Posts Tagged "Employee Retention’

Leaving Behind, Moving On

by Lynette Silva

Fish Jumping into larger bowlRecognize This! – Too many good employees leave out of boredom. Identifying areas of interest for new career paths can keep top employees engaged and on board.

Last night marked the start of a new era in late night television in the US with Steven Colbert’s debut as the host of “Late Show” on CBS, long the home of David Letterman. But this wasn’t just the start of a new host on a late night show. This was also the laying to rest of Steven Colbert’s fake persona of nine years, the “well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot” that Steven Colbert (the real person and comedian) created and who helmed the nine-year run of the “Steven Colbert Show” on Comedy Central. Colbert left behind a tremendous body of work in order to move on in his career.

If we use Colbert’s career trajectory as an object lesson, last night was certainly momentous. Think about it. He spent nearly a decade creating a beloved character, watched by millions. He had a very successful career, was quite popular, and likely still had many fruitful years ahead of him as his blowhard alter-ego. Yet he was growing bored. In interviews, he has said he wanted to be able to interview interesting people in his own voice. To do so, he had to leave behind years of work and step out into the unknown to prove himself once again. But the risk was worth it for the excitement of something new.

I wonder how often that same feeling is true for our employees and fellow colleagues at work. I know in my own career history, I’d love my work until I became bored. Then I’d be onto the next company, looking for the next challenge. I’m pleased to say I’ve more than doubled my prior tenure record in my time with Globoforce. And that’s because of the opportunities I’ve been given to grow, stretch and, yes, even fully reinvent myself here.

When we think about how we retain employees, often top of the list is being sure we’re creating “career development paths” for employees. But how often are those paths real or in alignment with the true desires and wishes of the employee? How do we help those we manage find a future path that both invigorates and inspires them personally while also furthering the success goals of the organization?

One of the easiest yet most profound ways to do so is through social recognition that encourages peers as well as managers to recognize and appreciate those who have helped them on their own projects or goals. When people are both encouraged to help others across traditional silos of teams, divisions and geographies – and then recognized and rewarded for doing so –leaders can begin to capture very interesting data on where their team members may be choosing to give discretionary effort to help others outside their usual roles. This information can be very useful in career pathing discussions to help people identify those areas they seem to enjoy and help them pursue those interests without having to leave your organization to move on in their careers.

How do you gather information on employee interests for career planning discussions? Do your managers have information easily to hand to fuel these important conversations?

IBM Smarter Workforce Institute: Achieve the Power of Thanks through Multiple Recognition Channels

By Derek Irvine

Separate arrows merging into oneRecognize This! – We all know the power of social recognition to engage and retain employees, but when employees have multiple channels to share recognition, the benefits grow exponentially.

The IBM Smarter Workforce Institute (SWI) recently released a report showing the importance of using multiple channels for recognition. The report is based on a survey of 19,000 workers from over 26 countries and shows the Power of Thanks. The more communication channels we use to recognize workers, the better we can reach and thank employees. This thanks leads to higher engagement and retention.

Key findings of the report include (quoting):

  • Employees who receive recognition are more likely to be engaged at work. The engagement level of employees who receive recognition is almost three times higher (76%) than the engagement level of those who do not (28%).
  • Workers who receive recognition are less likely to quit. Without recognition, about half (51 percent) of surveyed employees say they intend to leave, with recognition just one quarter (25 percent) say they intend to leave their organizations.
  • Employees whose organizations use multiple communication channels for recognition are more likely to feel appreciated and show a higher level of employee engagement. The more channels used for recognition, the higher the employee engagement level.
  • The findings imply that technologies such as social and mobile could be strong candidates for the effective delivery of recognition as they offer interactive, frequent and immediate communication via multiple channels.

Why Multiple Channels? More Timely Recognition!

Written and face-to-face recognition were historically the primary methods to thank workers. These channels are not enough to reach employees in today’s global, virtual and mobile workplace. Use of technologies like mobile recognition, online recognition platforms, peer-to-peer recognition videos are critical to keeping high employee engagement levels.

