It’s simple: Recognize employees early—and often.
By David Sturt
If companies are waiting until the five-year anniversary to celebrate their employee’s accomplishments with their company, they may never get the chance to recognize them.
Work perks, benefits, raises, and promotions all play a role in creating an organization’s culture and demonstrating the value of employees. But what about recognition? Traditionally, employee recognition has served to commemorate career milestones and to reward employees who’ve gone the extra mile. However, today’s workforce has been transformed by sweeping generational changes. Millennials, Generation Xers, and baby boomers share the same work environments, yet each view recognition in a different light. Younger employees seek early and frequent validation for their performance. Tenured employees look back on their career and long for meaning—the knowledge that their achievements have made a lasting impact.
To meet the needs of these diverse generations, employers should strive to establish a culture of appreciation that begins with an employee’s first day. Recent research from The Cicero Group found that 86 percent of new hires decide whether to leave a new job within the first six months. Plus, employees at companies with an effective years-of-service awards program plan to stay nearly four years longer than employees at companies that don’t have a years-of-service program. Employees also want a social score card, a display piece that serves as a symbolic award to exemplify the contributions they’ve made.
More and more, companies are also recognizing the power of story as a way to connect by highlighting the recipient’s unique qualities and illustrating their contributions to the rest of the organization. Talking about their unique accomplishments also provides managers with an opportunity to link their contributions to the organization’s brand values and overall vision.
No matter the lens from which it’s viewed, one constant is certain: Recognition remains one of the most important things a manager or company can do to encourage employees to produce great work. Career and accomplishment recognitions are unmatched in terms of helping employees feel like they fit within a company culture while showing them the company cares.
Case study: Informatica
For Informatica, the world’s number one independent provider of data integration software, aligning employees with the company’s mission has become a serious priority of its leadership team. Following the launch of a new rewards program in 2011, recognition is now embedded in the organization’s culture.
Performance and results are rewarded with awards and points, while peer-to-peer shout outs with fun eCards and eButtons have replaced the traditional spot bonus. The company recognizes employees with “appreciation stations” featuring starter kits, books, buttons, and note cards. Plus, career achievement awards are given for anniversaries at year five, 10, 15, and above.
Recognition is publicly discussed at company meetings and has increasingly become embedded in the expectations of managers. From hiring to goal management to coaching, more tools and training are being offered to help managers get the best out of their teams.
The company’s focus on culture and appreciation is paying off. In 2013 alone, the Silicon Valley Business Journal ranked Informatica as the fifth happiest company based in Silicon Valley and Forbes magazine named it to its “The Best Enterprise Software Companies And CEOs To Work For” list. With customers that include 84 of the Fortune 100 companies, the Silicon Valley- based organization has seen its global success continue to grow—a success that leadership attributes to the commitment of its 3,000 employees.
“Everybody wants to be appreciated at work,” explains Jo Stoner, senior vice president of global human resources for Informatica. “It doesn’t matter where you are, if you’re 20 or 50, or if it’s your first job or fifth job. Knowing that what you’re doing makes a difference. Knowing how your behaviors align to our values and how your contributions align to the overall goals of the company and being valued for that contribution makes you want to stay for a long time.”
David Sturt is executive vice president for O.C. Tanner Institute and the author of the New York Times’ best seller, “Great Work: How to Make a Different People Love.” Follow him on Twitter at @david_sturt