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InfoQ Homepage Articles The Battle for Talent Can Be Won with Employee Recognition

The Battle for Talent Can Be Won with Employee Recognition

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Key Takeaways

  • The key to retention in the workforce is meaningful recognition. Meaningful recognition requires stating how an employee specifically moved the needle, embodies unique characteristics and made a monumental difference.
  • Employees rank social recognition as more important than frequent low-monetary recognition and infrequent high-monetary recognition.
  • Workers who are regularly recognized by their managers in a way that makes them feel valued are more likely to recognize others, contributing to an overall culture of recognition.
  • Companies need to train leaders to be high-impact recognizers and advocates for the organization as whole.
  • Investing in HR tech can be the true and mighty retention driver to ensure praise doesn’t get lost on the to-do list.


It’s been 28 months since the world of work was turned on its head – and still, professionals are embracing remote work with 75% of software developers saying that they’d like to work remotely at least three days a week.

While many employees are basking in the joy of signing on from their bedrooms and home offices, some are using this newfound freedom to reevaluate their roles and life priorities, causing millions of people to jump ship from their long-standing jobs.

Today, HR leaders are often starting their morning with a resignation letter sitting in their inbox. Too frequently, their top performers are leaving for better pay and the cycle of recruitment, hiring and onboarding continues. With the impending recession making counter offers harder and harder to lay on the line, HR departments are searching for a hail mary and answers to their problems. 

Achievers' Workforce Institute recently released its 2022 State of Recognition Report which recognized and analyzed the high levels of turnover.

This report surveyed over 4,200 employees and 1,600 HR leaders across the globe. After sifting through the raw data, we found that the key to retention in the workforce came down to two words: employee recognition. And now, we welcome you to the “Great Recognition.” 

How to Get Recognition Right

It’s human nature to yearn for a sense of appreciation and belonging – and if that feeling is missing, employees will look elsewhere. So much so, more than half (57%) of employees say feeling recognized would reduce the likelihood that they would take a call from a headhunter. Today, recognition even outweighs the perception of a fair salary as a driver of employee advocacy, job commitment, and productivity. While offering employee recognition has incredible potential, it must be done right to reap the optimal results. Here’s how to build the groundwork for a culture of recognition: 

Be intentional 

Growing up, we were continually rewarded for saying, “thank you.” While a “thank you” is always nice to hear, the bliss doesn’t linger quite as long as thoughtful words of affirmation. In fact, 64% of workers admit they would prefer to receive more meaningful recognition, as opposed to more frequent recognition. This kind of recognition can be achieved by stating how an employee:

  • Specifically moved the needle 
  • Embodies unique characteristics
  • Made a monumental difference        

Given this, next time a coworker writes a clean code with a never-seen-before sense of confidence or leads a project with admirable poise, make sure you sing their praise. The feeling of accomplishment will be felt for a lasting period of time. 

Make praise public

The economy is on the rocks and most companies are prepping for the potential storm. While many managers now congratulate colleagues for a job well done with gift cards or free lunches, the budgets may no longer have the wiggle room for these types of rewards. The good news: employees ranked social recognition as most important (42%) before frequent low-monetary recognition and infrequent high-monetary recognition. So instead of a fancy lunch on the town, leaders can simply rave about their employees' work in the company staff meeting. It will go further than a crab cake.

Start at the top 

Let’s face it: Great managers are the backbone of great teams. Between the laundry list of daily to-dos, it’s vital that leaders are (virtually) patting their team members on the back – and often. Interestingly, workers who are regularly recognized by their managers in a way that makes them feel valued are more likely to recognize others, contributing to an overall culture of recognition. Undeniably, managers are the linchpin to an organization's culture – and the data illustrates their potential impact on a new level.

Invest in training

Though managers can make or break a company culture, most are not being set up for success by their organization. Shockingly, 90% of HR leaders claim they offer recognition training while only 41% of employees say they've received it. Further, only one-third of those trained were instructed on how to send a meaningful recognition. It is pertinent for companies to proactively set up training sessions, empowering leaders to be high-impact recognizers and advocates for the organization as whole. 

