole family can see what Mom or Dad does all day. (Never underestimate the power of a child’s admiration!) For those without children, recognize important personal events, such as graduations, significant anniversaries, birthdays, bereavement.
Guideline #2. When in doubt, revert to the oldest, most proven and guaranteed strategy … thank you – thank you – thank you. Praise for a job well done continues to be at the top of worker wish-lists in surveys.
Guideline #3. Look for every opportunity to share credit, no matter how small the contribution. But be warned, employees have a highly-tuned antenna that will spot the first sign of patronization or phoniness.
Guideline #4. Be careful giving something tangible. Make sure it’s appropriate for the scope of the contribution. Once you move into tangible rewards, there is often a natural instinct to equate the reward with the value of the contribution. You could actually “shoot yourself in the foot” and create even more problems. Sometimes, praise and non-tangible recognition can be a safer choice.
Guideline #5. Team recognition can be an efficient way to offer appreciation. But watch for hidden land mines! Team members will have differing views about how much contribution was made by themselves and other team members. Group recognition should be an add-on, not a replacement, for individual acknowledgment.
Guideline #6. Do not rely on merit pay as a recognition strategy. Surveys indicate that more than 90% of employers say individuals now view merit pay as an entitlement.
Guideline #7. Think about the work itself – particularly for your younger Generation Y workers. Exciting, challenging work that offers tangible outcomes and skill building opportunities can motivate anyone in any generational group. Younger workers long ago figured out that the only job security is what they can create for themselves by developing marketable skills.
Guideline #8. Ask! Ask early, ask late, and ask often. Ask individuals how they would like to be recognized before the work starts, after the work is done, and while the work is in progress. Keep asking until you get a good fix on what turns on each unique individual. Avoid cookie-cutter recognition. It will waste your time and trivialize the employee’s contribution. One Size Fits One!
Change Resources Group Inc.
Change Resources Group has been successfully providing services to organizations in the area of strategic talent management for over 20 years to address the impacts of a wide diversity of change challenges, such as new leadership, consolidations and mergers, site relocations, restructuring, market and customer changes, and high growth.
CRG’s team building division, Creative Reality Games, has executed a wide range of initiatives designed to help our clients maintain levels of service excellence, while improving team cohesion, productivity and profitability in a constantly changing world of work. This division has become known for its innovative retreats and team building events using current reality TV formats, such as: The Amazing Race, Apprentice, Survivor, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?
Our founder, Pat Thornton, M.B.A., has several years of experience in Canada and the U.S. with multi-national organizations, and as an executive coach in private practice. She began her human resources career at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. where she gained experience in public sector administration. Subsequently, she worked in Philadelphia and then New York City, where she developed a comprehensive background in customer service and sales training. After relocating to Toronto, she spent several years as a senior HR professional with multi-national organizations.
Pat’s community service activities have included serving on the board of directors and as vice president for a multi-branch community credit union; member of the board of directors for a community social service organization, former vice president and member of the board of directors for a national association of women entrepreneurs; and volunteer facilitator/Mentor with Covenant House for employment re-entry workshops for youth.
Pat holds dual citizenship in the U. S. and Canada and has extensive experience in Europe and Asia.