Posts tagged: Employee Retention Strategies

Cash Just Isn’t Enough When it Comes to Recognition and Engagement!

By John Schaefer, October 5, 2015 12:27 pm

Ask your employees what they want for recognition and you’ll tend to hear some from of these answers:

1. Cash
2. Time off
3. Something I can use

Interestingly, these answers are all a form of cash; none of them hitting on what research shows employees actually need to become more engaged, productive and fulfilled – to be Loved and Respected.

Why? I think it has to do with the question. Nothing against surveys, but most employees, when asked how they prefer to be recognized, don’t fully trust the question, tend to offer the answer they think you want to hear and won’t ever admit they earn enough money. In a way, this is a set up question and not likely to ever get answered honestly with the secret to what employees want from their leaders.

This article may help better explain the place for cash in recognition and offer you some things to consider as you strive to optimize your most important resource – people!

If you have any questions about recognition, employee engagement and performance management, feel free to email or call and I’ll share what I’ve learned over the past 27 years as a passionate student of what makes your employees want to become all they can be.

To learn more about Awards, Rewards and the best ways to use them to optimize our investments in your people visit or email me personally at

Why is Employee Engagement Such a Hot Topic with HR Leaders?

By John Schaefer, June 12, 2015 6:30 pm

Employee Engagement seems to be front of mind with most HR Executives I meet lately. Not surprising, as dealing with an increasingly diverse workforce, challenging economy and more aggressive competitive business environment appears to be the new normal. In my 27 years helping clients improve their recognition, employee engagement and performance management programs, I continue to find that getting high engagement trickles down to a couple of key issues:

1. It’s all about perception. The effectiveness of any awards or rewards program will be directly related to how much your employees believe in your motives. In other words, the level of employee trust and belief they have in management’s genuine concern for them as human beings will grease the skids to higher levels of program acceptance, participation, results and ultimately ROI.

2. Every annual report features a letter from the CEO raving about how much he or she values their employees; “… couldn’t have done it with you you! ” language is the norm in every one of these enthusiastic messages. Unfortunately, in the hectic day to day process of running the company, this message rarely trickles down to mid and front line management, where every employee’s view of the company and their culture is formed. A short, honest and concise explanation to managers about both How and Why to use recognition is helpful in launching a program that will successfully engage the majority of your people. Email me for a copy of my Supervisor Training Program – Why Should Supervisors Care? Getting to the bottom of what they’re really thinking … What’s in it for me? We call this Making it Real!

3. Most companies use a variety of disjointed programs to recognize and reward employees. While these initiatives may be working, it’s difficult to measure costs, participation and results. A more integrated, simplified and relevant strategy will make sense to your people and be easier to manage, track and measure. This KISS method of getting the most out of your employee recognition investments will pay immediate and lasting dividends.

The attached article Rethinking Employee Engagement, prepared by Incentive Services University, will give you some things to think about regarding Employee Engagement within your organization and how an enhanced Recognition and Rewards strategy may be helpful in meeting your financial goals. Our Umbrella approach can give you some ways to better utilize your current award and reward budgets and turn what are now seen as expenses into profits.

If you have any comments, thoughts or questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Thanks for your continued interest in learning how to optimize your most important resource – people!

To learn more about Awards, Rewards and the best ways to use them to optimize our investments in your people visit or email me personally at

New Article Highlights 11 Things You May Not Know about Employee Recognition

By John Schaefer, July 23, 2014 10:57 am

Officevibe, the employee engagement company from Montreal, Canada says there are 11 things you don’t know about employee recognition. Perhaps there are more, but for now, let’s evaluate what Jacob Shriar, Officevibe’s in house oracle has to say:

The biggest reason that most Americans leave their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated. Can’t argue with that one, but why is this so prevalent? If you ask managers and supervisors about their employee who have left, many times they are surprised, stating that they didn’t even know anything was wrong and that the employee appeared happy and engaged. That means that it’s a communications and trust problem, not a company policy issue. Employees must feel like they can trust and count on their leaders. Then, all you have to do is give them the direction and tools they need and get out of the way. Small doses of acknowledgement (Peer to Peer) recognition along with rewards for meeting measurable standards (Performance Management) will fan the flames and optimize employee morale, engagement and profitable results. Consider these 11 facts:

1 – Jacob claims that 41% of companies that use Peer to Peer recognition have seen increases in customer satisfaction. I can’t confirm the percentage, but I agree with the trend. Peer to Peer recognition creates a simple, clean and trackable way for employees and supervisors to catch people doing something right. If you ask employees, many will say that they only hear from their boss when the mess up, so a well-designed and accessible Peer to Peer program makes is easy to catch people doing something right!

