The Surprising Link Between Recognition and Employee Retention – a Deep Dive

Written by Vladimir Tosic

Corporate and Startup Leader. Culture builder. Marketer and product designer.

November 27, 2023

Image by: from Pixabay

It’s a tale as old as a two-week notice. Greg used to be a top performer. Everyone relied on Greg. He was timely, energetic, and reliable. He was dedicated, outspoken, and took initiative. But one day Greg stopped talking in meetings. A little while after that he tried avoiding them altogether. Then one day he approached his superior and told him he was leaving. Why the sudden change of heart, the HR wondered? But to everyone but them – the change wasn’t sudden.

There have been many studies about why good employees leave, but new data is emerging that could point employers in a more timely direction – we know what makes top performers stay.

Research done by Quantum Workplace showed that one of the top reasons for people to leave their jobs is a lack of recognition. Seems like an easy fix in theory, but in practice it’s anything but.

By the time most managers notice something with their employees is wrong, they are usually already one foot out the door. And that is really bad news for the company.

Turnover is more than an organizational nightmare, it’s a financial blow as well. According to Jobvite, when an employee leaves it can cost from one-half to two times that worker’s annual salary to replace them.

How, then, do we stop them from leaving in the first place?

Recognition is the word of the year, or in the age of the Great resignation, the word of an era.


Recognition reduces turnover by almost a third!

Deloitte found that organizations with recognition programs have 31 percent lower turnover than those without. People like feeling valued and nothing kills motivation than overlooking important wins and rewarding the wrong people. Retention, like any goal, needs a plan and a strategy to make it a reality, which is why it is more important than ever to check in with your employees sooner rather than later.


Recognition as a tool for positive change

Realistically speaking no one can hit a home run every week, nor should they, but any good coach knows when to compliment a player for a good pass, or improve their stats. That is where recognition becomes a tool for overall improvement. By recognizing the behavior you want to see in your employees it is more likely to be repeated until it turns into a habit.


More than a pat on the back

In a study performed by BambooHR, the numbers were pretty stark – more than 52 percent of coworkers want more recognition from their bosses. Most corporations read this as a sign that employees are needy or want a raise, but the truth is everyone likes to know if they are doing a good job. When a manager praises their team it shows that their career is going in the right direction and that they have a future with the company, which means they don’t have to look elsewhere for progression or worry about job security.


It’s not just the managers

More than 40 percent of people want more recognition from their coworkers according to a study by BambooHr. This means that employees need to feel support both from the above and within the team as well.

The power of recognition becomes even more apparent when applied to business outcomes. Organizations with recognition programs have less turnover and are 12 times more likely to have strong business outcomes according to Deloitte.

So next time you reschedule your one-on-ones because you don’t have time or forget to congratulate your employee on their well-put-together PowerPoint, just remember Greg from the beginning of this article. If his boss remembered him on time Greg would probably be there for the company’s New Year party.

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