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Want to end quitting in place? It takes more than ‘thank you’

Natalie Baumgartner, Achievers
Natalie Baumgartner
Natalie Baumgartner is a workplace psychologist and behavioral expert with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and a focus on assessment and strength-based psychology. She is also the chief workforce scientist at Achievers,

Given that two-thirds of employees are likely to job-hunt in 2022, most organizations are thinking more deeply about how to engage and retain existing employees. Between the ongoing pandemic, a worsening labor shortage and a workforce on the edge of burnout, there is a massive need to focus on retention and providing employees with support and recognition.

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In March 2020, practically overnight, 78% of employees were shifted to an at-home setup, completely overhauling the way teams connect and communicate. While employees seemed to enjoy clocking in from desks nestled in their bedrooms, many found that they began lacking connection to their organization. So much so that 46% of employees say they felt less connected to their company now than they did before the pandemic, and a mere 21% of employees currently dub themselves as very engaged. As the isolation settles in, missed deadlines, low-quality deliverables and increased absenteeism have become themes of the modern workplace.

Instead of handing in their resignations physically, many workers have begun silently resigning—known as “quitting in place.” Their LinkedIn profile may say they still work for your company, but they are checked out and disengaged from their day-to-day tasks and traditional employee contributions. Disengagement affects many aspects of business performance from employee retention to organizational performance to a company’s bottom line, raising a major red flag for HR departments.

HR is Rolling Out Company-Wide Perks, But Employees Aren’t Satisfied

With the company’s success at stake and employee turnover higher than ever, HR departments are scrambling to engage employees with unique perks like free gym memberships, four-day work weeks and floating holidays. However, many are forgetting that employees are highly unique and frankly, generalized perks and rewards aren’t moving the “engagement” needle.

Today, employees want to be recognized for their efforts, especially as many are taking on more responsibilities at work as the labor shortage continues. Recognition is a powerful lever to help improve businesses in the modern era, almost doubling productivity, engagement, and belonging—even encouraging employees to advocate for their company. In fact, according to Achievers research, individuals recognized weekly are twice as likely as average to have solid job commitment and five times more likely than those never recognized to say they infrequently think about job hunting. Simply put, we’re all hardwired to desire feeling seen and appreciated by the people around us, so it makes sense that organizations that get recognition right see higher levels of retention, stronger engagement and greater productivity. If implemented strategically, recognition can serve to align employees to core values and leaders can more effectively reinforce key behaviors to drive business outcomes.

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Better Engagement Starts with Individualized Recognition

Today, a simple “thank you” each day won’t cut it, as 64% of employees say they’d prefer their recognition at work to be more meaningful than frequent. Meaningful recognition comes in many forms, but one way to tackle this is through meaningful rewards for a job well-done because employee rewards isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

Achievers, for instance, uses a reward-based point system to show appreciation for its employees. By doing so, employees can celebrate their wins in highly personalized ways. For example, many employees have used their points to donate to the tragedies in Ukraine and other philanthropic causes that are close to their hearts, while some bought Roomba vacuums and others, a Nespresso machine to uplevel their “home office” space.

In many scenarios, employees don’t quit their jobs—they quit their managers. Today, the number one way employees feel valued is by receiving direct recognition from their manager. So much so that 95% of respondents who would highly recommend their manager are recognized regularly and 21% of employees say they choose to stay in their current role due to the recognition they receive. In the remote workplace, it’s vital for leaders to deeply think about and regularly ask what their workers need, in order to feel that their hard work is making an impact. Managers need to ensure that recognition is intentional, meaningful and personalized.

Creating a Culture of Recognition Doesn’t Happen Overnight

While recognition is vital, many HR leaders are not taking the needed steps to train and empower their leaders to be high-impact recognizers. Today, only a small percentage of employees have received training on recognition best practices, and those that have been trained typically have only received it once. HR leaders should provide regular training on how and why to send meaningful recognitions to drive a company-wide culture of recognition.

In addition, if the budget allows, it is worth investing in an employee engagement solution that consolidates recognition and other engagement tools in one core platform. By utilizing technology, HR leaders not only create a unified employee experience but can also unlock the potential of their people data to understand and reinforce corporate priorities. With the right strategy and tools in place, business leaders will ensure their organization is set up for continued success. Companies such as Kellogg’s and Cracker Barrel are seeing incredible results with this approach to platform implementation.

Today’s era of high turnover and low engagement is an ideal time for leaders to revisit longstanding practices to ensure they’re serving the modern workforce. Since March 2020, the workplace has changed as we’ve known it for decades, and now, employees have new demands and expectations to stay satisfied at their workplace. This is a call to action for managers (and all employees alike) to go beyond a “thank you.”