2 – 46% of senior managers view recognition programs as an investment rather than an expense. That sounds pretty good, but it leads to the realization that 54% of managers see recognition as an expense, which can get trimmed, cut or marginalized during cost cutting times … the exact opposite of what the company needs to be doing when things get tight. The reason recognition is seen as an expense is when it is disjointed, poorly measured and viewed by employees as an entitlement. Small trickles of money going out with no way to measure if it’s worth spending … sound like an expense or an investment? Organizing recognition into a comprehensive strategy using technology to make it easy to educate and share among employees and managers will give you a track to run on, so you can compare costs with results and see true ROI. Otherwise, why bother?

3 – 14% of companies feature their recognition programs as a part of the recruiting process. Not a bad idea, because recruiting is about attracting employees whose personal purpose is in line with the company’s purpose. In other words, you need to find folks who will blend with your organizations culture … that’s even more important than experience and qualifications. If you have a good recognition strategy that promotes what you’re all about, it’s a great idea to mention it during interviews. If people aren’t intrigued by what you expect and recognize, they may not be a good culture fit.

4 – Companies that have a strategic approach to recognition report a 23% lower turnover rate. That’s huge! If you consider that the cost of recruiting, hiring, training and then losing an employee is estimated to be about 300% of their salary, a reduction of 20+% in turnover could easily pay for most, if not all of the cost of a formal recognition program all by itself. The big question is – “why do they stay?” That gets right back to trust, which is based on having a consistent culture of Love, Respect and Transparent Communication. It really makes good common sense and is nothing more than the Golden Rule applied to your business. Treat others as you’d like them to treat you will go a long way toward developing a winning culture of trust that will immediately impact turnover rates.

5 – Recognizing Employee Performance increases Engagement by almost 60%. That’s an interesting statistic, but considers this; behaviors that are measured are perceived to have value. As Elton Mayo discovered back in the mid 20’s at Western Electric’s Hawthorne Works – “The need for recognition, security and sense of belonging is more important in determining workers’ morale and productivity than the physical conditions under which he works.” The very fact that you acknowledge your understanding and value of an employee’s work is actually more effective that the level of performance itself. Just noticing people and thanking them for their work and will go a long way towards improving overall engagement.

6 – A well run recognition program can lower frustration levels by as much as 28%. Why? It has to do with the comfort of knowing what’s expected of them and having the tools and support to get the job done. The One Minute Manager talks about the importance of not micromanaging. Ken Blanchard suggests that you hire good people, train them well, and then get out of their way! Most employees that know what to do and have the resources to do it, will give you more than a basic day’s work and be happier to do it than employees that are over managed and limited in their flexibility.

7 – Peer to Peer is 35% more likely to have a positive impact than Manager-only programs. While Peer to Peer is just one small slice of the total recognition pie, this added component empowers employees and makes it easy for them to point out what’s going on in real time. By making it easy for everyone, from leadership to management to supervision to employees, to show appreciation, say “thanks” and point out when others are going above and beyond, everybody get a lift and it’s contagious!

8 – 85% of companies that spend 1% or more of payroll on recognition see a positive impact on engagement. Statistics show that most organizations spend between 1 and 2% of payroll on all of their recognition, employee engagement and performance management budgets. They’re not doing it because they have extra cash. Sure, they could just give everyone a 1 or 2% raise, but the best companies realize that a formalized, well-structured program that focuses on supporting the organization’s Purpose, Culture, Mission, Values and Goals is a far better use of their money and the ROI they get from a well-designed program proved it year after year.

9 – Organizations that recognize both individual employees and teams see results approximately 14% higher than companies where recognition is not consistently used. Today’s younger employees prefer frequent and honest recognition. They also like to see everyone on their team share in the glory, so using team recognition, then singling out individual super-stars as well, makes a lot of sense to your Gen Y employees and will get them more engaged.

10 – Organizations with a serious approach to recognition are 12 times more likely to have strong business results. Wow, that’s a lot! Think about it – Recognition drives Culture, a good Culture improves Behaviors and better Behaviors directly impacts Results. But, none of the Results will happen if you don’t have both managers and employees trusting your leaders and believing that your motives are sound. We call it, “Making it Real”, and it makes all the difference!

