The Link between Retention, Employee Engagement and Recognition

As I’ve been digging into this issue of retention in recession, I’ve been particularly struck by the strong bond between retention, employee engagement and recognition. I’m seeing the same results reported in news sources in both the US and UK press.

This article called the TUC (Trade Unions Congress) in the UK to task for missing the point of workers putting in unpaid overtime. Bridget Biggar, managing director of Management Intelligence Consulting, had this to say in HR Magazine:
"Many employees work longer hours because they are playing to their strengths in a job which they enjoy, which is highly motivating and personally rewarding. Engaged employees offer discretionary time without it being a quid pro quo because they feel greater loyalty to the company and ownership of their responsibilities to deliver.

"If somebody is enjoying their role, are stimulated and energised by the stretch of the challenge that uses their personal skills and strengths, they will work longer hours without even realising -and certainly not begrudge it.”

Aside from that last paragraph being one of the best definitions of employee engagement I’ve seen, Bridget summarizes well the importance of having the right person, in the right job with the right attitude. If you let people work in roles designed to their skills and talents, they will perform better and with greater effort.

In this recession, we are seeing many employees taking on the tasks of laid off co-workers, essentially doing double duty in multiple roles. While employees taking on more work may be necessary, managers must be diligent in working to ensure tasks are apportioned in line with individual employee preferences and skills. After layoffs, employee engagement levels typically drop. Keep them from dropping further by ensuring people are doing tasks they enjoy doing.

In other news, AchieveGlobal recently reported the results of a study showing 23% of US workers expect to leave their current positions – a shockingly high number considering many short-sighted managers think their employees will just sit tight out of recession fears. AchieveGlobal CEO Sharon Daniels had this to say:
"Attrition among high-performing employees is largely catalyzed by insufficient compensation, lack of growth opportunities, and employee contributions not being recognized. The effects of high performers vacating job positions can ripple throughout many levels of a company, resulting in low employee morale or deteriorating quality of products or services. While overall turnover rates may decrease in the current economy, keeping top performers will still be a competitive advantage. It’s understood that compensation benefits are not always feasible with smaller budgets, but human resources can focus on other talent management aspects, such as ensuring employee recognition, having career development strategies, and allowing flexibility for a healthy work-life balance."

Insufficient compensation may be difficult to address in today’s economy. Growth opportunities may not be any easier, but managers should certainly clearly communicate opportunities that will come available when the market turns. Recognition of contributions, however, is easily addressed.

What are you doing to retain your top performing employees? How are you recognizing their contributions? A simple thank you? Meaningful acknowledgement of how their efforts are helping the company survive during this recession? Other means? If not, you are missing out on an easy opportunity to increase employee engagement, retain needed staff and, indeed, impact the bottom line. Be sure to take our weekly poll on strategies for recognition.

2 comment(s):

At March 18, 2009 3:20 PM, Cindy Ventrice said...

Excellent article Derek. When engagement is driven by fear it doesn't produce much loyalty or innovation.

Managers are heads-down, in the trenches, trying to get an overwhelming amount of work done. Those that will step back and put a few minutes of attention into each employee will reap the rewards of more strategic, focused engagement.

Cindy Ventrice, author of Make Their Day Employee Recognition That Works

At June 15, 2009 9:01 PM, Melissa said...

I could've said it better myself!

Thanks for your comment on my blog post about Employee Reward and Recognition.

I think what it comes down to is knowing what motivates people because a 'one size fits all' approach to creating a rewards & recognition program isn't the best way to go i.e. not everyone is motivated by just $$ and some value non-monetary rewards such as extra annual leave or a simple thank you!

There is a difference between an employee *wanting* to do their best rather than feel like they *have* to out of fear. The former are loyal/productive staff who you want to retain and the latter are your fickle/jump ship employee's who will cost you (i.e. turnover).