Timely recognition is essential for recognition effectiveness. Mobile apps and other technologies make this far more feasible more than having to wait to get into the office and submit paperwork or logging in through a computer. With a smartphone, recognition can happen anytime, anywhere. This is especially true for overcoming geographic boundaries. IBM SWI points out:

“It has been shown that recognition is more meaningful when it is delivered in a timelier and more frequent manner. By removing the restriction of geographic location and timing, the use of a variety of technology-enabled communication channels can have a positive impact on employees, driven by the fast and frequent delivery of recognition.”

Email Alone Is Not the Answer

Though we know speed and timeliness of recognition matters, email unfortunately continues to dominate (at 58%) as the most common form of technology used for recognition. But email is highly flawed when used as the sole means of “technology-based recognition.”

It does not share the accomplishment of the employee with peers or provide a way to easily track and report on recognition activity in any kind of deep or meaningful way. Truly effective methods are driven by social recognition, involving work communities, online platforms, and mobile apps that share recognized accomplishments with colleagues and work friends to enable a flurry of congratulations on a job well done.

Increase Engagement and Retention

Recognition is a direct, key driver of employee engagement. IBM SWI’s research showed employees who receive recognition are 48% more engaged than those who do not. IBM SWI showed that the more channels used for recognition, the higher the employee engagement.

IBM SWI_Multi-Channel Recognition

Social recognition is key not only to employee engagement, but also to retention. Retention is in the top three challenges facing human resources today. When looking at the link between recognition and retention, 51% of workers who did not receive recognition intended to quit versus only 25% of those who received recognition.

The Time to Evolve Recognition Is Now

If we’re looking to retain, engage, and get the most out of our talent, we have to evolve our recognition strategies to communicate in a manner that is relevant to today’s workplace. IBM SWI concludes their research with this recommendation:

“Based on findings in this study, organizations should consider taking full advantage of varied communication channels in their recognition programs. In particular, social, mobile, and other technologies could be strong candidates for the effective delivery of recognition messages as they enable multiple channels and offer opportunities for interactive, frequent, and immediate communication. If done right, employee recognition programs can unleash the full power of thanks.”

I couldn’t agree more. What recognition channels are you using to recognize your workers? Are you using enough channels? Are you using the right channels?


Our “Stickiness” Problem: Retention, Opportunities or Feedback?

by Derek Irvine

Overcoming sharing of feedbackRecognize This! – Employees need more opportunities, more regular conversations on performance, and more frequent recognition to overcome retention challenges.

“People just don’t stick around like they used to.”

How often have you heard that phrase in terms of employee retention goals, usually coupled with statements about “there’s just no loyalty anymore.”

History shows that’s just not true. For the last 25 years, tenure has been consistently low across nearly all age ranges. And the youngest generation in the workplace tends to stay the shortest amount of time (which is not surprising considering where they are in their careers).

Chart showing average tenures over time

More recent data published in the Wall Street Journal shows average tenure across occupations doesn’t even reach 5 years.

Chart from WSJ showing less than 5 year retention average

This article focused on big data analysis for retention, looking at many different predictors to determine who might live so you can intervene. But, as the article points out, “The big challenge for employers is what, exactly, to do with the information.”

My suggestion is the rather obvious: Get out ahead of the situation whenever possible. John Hollon pointed out in TLNT that too many companies are “stuck in recession mode” and are not investing in current employees as they should – either with opportunities for internal growth or ongoing feedback.

3 Key Steps to Address our “Stickiness” Problem

Addressing the “retention challenge” requires an attack on three fronts:

  1. Create Opportunities – Employees of all ages and career stages are looking for opportunities to increase their own knowledge and grow their careers. They will either do that in your organization or elsewhere. Sometimes we make it easier for employees to look for growth opportunities elsewhere. We need to refocus our efforts (and often our budgets) on learning, development and career advancement for our current employees.
  2. Talk to the Them More! – People need ongoing constructive conversations with their leaders, mentors and managers throughout the year (and I’d argue throughout the week). Too often, we allow the structured performance review process to dictate when we hold these conversations. Frequent and timely feedback, both positive and constructive, helps employees stay on track and stay personally invested in short- and long-term outcomes.
  3. Recognize them before the traditional 5 year anniversary marker – In traditional years of service anniversary programs, why do we typically recognize people at 5, 10, 15, etc., years? Because that’s when the US and Canadian tax laws offered tax-free award options. Tax law is a terrible reason to follow a specific approach. The Wall Street Journal graphic above is the perfect illustration as to why – you won’t capture the vast majority of your employees if you wait that long. Celebrating anniversary milestone achievements is important, but it should start much sooner and occur in conjunction in ongoing peer-to-peer and manager-based recognition of desired behaviors and values.

