Most major corporations focus their employer branding efforts on having a “positive company culture.” Some firms, like Lyft and Netflix, go even further–marketing themselves as having a counter-culture office atmosphere that stands out to potential employees as new and different. But the truth is, culture isn’t the end goal of these internal branding schemes. The true aim is much more tangible: higher employee retention rates.
Employee retention is one of the greatest challenges CEOs face going into 2020. A high-slack labor market combined with unprecedented unemployment rates make employees worth more than the actual jobs they’re hired to do. Companies must rise to the occasion somehow, and usually decide to increase wages, bolster benefits packages, or offer longevity bonuses in hopes of attracting talent that will stick around for more than two years.
An effective employee retention program has the potential to produce better results than all of these strategies combined.
The Power of Strategic Employee Recognition
Most companies have some sort of employee rewards program in place. Perhaps you have a President’s Club travel program set up for your sales team, or a points system that provides your employees with ongoing rewards. While programs are a great start, they don’t offer the best ROI when it comes to retention and production, two factors that are crucial when it comes to overall company profitability.
The problem with most standard employee rewards programs is two-fold. First, they’re not strategically designed with the specific needs of your company in mind. They’re standard rewards awarded on a standard (usually annual) schedule, with a standard number of winners allowed.
Second, and more importantly, most employee rewards programs only motivate the top 5% of your employees… and the top performers in your company are used to earning rewards. They’re already getting “employee of the month” awards at every company they’ve ever worked for. They’re not going to be motivated by standard rewards. The other 95% are completely ignored, never really seeing a tangible recognition of their constant hard work.
Strategic employee retention programs are designed to motivate and incentivize 100% of your employees, from the entry-level marketing associates up to the product managers. They’re created from scratch, with high-value reward items that mean a lot more to your employees than incentive travel or cash bonuses. Most importantly, they give your team members what they really crave: frequent public recognition. Over time, this kind of program has the potential to drive your company’s retention rates into a way more healthy range.
How to Implement a Successful Employee Retention Program
The best employee retention programs are custom-designed to fit the needs and goals of each company. This strategic process takes time, and there are no shortcuts. Let’s dive in.
Step 1: Establish Company Metrics
When it comes to raising employee retention rates, metrics really matter. As a first step, identify the successes that would mean the most to your company’s mission. For a telecommunications company like Comcast, the most important goal could be improved customer experience. Therefore, they might choose to measure satisfaction scores after technician appointments and first call resolutions with the customer service team. Choose metrics that matter to each of your teams, and make sure they all align closely with your company-wide goals.
Step 2: Set Employee-First Goals
Now that we’ve got overall metrics established, it’s time to set individual employee goals. Consider starting this process with your employees rather than enforcing top-down goals from management. Invite employees on each team to set collaborative or individual goals that make sense for their particular role—and establish several unique tiers of goals like this. A great employee retention program involves goals that are increasingly difficult, yet frequently achievable.
Step 3: Choose High-Value Rewards
It’s time to differentiate the rewards you give employees for longevity vs the rewards you give employees for meeting their goals. Your longest-lasting employees already expect a raise, or a five-year bonus, once they pass that crucial anniversary. An award or a gift item won’t incentivize them at this point in the game. Instead, refocus your company-wide incentives to be tied directly to goal achievement. Select non-monetary items that come with high social currency value—like custom uniforms, branded items, or name brand gear—and award these items strategically in line with metrics-related achievements.
Step 4: Maintain An Ongoing Program
When establishing an employee retention program, the strategic planning stage takes the most front-loaded effort—but the ongoing maintenance is where most companies fail. Your rewards system needs to be so fully integrated into your company that employees write about it when they leave reviews on Glassdoor. They talk about it to their families at home, and with their peers at networking events. In order to see significant results and secure your chance at a positive ROI, you need to maintain a program where individuals meet new goals and receive new rewards every few months for a number of years. With proper maintenance, a program like this could incentivize an employee to stay when they’d otherwise start looking elsewhere.
Take Action Now
Companies who try to revamp their corporate culture know that these efforts take time to really go into effect. The same expectation should go for employers who launch brand-new employee recognition programs. We’re playing the long game here. There are no shortcuts to increasing retention rates—but the effort will certainly not go to waste. Over time, as you see turnover costs start to decline, you’ll be grateful you put in the time now to make your company a highly desirable place for employees new and old.
Inproma is an industry-leading employee rewards firm with over ten years’ experience designing employee retention programs for corporate clients. We help companies design, implement, and maintain high-caliber rewards systems that drive results in employee engagement, productivity, and retention. If you don’t have the bandwidth to launch a custom rewards program internally, we can help. Let’s talk.