Improve Employee Retention with Rewards and Recognition Programs

Improve Employee Retention with Rewards and Recognition Programs


Hi my name is Sheryl Wolowyk owner of myHRpro and in this human resources video I’m going to tell you how to implement a rewards and recognition program in your organization in order to increase employee engagement and reduce employee turnover.



Step 1: The first step in implementing a rewards and recognition program in your organization is to actually set up a program. In my video series on performance management, I talked about the benefits of setting up a complete system for giving regular feedback on employee performance. The advantage to any system is that it becomes consistent throughout the year, prevents last minute scrambling to get yearly appraisals done and allows employees to know what is expected of them.



Rewards and recognition programs should work the same way. If you have a system set up in your organization, rewards and recognition won’t get ‘forgotten’ or pushed off for another day. When employees know they are appreciated their loyalty to your company and engagement within their jobs will increase, saving you time and money in the long run help to reduce employee turnover and increase employee engagement. This makes it very worthwhile to invest your time in setting up a program.



Step 2: The second step in implementing a rewards and recognition program is to decide what exactly you are going to recognize. Rewards and recognition programs must be objective and in-tune with your performance management system and must consider the strategic objectives of your organization. You can’t simply decide spontaneously who will get a reward. Your staff members need to know why someone receives a reward, what made the recipient stand out from the crowd and how their performance is a benefit to the organization. Write out a list of what you will be rewarding and recognizing and why.



If you saw my video on setting smart goals you will remember that SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented and Time-bound. This is an excellent framework to consider when setting up your rewards and recognition program.



Rewards should be awarded for a specific accomplishment. For example, a specific task at which only one employee can be the best, like the most sales.



Rewards can be measurable to help define the specific task and to encourage new records. For example, a reward for whoever can sell 15 units in a month (a new record for the company).



Just like how goals must be achievable, rewards must also be realistic and achievable. Don’t discourage your staff by creating awards that can never be won, or likewise, that are always one by the same individual due to odd circumstances. Perhaps some employees work full-time and some part-time, so of course the full-timers are likely to have more sales than those who only work part-time. So be creative and develop a number of rewards in different categories.



Make your rewards results-oriented. Give rewards and recognition for accomplishment, not simply for trying. Having said that, though, there is a time and place to recognize outstanding effort as well.



Make your rewards time-bound. Give your staff a deadline. Top sales by the end of the month, or top sales by the end of the year. This will give them something to work for in a specific time-frame and will encourage healthy competition.



Using a SMART framework can help you to define what tasks and accomplishments you want to reward and recognize. Remember your rewards will be reinforcing an individual’s behavior. This behavior will (hopefully) be emulated by other employees, so you want to choose carefully what those behaviors are.



Furthermore, you must limit the rewards. If the criteria for receiving the reward are too easy and almost everyone receives the reward or recognition, it simply becomes an entitlement since nobody has outperformed their colleagues. Make the reward exclusive and something to be worked towards. You can make it known that someone will receive a reward at the end of the week, month or year; but remember people always like surprises too. Make a surprise reward for runner-up or for some other task. Ensure that you are not always rewarding the same person or your program may backfire. Adjust your criteria as necessary by considering all the different roles in your organization and the strengths people require to complete them. By spreading around the rewards and recognition you will increase employee engagement and satisfaction.



Step 3: The third step in implementing a rewards and recognition program is to take some time and carefully consider what the rewards will be. Make the rewards exciting and new. Make them something employees will appreciate and strive for. Show your staff that you truly appreciate them and that you are not just going through the motions. If in doubt, ask them what they would like be rewarded with!



Here are some examples of rewards and recognition ideas:


  • A simple, honest ‘thank-you’ will go a long ways for your staff. Just knowing their hard work has been noticed and is appreciated is the easiest and cheapest way to recognize your employees.
  • Personal congratulations or personal notes. Make sure these are honest and come from the heart. Don’t just print something off but make it personal and relevant.
  • Give your top salesperson a day off with pay.
  • Award a cash bonus for someone who comes up with the best idea for the company to save money.
  • Award the staff member who provides the best customer service a gold pin. This will show colleagues and customers that this employee is outstanding.
  • Do something fun! Tell your staff the ‘boss’ (you) will wash the car of the person with the most sales at the end of the month.
  • Gift cards are always a welcome bonus!


So in summary, in order to help reduce employee turnover, increase employee engagement and employee performance it’s important to (1) Set up a complete and detailed Rewards and Recognition program, (2) Decide and outline what your staff will be rewarded for and recognized, and (3) Carefully select appropriate, personal and meaningful rewards.



For more information on how to create a Rewards and Recognition program in your organization go to to see other human resources videos and download a long list of possible rewards absolutely free. Our website also has useful hr forms and templates and human resources articles that you can download and use for your organization.