How does your organization address retention, feedback and recognition needs? What do you seek yourself?

Compensation Cafe: Why Friends at Work Matter

by Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – “Friendships at work” is not a soft topic. It’s a driving factor in employee productivity, retention and wellness.

I couldn’t say everything I wanted to about the importance of friends at work in my post on this blog last week, so I continued the theme today on the Compensation Cafe blog. This latest post looks at several recent surveys (from LinkedIn, HRZone in the UK, and Globoforce) showing how friendships and deep relationships at work that drive key business factors – productivity, retention and wellness.

As I conclude on Compensation Cafe:

“Recognition, as a key component of Total Rewards, is a powerful, positive way of strengthening ties between employees. The Globoforce Fall 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey found 91% of us spend more than 30 hours a week with colleagues (vs. 52% who spend that much time with family). With that in mind, it’s no surprise 94% of employees say they like getting recognized by their peers for accomplishments at work. Few know what we do well better than those with whom we work most closely.”

Read the full post on Compensation Cafe, then tell me: How does your organization support friendships at work? With whom do you have the closest relationships? Do those friendships help you achieve more?

Compensation Cafe: Are Your Best Employees Holding You Hostage?

Compensation Cafe contributor buttonRecognize This! – Even happy employees are looking for new jobs… but raises aren’t necessarily the best answer.

Check out my latest post on Compensation Cafe where I share research from (and added insight from Jessica Stillman) showing an increase in employees saying they’re happy at work and a corresponding increase in employees saying they’re seeking new jobs.

What’s going on? As usual, the top three reasons reported for looking for a new job are more pay, career advancement and more appreciation. But that doesn’t mean a raise is necessarily the right answer.

Read the full post for more on what savvy leaders and compensation pros should be considering instead and the questions we need to be asking.

3 Perspectives on Job Satisfaction, Retention and Employee Recognition

Image showing check boxes for excellent, good, averageRecognize This! – Research and surveys are clear. Employees want to leave for better recognition.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve seen several employee surveys on job satisfaction and retention. All drive home the point that employees are not satisfied in their work and primary reason is they don’t feel valued or recognized for the good work they do. See the pertinent research findings from three quite varied surveys below:

CareerBuilder survey referenced in TLNT (quoting):

  • Only 59 percent of workers indicate that they are satisfied with their jobs (down from 66 percent in 2013) with 18 percent claiming that they are out-and-out dissatisfied at work, (up from 15 percent).
  • Those who are dissatisfied, “cite concerns over salary (66 percent) and not feeling valued (65 percent) most often as reasons for their dissatisfaction.”

Rainmaker Thinking survey referenced in the Intuit Fast Track blog (quoting):

  • 46% of employees say they feel “stuck” in their jobs and have an unfulfilled desire to head for the exit.
  • 90% say they’re less committed, are less productive and are less willing to “go the extra mile” or “contribute their best ideas”
  • Those polled are not considered the worst performers, which means that it’s not going to be the bottom-feeders who leave.

APA (American Psychological Association) Center for Organizational Excellence survey also referenced in TLNT (quoting):

  • All in all, I am satisfied with my job — 67 percent in 2013 (down from 71 percent in 2012)
  • Overall, I am satisfied with the employee recognition practices of my employer – 47 percent in 2013 (down from 48 percent in 2012)

Taking all that together, employees aren’t engaged and potentially have one foot out the door – all because organizations aren’t making the investment in the fastest and easiest tool HR has in its toolkit to quickly affect employee engagement and retention – frequent, timely and specific recognition.

Indeed, Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder, offered this solution (in reference to those survey findings): “Offering frequent recognition, merit bonuses, training programs and clearly defined career paths are important ways to show workers what they mean to the company.”

