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Employee appreciation: the key to retention

Ian Rawlings, RVP EMEA at SumTotal

Motivated, committed and productive employees are the key to organisational success. So how can employers ensure that they are creating an environment where staff can flourish? 

With the skills crisis raging on and job vacancies continuing to rise in January, organisations are increasingly turning their attention to employee retention. Keeping valuable employees means ensuring high job satisfaction, as well as offering opportunities for development.

Indeed, Skillsoft’s recent IT Skills and Salary Survey found that for the third year in a row, more than half of IT professionals reported that the lack of learning and development is the main reason for changing employers. With this in mind, organisations need to focus on creating a culture of appreciation. 

Traditionally, appreciation and recognition in the workplace have been dismissed as unimportant. Many employers felt that showing too much appreciation was unprofessional, or that employers who did were simply coddling their employees.

However, in actuality, receiving recognition in the workplace has a measurable impact on the health, wellbeing and performance of employees. 

Recognising this is only half the battle. Once they have accepted the need to show appreciation, the biggest challenge for managers is learning how they can convey that during the everyday of the workplace.  

Here’s five tips to create a culture of appreciation:

  1. Increase feedback frequency: Employees who receive regular feedback and recognition are more committed than those who only receive feedback at an annual performance review. It’s therefore important that managers consciously plan space for appreciative words and gestures each day, for example after particular tasks have been completed.
  1. Personalisation is key: Not every type of recognition suits every employee. Where some employees might prefer recognition in private, others will be more motivated by their efforts being recognised in a group environment. In practice, providing the right feedback means finding out what each individual values. Employers should, therefore, offer employees the opportunity to specify how they prefer their feedback. For example, HR teams can design a team conversation or feedback round which asks what the best form of recognition each team member has received in the past.
  1. Introduce an element of fun: Classic forms of feedback have their place, but sometimes a little imagination can give appreciation some added punch. Virtual trophies could be presented in team video meetings – or a physical trophy for teams in the office. Particularly committed team members could be given a spontaneous day off, or gifts such as a shopping voucher or cooking class. Variety is key!
  1. Choose spontaneity over routine: Too often, employee appraisal is limited to routine times, such as quarterly reviews. Managers should aim to also recognise employees achievements as and when they happen. Simple personal messages can have a huge impact – such as handwritten thank you notes from the CEO, or a shout out in a team meeting. 
  1. Invest in career advancement: Helping employees progress is also a good way of expressing appreciation. For example, release a colleague who has been particularly hard working from certain duties so that they can focus on a project that they have shown interest in, which may open up new opportunities for them. Allow staff time to further their education and training. Another way to support staff advancement is to mention their hard work on the company social media platforms. This will have the added benefit of showing your customers what committed employees your company has, and show potential candidates that your business appreciates its staff. 

Promoting from within

Unfortunately, many HR managers still fear that public praise will shine a spotlight on their best employees,l allowing external recruiters to take advantage. However, the reality is that the best employees are already visible on social platforms, and will always have other opportunities. 

The best way to keep them is to show them appreciation and to promote their careers internally, which will reduce the risk that they need to find a bigger challenge elsewhere. At the end of the day, motivated and supported employees are much more likely to be committed and loyal to their organisation – so this should be front of mind in the day-to-day running of the workplace.

Ian Rawlings, RVP EMEA at SumTotal

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