Shift to Recognition

The Shift from Years of Service Awards to a Culture of Recognition

We’ve all been there. Your coworker Sam is moving on to a new opportunity. Goodbyes are being said. Personal email addresses are being exchanged so everyone can “stay in touch”. Sam’s cardboard box is filled with the usual suspects: family photos, a mousepad with the Dallas Cowboys logo, the chrome stapler he secretly lifted from the supply closet and a Ziplock bag full of client business cards he has gathered over the years.

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Now, here is where the real fun begins. Sam’s footsteps can still be heard in the hallway when the vultures swoop in at his desk. The Pilot 2.0 pens, the ones that draw the super clean lines without smearing, go first. The post it notes and desk calculator go next. Bill from accounting grabs the XXL Chili Cookoff sweatshirt for his 6’4” nephew who plays nose tackle in Idaho. By the time the dust settles, inventory has grown scarce. However, a few items have remained unclaimed despite numerous scavengers passing by. Sam’s three “Account Executive of the Half” awards have zero bids. What is Sam supposed to do with these? Set them up on his desk at his new gig? Another drawer holds the faux leather briefcase with the company logo stitched on it that he received for his five-year work anniversary. Sam only had three options for his award and he selected the briefcase over the whiskey decanter (he already has one) and the cherry wood desk clock (his watch works fine). Sam won’t need it in the future as this company is now firmly in his past.

Why would Sam leave his years of service award behind? These type of awards are meant to be a reward for the culmination of five years of hard work! Does an unused briefcase truly represent the appreciation his previous company had for him? Sam has worked his tail off for 260 weeks and his big thank you comes in the form of a pleather bag to carry to work – the same bag that has been gathering dust in his desk drawer since the day he received it. To make matters worse, every employee next to Sam receives the same type of awards at their five-year work anniversary which makes the gesture less personalized. Whether your work performance is the strongest or the weakest in the company, everyone gets the same reward. Logic would assume that a costly rewards program would focus on performance yet 87 percent of recognition programs focus on tenure.

This brings up a legitimate question –  is a tenure of 5 years the benchmark to define loyalty? Do employees not take actions on a monthly, weekly or daily basis to benefit their company and confirm their commitment? For Sam, there were dozens of moments during that time span that were worthy of recognition. Like the time he renewed his biggest client despite them having given a verbal commitment to his competition. What about the time Sam worked 10 hours on Thanksgiving Day to finalize the forecast projections the CFO dropped on everyone at the last minute? Or maybe the 11 folks he acted as a mentor to when they were new hires. If you demand Sam’s loyalty, you must recognize him in the moments he displays it. After all, 59 percent of employees are not recognized at their preferred frequency. Nobody is sticking around for half of a decade just to get a lapel pin, gold watch or acrylic awards. In fact, the high majority of employees will never make it to a 5-year anniversary at a company. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average job tenure in the US is just 4.2 years. And the millennial workforce, who is expected to make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, will switch jobs four times in their first decade out of college!

What’s the solution? How do you build loyalty in the modern job-hopping workforce? The secret lies in building a true culture of recognition. Employee recognition should be given frequently and in the moment. This can include performance achievements, learning and development accomplishments and even celebrations such as birthdays and work anniversaries. Below are six keys to a successful recognition strategy.

  1. Speak to employees in their preferred language
    The modern employee wants convenience and information delivered in a manner that is easy to use, available via mobile and in the flow of work.
  1. Increase the frequency in which you recognize to drive behavior
    Letting employees know that their positive contributions are noticed drives discretionary effort because what gets recognized gets repeated.
  1. Celebrate milestones in the moment
    Find reasons to show employee appreciation such as finishing an onboarding checklist, completion of modules in a learning management system, birthdays, service anniversaries, etc.
  1. Integrate multiple programs into your recognition and engagement platform
    Make your recognition and engagement platform into a one-stop shop. Integrate other company programs such as HRIS, LMS, Wellness, Charity, Innovation and Referrals.
  1. Incorporate a non-monetary recognition strategy
    Not all recognitions have to include a monetary reward. Allowing for social recognitions increases frequency and drives incremental effort.
  1. Research successful employee recognition programs
    You’re not alone when it comes to building an impactful recognition strategy. Take a look at how other companies are successfully engaging their workforces through employee recognition. For example, you can gather inspiration from Horizon BCBSNJ’s and Smart & Final’s success stories. Access more HR success stories from leading companies here.

As the modern workforce shifts from year of service awards to sophisticated recognition and engagement platforms, it’s important to keep in my mind my six keys to a successful recognition strategy. From now on, avoid having the next Sam walk out your door by showing him appreciation from the start and on a regular basis.

To learn more, download Achievers eBook Recognition Culture: The MVP of Employee Experience.

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We’re excited to share that Achievers has been nominated for the Canadian HR Reporter’s 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards in two categories: Employee Engagement Programs and Recognition Programs & Awards. Share your love for Achievers and vote for us today before the March 19, 2018 deadline. Vote here.

Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.

About the Author
Clinton Bean Headshot
Clint Bean is an Enterprise Account Executive at Achievers dedicated to helping large corporations better understand the evolution of engagement. He resides in Texas with his wife and 3 sons and can often be found on the sidelines coaching basketball and soccer or enjoying a round of golf. Connect with Clint on LinkedIn.



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Shocking HR Stats

13 Scary Employee Engagement and Recognition Stats That Will Spook You This Halloween

Are you haunted by worries that your best people might quit right before a key deadline? Does lack of team alignment keep you awake at night? Don’t let the tentacles of leadership doubt creep into your brain during hours when you should be rejuvenating. Read through these thirteen hair-raising employee engagement and recognition statistics below and banish any lurking shadows from your company culture.

1. Workers are Still Rewarded Just for Existing

In a scary throwback to the mid-twentieth century, 87 percent of employee recognition programs center on how long the person has been at the company. While it’s true that minimizing turnover is helpful, nobody comes to work every day because of recognition they’ll be awarded in some future year.

2. Frequent Recognition Gets Overlooked

We know, your life as a manager gets hectic, and you may assume employees can read your mind when you don’t express the appreciation you feel. Pro Tip: They can’t. A Gallup survey finds that only 1 in 3 workers strongly agree that they have been praised or recognized within the past week for doing good work.

3. Most Workers are Not Engaged

According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workforce report, 51 percent of employees state that they are not engaged in their jobs, which means they’re likely keeping an eye open for a new job. That’s a scary thought, isn’t it? And don’t even think about the distracted workers doing jobs that have a direct bearing on other people’s health and safety.

4. Leaders are Falling Down on the Job

Gallup provides some truly alarming figures related to the failure of leadership in today’s companies: Only 15 percent of employees “strongly agree” that their management gives them confidence about the future of the company, and only 13 percent state that the company’s leaders communicate effectively throughout the organization.

5. Actively Disengaged Workers: A Problem Waiting to Happen

The number of “actively disengaged” workers, at 24 percent, is nearly double the 13 percent of workers who say they are actively engaged. This can be expensive to your business, as Gallup points out that each instance of employee turnover costs your company an average of 1.5 times the employees’ salary.

6. Recognize Them or Lose Them

Research published in Human Resources Today finds that “the number one reason why people leave jobs is limited recognition and praise.” This is a simple statistic, easy to remember, that will help you keep your talented workers on board for the longer term.

7. Criticism Impairs Thinking

You may think constructive criticism will elicit star performances, but neuroscientists disagree. In fact, criticism activates higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which researchers say “shuts down the thinking center of our brain.” Praise, on the other hand, stimulates the basal ganglia to release pleasure hormones dopamine and oxytocin, which improve performance and attention levels.

8. Lack of Recognition Interferes with Performance

Do employees who aren’t praised work harder, in hopes of eventually being appreciated? Harvard Business Review says “No.” Their research points out that 40 percent of American workers say they would put more effort into their jobs if their employer recognized them more often.

9. Don’t be Part of this Statistic

The Harvard Business Review study cited above also found that the average employee in their survey reported that it had been 50 days since they last felt recognized for anything they did at work. What number would your average staff person mention, if a surveyor were to ask this question?

10. Millennials Can Slip Away

A recent Deloitte survey found that 2 out of every 3 millennials expect to leave their current job by 2020. One major reason for this restlessness is that this generation feels their skills are not recognized. Only 28 percent of respondents stated that their organization is currently making full use of their skills. To keep your younger workers engaged, you need to recognize their efforts by offering development opportunities.

11. Millennial Need for Flexibility is Overlooked

Chances are good that the millennials working for you want more flexibility. Eighty-eight percent of younger workers want more schedule flexing authority, while 75 percent want the opportunity to work for home. Meanwhile, only 43 percent of these workers are allowed to work from other locations… so it’s a good bet that some of your staff are surfing the web looking for more adaptable jobs

12. It’s Up to You

Management accounts for 70 percent of the variance in engagement scores. That’s both good and bad news. It means you have a huge influence when it comes to upping your employee engagement scores, but it also means that no other techniques for increasing engagement will be successful if you ignore your role in the solution.

13. Don’t be Overconfident

You’ve just read a dozen statistics indicating just how big the room for improvement is. Here’s one last warning to take with you: 89 percent of senior managers feel that their company is actually very good at recognizing their workers. This means they probably won’t change. Don’t be part of that overconfident group.

The figures above come from a range of sources, but they all deliver one single message: Rewarding and recognizing your employees is a no-brainer. You work hard on all kinds of complex tasks in order to bring success and sustainability to your company. Don’t overlook the most obvious — and simple — building block of workforce loyalty: prompt, varied employee appreciation.

For more insight on the importance of recognition in the workplace, check out Achievers’ eBook, Recognition Culture: The MVP of Employee Experience.

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