Across nearly all of our customers, a deciding factor in their initial decision to pursue social recognition with us was employee feedback saying, “We need better recognition.”

How would your employees respond to “I’m satisfied with the recognition practices of my employer?” How would you?



Engaging Employees on Their Way Out the Door?

Image of employee holding office items, preparing to quit jobRecognize This! – Is the best way to engage employees to focus on them when they leave?

I’ll admit, I started to read this Fast Company article prejudiced to disagree with the premise – “the best opportunity to engage employees is how you treat them when they leave.”

Ridiculous, right? They’re leaving! How does working to engage them now do any good? It’s like using your exit interview as your best survey tool for employee engagement in your organization. (Yes, that’s really a thing.)

But, after reading the article, I admit my prejudicial instincts may have been wrong.

Author Jessica Amortegui’s point is employees are likely going to leave anyway. Statistically, there are very few “lifer” employees that stay at one (or even two or three) companies for the entirety of their careers. She cites a Deloitte survey showing 85% of the workforce is actively looking for a new job or open to talking to recruiters. So, when they do succumb to the “grass is always greener” syndrome, do everything you can to leave a good impression so they’ll want to return.

Citing two of my favorite researchers on employee motivation, recognition and engagement (Dan Ariely and Theresa Amabile), Amortegui recommends celebrating employees’ accomplishments, even as they walk out the door:

“If you want an employee to walk out of the door engaged, what better way than to celebrate the progress they made in their tenure? It’s never too late–nor can you ever do too much–to make somebody feel like their work matters.”

Point taken. My one concern is people using this advice as an excuse to wait until an employee is ready to leave to recognize their contributions. Far better to praise, celebrate and appreciate employees for their efforts, contributions, and results throughout their tenure with your organization because this is what engages them in their work in the first place. Failure to do so results in just as many employees actively looking for a job open to talking to a recruiter, but far more of that 85% mentioned earlier will fall into the “I quit but forgot to tell you” category.

In today’s volatile job market, sometimes the best we can do is to fully engage the employees we have for as long as we have them. If we can do a better job of that – even incrementally – we can boost the bottom line quite dramatically. (See this recent Aon Hewitt global research showing every 1 percentage point increase in engagement drives a 0.6% increase in sales growth.)

How much effort does your organization put into “alumni” employees? Would your past star performers want to return? What are you doing to make that more likely?

Do These 2 Things or Watch Your Best Employees Leave

Person helping another climb a growth chartRecognize This! – Ongoing, immediate recognition of excellence is as important as career growth and development opportunities to retain top talent.

There are many forms of employee recognition. There’s the formal, social recognition I most often write about in which an individual purposefully notices, acknowledges and appreciates the good work of another in line with company core values. Then there’s another class of recognition in terms of promotion, job function or learning opportunities. Recognition in the latter category communicates to an employee, “I see the good work you’re doing and want to support you in continuing to do so.”

How do you effectively use this latter category of recognition? Sheila Talton, chief executive of Gray Matter Analytics, explained not only how, but why doing so is critical to success:

“One thing I’ve done a lot over the years is to push my stars out. I’ve had a number of people who worked for me who were really good at what they did. And many times, when I would be sitting in meetings with my peers and they’d say, ‘I’ve got to hire somebody to do this,’ I often would offer up some of my people for them to interview. Many of them would ask me why, and there are a few reasons. It’s very important that my team know that I’m invested in their career. Second, it’s the right thing for the organization. Third, it gives me influence in that other part of the organization.”

When pressed on why she would do this when many managers prefer to hold onto their stars, Ms. Talton pointed out you’ll lose your best employees anyway. If you’re going to lose them to a new opportunity, it’s better if that opportunity is within your company and not at a competitor.

