In a world of constant innovation and lightning-fast communication, expectations move at an equally rapid pace. New demands from customers can turn achievements that used to be "above and beyond" into minimum requirements, which in turn increase your expectations for your employees. If increased expectations aren't coupled with consistent and meaningful recognition, though, talented people become burned out and may even seek employment elsewhere.
Recognition for a job well done should be a tenet of your company culture, and it should expand beyond money. Fitting raises and bonuses should be part of your employee retention strategy, but the money is not always enough to hold onto employees who don't feel that the work they do matters or who think their efforts are unappreciated. If you have a top-notch team who you want to keep for as long as you can, it's important to implement systems for recognition. Here are a few ideas.
Add Praise to the Agenda
At Greenleaf Book Group, we have two company-wide meetings a month: our Staff Meeting and our Huddle. A portion of the Staff Meeting is dedicated to sharing compliments and thank-you notes the team received from clients. Likewise, a portion of the Huddle is dedicated to employees' praise and thanks for one another. Positive messages from our clients motivate us to maintain our high levels of customer service, and encouragement from team members builds camaraderie and reinforces the fact that everyone on the team plays a vital role in the work that we do.
Dropping by someone's office to compliment them on an achievement is great, but it's important to make praise and encouragement systematic. If you don't already have a dedicated time for employee recognition, build it into your company-wide meetings and encourage your management team to highlight employees' accomplishments during one-on-one meetings.
Make Individual Growth a Priority
A large part of recognition is acknowledging that each of your employees is different from the others and brings a specific set of strengths to the table. It's beneficial for your team, and for your company, to know what makes your employees tick and to cultivate their talents. Whether you run a large corporation or a small startup, you can make personal and career growth a required (and beloved!) goal for each of your employees.
Each year, allot a portion of your budget for employee education and other growth opportunities and encourage team members to cultivate new skills and incorporate them into their work in creative ways. As often as you can connect with each employee, talk to them about their aspirations and offer your support and encouragement as they make progress. When they use their skills to better the company, make sure to acknowledge their contributions to them and to the rest of your team.
Emphasize the Value of Everyone's Time
Time is money, as the saying goes. Even though you're paying your employees to be at your office, it's important to keep in mind that time spent at work is time away from family, friends, pets, and other high-value aspects of life. For that reason, it's important both to acknowledge the time investment people have made in your company, and incentivize them with the gift of time. As they hit their one-year anniversaries, then two-years, three-years, and so on, be sure to recognize their commitment to the job in public--be specific about who they are and how they contribute to the team--and with a thank-you gift. On a more frequent basis, you can treat your team members to surprise early-release days so that they can get a head-start on a weekend or enjoy great weather with their loved ones.
People are motivated by money, but not money alone. To create an environment that employees want to stay in, you must develop systems and good habits within your management team that acknowledge the contributions of every person and help everyone grow to their full potential.