Lean on HR tech

Technology can turn blueprint into a moving vehicle and a waning company culture into a never-want-to-quit workplace. Our research showed the deep value of HR tech and how finding an optimized recognition platform drives real results, whereas a manual or ad hoc platform is destined to weakly support business objectives. Providing a dedicated platform allows employees to give recognition with ease, investing in HR tech can be the true and mighty retention driver to ensure praise doesn’t get lost on the to-do list. 

Having a strong company culture is a non-negotiable for many employees and job seekers, and once you put employee recognition at the heart of the business, the cheerful environment will come together with grace and longevity. For many, like PointClickCare Technologies, creating a desirable culture began with investing in a HR platform. 

How to Get Recognition Right

PointClickCare Technologies is driven to transform healthcare via a sophisticated cloud-based software that supports senior care. The CEO is a firm believer in the power of company culture, dubbing it as the singular competitive advantage for organizations of all shapes and sizes. Given this, the leadership team was on the hunt to better celebrate and encourage their 1,800+ employees – and to do so, looked to Achievers for support. 

The Challenge

Like any forward-thinking company, PointClickCare Technologies surveys their employees regularly, gathering honest feedback and making proactive changes. After reviewing the employee responses, a clear theme was reveled: people overwhelmingly value recognition and yearned for more of it. 

Almost immediately, the organization rolled out an in-house recognition system, which had limitations and operational challenges. Despite the drawbacks, the employee’s response was overwhelmingly positive. Knowing this recognition program was here to stay for the long haul, the leaders seeked out a more formal system and selected Achievers’ Employee Success Platform. 

The Solution

For PointClickCare’s program, they focused on peer-to-peer recognition and celebrating employee milestones like service anniversaries and birthdays, which was dubbed iCare. The iCare initiative was rolled out to all employees in the U.S. and Canada, with some departments even creating their own dedicated modules to reinforce meaningful behaviors specific to that particular team’s success. 

The love of the iCare initiative was quickly felt across the whole company. So much so, PointClickCare created a new employee-wide annual event - the iCare Awards. This award was created to celebrate employees who have given and received the highest number of recognitions over the past year, taking the initiative to the next level. When the awards were around the corner, employees would up their praise, with a 1,209% increase in recognitions the week prior. The event was flashy and red-carpet style, featuring in-house musical talent and an opportunity to really hone in on employee connections. 

In addition to the iCare awards, the organization also hosted company-wide town halls that celebrated service anniversaries. Also, for Employee Appreciation Week, PointClickCare chose the theme “Donut Know What We’d Do Without You” and handed out donuts to every employee at a large-scale event. The recognition platform became a cornerstone in PointClickCare’s company culture – and still remains that way to this day. 

The Impact

iCare was felt across the office and even seen in the cafeteria - with a screen displaying the recognition newsfeed daily. The Achievers platform made employees feel seen, appreciated and inspired, which bumped employee engagement by 3% in the first year (moving from 86% to 89%). The noteworthy results don’t stop there, given the platform has:

  • 66% active users
  • 99% employees that have activated their accounts
  • 100% activation across managers
  • 99% activation among individual contributors 

It’s easy for a business to get stuck in their ways and be laser focused on results, but PointClickCare knew there was more to work than metrics met. Since partnering with Achievers, the organization has been able to create a strong culture of recognition. Work is often taxing, but when your impact is expressed regularly, it makes the 40-hour work weeks more manageable (and even, more enjoyable). 

The bottom line: the battle to attract and retain talent doesn’t just lie in how much money can be offered but instead, can be won by timely and meaningful recognition. Half of employees looked for a new job in 2021 and almost as many (41%) say they will job hunt in 2022, but when your employees feel supported and appreciated, they’re unlikely to have one foot out the door. 

We’re days or months away from a recession, which has the potential to shake up the workforce once again. As we look ahead to a cloudy future, this is my call to action for leaders: tell your employees they matter, show your employees you care and don’t overlook an opportunity to reach out to a coworker to tell them you feel their impact.

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