Contrast Ms. Talton’s approach with the story of Sean:

“Losing high performers is painful, both personally and professionally. Consider the story of Sean, a high-potential employee who left a company after five years because he felt disconnected and disrespected. His direct supervisor did little, if anything, to sponsor him. All the groundbreaking work led by Sean, while apparent to his team, peers, and customers, was invisible to the powers that be. When he pitched requests for additional resources, he was turned down. And when he expressed interest in an opportunity for promotion, he was politely but firmly dismissed. When Sean had finally had enough and landed a better position with a rival, senior managers were at first surprised and then dismayed, as they were barraged with complaints about his departure from his former colleagues. As is often the case with external hires (of which 46 percent fail, according to Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ), lacking organizational context and trusted relationships, Sean’s replacement was struggling, unable to pick up where Sean left off and finding it difficult to connect with colleagues who were holding on to the past.”

Holding your star performers back only results in the inevitable – them moving on to better opportunities anyway and leaving a talent vacuum that is difficult if not impossible to fill (at least in the short term).

All of this does not minimize the critical importance of frequent, timely and specific social recognition to employee retention, however. There’s only so many times you can promote a person, or offer them a new role in different functional group. But you can acknowledge daily excellence and praise employees for it. It’s all about balance between the two:

  1. Recognize and specifically praise ongoing excellence in the daily work (and encourage others to do so as well)
  2. Look for opportunities to seed the organization with top talent through promotional, cross-functional transitions whenever possible.

How are employees recognized in your organization? Is frequent, timely and specific praise combined with growth and development opportunities?

The Real Reason to Worry about Indicators of Employees Ready to Quit

Recognize This! – “I quit but forgot to tell you” employees are costing you more than you think.

Making the round of blogs lately is a Utah State University study of indicators an employee is about to leave your organization. Among the indicators are these behavioral changes people often make 1-2 months before leaving (quoting):

  • They offered fewer constructive contributions in meetings.
  • They were more reluctant to commit to long-term projects.
  • They become more reserved and quiet.
  • They became less interested in advancing in the organization.
  • They were less interested in pleasing their boss than before.
  • They avoided social interactions with their boss and other members of management.
  • They suggested fewer new ideas or innovative approaches.
  • They began doing the minimum amount of work needed and no longer went beyond the call of duty.
  • They were less interested in participating in training and development programs.
  • Their work productivity went down.

Looking at this list, I’m not as concerned about these as indicators of employees looking to leave but as classic indicators of “disengagement.” Remember, disengaged employees (and those looking to leave) are not delivering 100% at work – they are distracted with one foot already out the door.

Helping employees overcome these signs – re-engage at work, if you will – isn’t important only for retention, but also for the daily value and quality of the work being done. That’s why each of these items is also a timely reminder that helping employees engage at work is a daily effort.

How do you do that? Ask yourself:

  • Are you praising people for making constructive contributions in meetings (even if they disagree with you)?
  • Are you helping people understand how their individual tasks or deliverables contribute to advancing the organization?
  • Are social interactions with management geared to help employees build deeper personal relationships across hierarchical lines or do they only serve as obligatory parties at key holidays or the like?
  • Are you recognizing and rewarding people who bring new ideas or innovations, every time?
  • Are you making room in people’s work schedules for them to participate in training and development without adding burden?

I’ve only addressed a few of the indicators, but I believe my point is clear. You get the behaviors your recognize. Your employees give you the level of engagement you encourage. That’s why social recognition is such a powerful method to improve engagement (and the associated quality of work) as well as quickly reduce voluntary turnover. And we all know the cost savings of improving our retention and engagement scores.

Think back over your own career. When you were ready to leave a prior organization? What early indicators showed you were beginning to disengage? What was the “final straw?” Now think about that same organization and why you initially chose to join it. What could have been done differently (by your manager, by leadership, by colleagues) that might have kept you engaged and on their payroll?

Today on Compensation Cafe – Employee Retention: How to Combat Wandering Eyes

Recognize This! – A salary increase should never be your immediate default solution for employee turnover challenges.

More than half a dozen clients I’m consulting with currently tell me retention is a top priority for them. Indeed, they feel like they are constantly trading employees among their competitors, usually over a few dollars extra in pay. Yet, when an employee’s decision to stay or go comes down to a small difference in the amount of money in their paycheck, you know you’re in trouble as an organization…

For the rest of the story, check out my post today on Compensation Cafe and learn why your actively disengaged employees shouldn’t be your biggest concern (especially in regards to retention).