11 – 31% lower voluntary turnover is reported by companies using effective recognition programs. Sure, you’re going to mis-hire from time to time and have to fire some under-achievers, but voluntary turnover is much more dangerous. Often those employees who leave on their own are your better performers, so they not only hurt productivity immediately, but when they wind up with your competitors, it’s a double whammy to your organization.
Quality recognition is about tying together all of the ways you touch employees, doing in a manner that gains and maintains their trust, and consistently letting everyone know what’s expected. When you do it right, you are well on your way to optimizing your most valuable asset – people!

To learn more about Awards, Rewards and the best ways to use them to optimize our investments in your people visit or email me personally at

What makes us feel good about our work?

By John Schaefer, February 13, 2014 11:53 am

Do you ever wonder what motivates us all to work? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it isn’t just money (I think everybody really knows that). But it’s not exactly joy either. It seems that most of us thrive by making constant progress and achieving a sense of purpose.

In this TED video presentation, behavioral economist Dan Ariely presents two eye-opening experiments that reveal our unexpected and nuanced attitudes toward meaning in our work. (Filmed at TEDxRiodelaPlata.) It’s become increasingly obvious that the dismal and predictable science of economics is not as firmly grounded in actual behavior as was once supposed.  Dan Ariely tells us why in this intriguing presentation.

If you’re like me, and most other people I would assume, you will be surprised, yet find yourself nodding in approval when you see how small and subtle differences in the way management acknowledges employee work can have significant and lasting impact on morale, energy, creativity and overall job performance.  These interactions and the subsequent interactions of groups of employees that experience inappropriate management styles and nuances has a huge effect on productivity, turnover, achievement levels, cooperation, discretionary effort and ultimately profits.

Let me know if you agree and how you think we can work to change this common and debilitating problem. As I’ve said many times in this blog … it all comes down to employee perception and how much they trust management’s motives.

Here’s and Interesting Take on Employee Engagement That May Surprise You.

By John Schaefer, October 30, 2013 8:50 pm

I met Louis Efron, and he seemed like a pretty low-key guy to me.  After reading his latest Forbes article, however –, I’m beginning to see his inner tough-love guy!

Most of the time, when you read about employee engagement, it’s all about what the company can do, how management should change, the training you must provide to your supervisors, new tools, techniques, software and communication skills.  But what responsibility does the employee themselves have?  Or better stated … if you are a disengaged employee, what options do you have and what can you personally do about it?  Should you just wait for your leadership to hire Louis Efron, Larry Myler, Bob Kelleher or some other engagement guru to make it all better or is some of the solution up to you?

Louis shares how he took a personal flyer to follow his dream after a 20+ year career in corporate America.  Now I’m not sure Louis was Actively Disengaged, but he did get to the point where he made a tough decision to venture out of his comfort zone and follow a personal dream.  “…yea, that’s okay for some people, but I don’t have the guts to be an entrepreneur or run a charity or start a church or take the big pay cut to go work as a fry cook in a local diner”, you may be thinking.  You just might reconsider when you read the stories of people who did, do some Goggling and see what you’re missing!

We have some friends who did just that.  She was a school teacher and he worked as a mid-level manager in a high tech firm here in Phoenix.  After they had their second child, this couple made the crazy decision to move to Oregon and buy a farm.  Seriously; a real “…if you build it, they will come” farm, with crops and tractors and planting and harvesting and all of the stuff that most of us could only imagine.  Well, it wasn’t easy, but after a couple of years, they were not only making it financially (not getting rich, but not starving) and raising their kids in a small community with great family values, low overhead, low crime rate and real salt-of-the-earth neighbors and friends.

Sure, your employer has a fiduciary responsibility to the owners of the company to make it possible for you as an employee to be as happy, efficient, productive and profitable as possible, but the rest is up to you.  If you’re not the “dream follower” type, then your other options is to become part of the solution. Volunteer to help spearhead Peer Review Groups, lead Productivity Circle, offer suggestions, be a breath of fresh air to those around you, or simply stay positive and engaged.  It’s your choice and you can do more to help your company succeed than you probably think.  Just don’t be a downer!

But, if you’ve got the cojones to venture out after the life and career your always wanted, go for it!  You might fall on your face, but you also might the joy, rewards and satisfaction that is reserved for those who set their own course.  If you do the work, take the risks and get engaged in your own venture, you just might be one of the new success stories that Louis Efron is talking about.  My advice … go for it!!

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