The intersection of recognition with recruitment and retention

Tina Weede

It’s not complicated. When we, as human resource professionals and companies more broadly, spend time and money to recruit the best and train them to be even better — we expect them to stay. We need them to stay. High performers with high potential are vital to any organization’s survival and growth. They’re essential to building an engaged workforce that meets individual and group goalsand also improves customer satisfaction. So why does retention continue to be an issue after a thorough screening during the recruitment process and exceptional training after an employee gets on the job?

Recruitment of top talent only leads to retention when the workplace fosters an environment where employee engagement is understood and appreciated. Employees with lower engagement are four times more likely to leave their jobs than those who are highly engaged, according to a report by the Corporate Leadership Council. High potential associates have the potential, ability and aspiration for leadership and are valuable assets in our competitive business landscape.

What’s the cost of not fostering an engaged workforce? Direct replacement costs companies 50 to-60 percent of an employee’s annual salary, and the total cost of turnover can be as high as 200 percent of the employee’s annual salary, according to a report published by the Society for Human Resource Management. Another study conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimated that turnover-related costs represent more than 12 percent of income for the average company. That number jumps to 40 percent for companies in industries with traditionally higher turnover rates (retail, food service, telemarketing, health and child care).

In today’s workplace, the goal should be to develop and retain high performing/high potential associates who are empowered, enthusiastic and loyal. This doesn’t just happen; but it’s critical – especially since we know employee disengagement costs companies hundreds of billions of dollars per year. Consider this: If you have high performing, high potential associates who are well trained and understand your products, services and go-to-market strategiesbut do not like or trust you, then they are not likely to be engaged with your business or with your brand. A well-trained associate who understands your market strategy, products and services, can help move your company forward.

What steps can companies take to nurture their top employees?

So, if our goal is to develop and retain high performers who are empowered, enthusiastic and loyal –How do we make that happen? We start by aligning our business goals with our people goals to build an empowered workforce that actively collaborates toward organizational success. We need to listen and hear our employees. Employee surveys are an excellent tool, but too often companies don’t act on the findings or, worse, they refuse to believe them. When this happens, employees lose trust in leadership.

We need to value and reward employees’ input, ideas and innovation. Most of all we need to embrace service leadership — where we take into account the needs of the people we lead. This promotes a self-leadership or empowered environment where we’re all working toward the good of the whole. To visualize, try this exercise: Take your organizational chart and turn it upside down. This is a true picture of an organization that embraces service leadership.

We also need to help our associates grow and develop, and ensure they maintain a work/life balance. With today’s multi-generational workforce, we need to appeal to a variety of workplace preferences and understand what motivates people. We must provide a benefits package that is more than medical and compensation. To create an environment that promotes strong engagement and retention, benefits should also include talent management, training, enrichment opportunities, wellness, rewards and recognition elements, career-pathing and social interaction.

And last but not least, we need to recognize and applaud achievements — whether it’s performance, tenure, wellness, safety or compliance. We know recognition impacts and drives engagement. A recent Gallop study revealed organizations with recognition programs improve employee engagement and have a 31 percent lower turnover rate than organizations with ineffective or no recognition programs.

How Do We Do This?

  • Be a good listener – communicate frequently, both the good and the bad
  • Create avenues that give people a voice – leadership advisory councils, associate advisory councils or high potential associate teams
  • Ask employees what motivates them – and then act on it!
  • Offer formal, informal and spot award opportunities
  • Provide training and enrichment opportunities for every associate

It’s imperative that organizations in the midst of recruitment make recognition meaningful and effective. Track and measure your efforts. Communicate your results. Whether it’s an informal appreciation event or a formal, structured recognition program, never lose focus of the GOAL – to recruit top talent that will stay with you during and after their development. When you retain high performers, you get a strong workforce with employees who are empowered, enthusiastic, loyal and highly engaged.

Tina Weede, CRP is the Board Vice President of Recognition Professionals International (, which is the only industry association dedicated to educating, improving, and advancing employee recognition and rewards in the workplace. Tina Weede has an extensive background in performance improvement and recognition in both business-to-business and consumer marketing. She has designed, implemented and managed incentive programs of all sizes, providing wisdom through measurable results. Weede has a proven track record of delivering award-winning and successful solutions by utilizing a team approach and acting as an extension of her client’s team. Her vision has produced many innovative new services, which have had a lasting positive effect on the performance improvement business. To contact Tina Weede or RPI, please email or @RPITweets