• Top Trends in Employee Recognition

Top Trends in Employee Recognition

Showing your workers they're noticed - and valued - has never been more important. Here's how to make them feel the love.

We all learn at an early age that saying "thank you" is crucial. Yet many businesses forget this golden rule, at least when it comes to their own employees. And that's a tragic mistake, according to one recent study. It found that companies that frequently recognize their workers have a 31% lower rate of voluntary turnover - that is, of employees leaving on their own.

So the question isn't whether to makes your employees feel special, but how to do it most effectively. Too many companies make old-fashioned gestures that mean little. Here are the approaches that studies - and savvy experts - say are outdated, and what works instead.

OLD WAY: Give your employees a yearly gift.
NEW WAY: Fuss over achievement, not just anniversaries.

Most recognition programs only celebrate how long an employee has been with a company. But to encourage your entire organization to up its game, call out workers who go above and beyond in doing their jobs. Did someone deliver outstanding customer service, or come up with an excellent cost-cutting measure? Show that those behaviors get noticed and rewarded, and it may inspire others to reach for these goals too.

OLD WAY: Recognize your team for completing a project.
NEW WAY: Mark the milestones along the way.

You can't take morale and momentum for granted, especially when a long-term assignment is at stake. Applaud your group's effort each time a phase gets finished, says Lorraine Moore, president of Accelerate Success Group, which assists companies with leadership performance and organizational design. "It could be as simple as saying 'Hey, let's bring in coffee and cake,'" she notes. You could also have jackets or t-shirts customized with your company logo or a team slogan, Moore adds: "People like the sense of identity they get from company clothing or accessories."

Promo Tip:

When someone has gone above and beyond, consider a public gift to show it. An "above and beyond" shirt or other apparel item lets them celebrate and inspire others. Or, how about an "I crushed it!" mug to show off at coffee time?!. Even a small gift showing your sincere appreciation can improve productivity and morale.

OLD WAY: Praise an employee in a meeting.
NEW WAY: Give a shout-out on other social platforms as well.

A public pat on the head is amazing, of course. But in our age of social media, it's easy to spread the news further. Include the story of your star employee's achievement in your company newsletter, blog, or on your firm's intranet. It will produce a lot of peer recognition for the worker, which one study found is deeply gratifying. And that happiness is contagious: 41% of companies that utilize peer-to-peer recognition have seen their customers' satisfaction increase as well.

OLD WAY: Have supervisors show their appreciation.
NEW WAY: Have supervisors' supervisors show some, too.

"Hearing praise from someone high up makes a big impression," says Moore. "It can be a handwritten note that says 'I know you have been putting in extra hours on this project, and wanted to tell you how much we all appreciate it.' The employee will be thinking, 'I didn't know this person noticed!'" It's a great way to make someone feel like he or she has the attention of the top brass.

OLD WAY: Give every employee you recognize the same reward.
NEW WAY: Tailor incentives to each employee's passions.

"Employee appreciation is no longer a one-size-fits all proposition," says Bill Sanders, managing director of Roebling Strauss Inc., a firm that helps businesses accelerate their growth and improve operations. Instead, he says, "it's one-size-fits-one-employee." Career advancement courses, high-visibility project assignments, or time off to attend a conference can all be aligned to an employee's interests, making him feel valued not just for his hard work, but his individuality.