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Career Growth And Service Recognition Programs Pay Off

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As any talent manager knows, having satisfied, engaged, and loyal employees leads to a more productive, efficient, effective, and positive workplace. According to a 2010 survey of executives from around the world conducted by Boston Consulting Group and the World Federation of People Management Associations, "enhancing employee engagement is one of four most critical HR topics to focus on in volatile times--along with managing talent, leadership development, and strategic workforce planning." Specifically, the findings show that high levels of engagement significantly affect productivity, retention, loyalty, brand or reputation, and stakeholder or customer satisfaction.

There are a number ways organizations can increase employee engagement, with one specific strategy being recognition. Conventional wisdom tells us recognition is a viable strategy for enhancing internal culture, positively reinforcing behaviors, and simply saying thank you for a job well done. But what does the research on employee recognition programs tell us? Do they work? Are there best practices? What strategies do not work? How should these programs be executed?

In its 2013 report, "Celebrate Careers: An Effective Strategy for Driving Employee Engagement and Retention," the O.C. Tanner organization examines findings of a Cicero Group survey of more than 2400 individuals from 10 counties on the topic of recognition programs and their effect on retention, loyalty, satisfaction, and engagement. The report notes that due to increasing costs of employee turnover, there has been a "keen focus on employee retention and engagement."

Findings in the report include:
• 81 percent of employees said that service recognition programs make them feel appreciated.
• Organizations must work to understand the psychology of individuals of different ages, since wants, needs, and desires around rewards and recognition can vary.
• Employees who rated their organization's recognition program an 8, 9, or 10 out of 10 stay in that organization on average of 12.7 years; employees who rated their organization's program a 7 or below stay 10.5 years on average; and in organizations without a recognition program, employees stay on average 8.6 years.
• 66 percent of respondents noted that career celebrations strengthen overall internal relationships.

Additionally, the report provides practical suggestions related to six best practices for recognizing employee career growth and achievement. Specifically, it includes tips on how to:
1. Equip managers with the right tools and training.
2. Give awards with a personalized presentation.
3. Plan a celebration appropriate for the number of years being honored.
4. Invite other people to speak.
5. Prepare powerful remarks to deliver at events recognizing employees.
6. Extend the appreciation experience.

Among the most powerful points made in the report were from individuals who were interviewed via focus groups. As one interviewee noted, "Your company wants you to be invested, but it's hard to feel invested in a company if it doesn't invest in you." We must always remember that finding effective ways to invest in our human capital will yield a huge return on investment for both the organization and its employees.

For more information on human capital and talent management in education, you can follow me on Twitter: @EmilyDouglasHC

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