There’s a fairly inexpensive way companies can save millions in employee turnover costs

May 20, 2022, 12:30 PM UTC
Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell in NBC's The Office) is not the best example of a boss who does a good job recognizing his employees' accomplishments.
NBC/Getty Images

Your mother always told you to say ‘thank you.’ That’s not just good manners—it turns out that simple phrase can have a real impact in the workplace. 

Having a strong culture of employee recognition can go a long way toward helping companies retain employees, according to a new joint report from Gallup and Workhuman released Wednesday. The report is based on a survey conducted in February of more than 7,600 U.S. adults who were employed full-time or part-time.

When managers take the time to acknowledge accomplishments, thank workers for their contributions, and give praise and credit for ideas, employees are four times more likely to feel connected and engaged. And they’re less likely to have one foot out the door, looking for other job opportunities.

On the other hand, 74% of workers who only receive recognition from their manager a few times a year report they aren’t planning to be at that job in a year. They’re also far more likely to be disengaged, which affects productivity and performance. 

That can add up to real money. A company with 10,000 workers that has a strong culture of recognition could save up to $16 million annually in turnover costs, the report finds. 

“By implementing and nurturing a strong and strategic recognition program, many problems organizations face could be overcome. Recognition is no longer a nice-to-have program, but rather a business imperative,” Chris French, Workhuman executive vice president, said in a statement. 

But there’s typically a disconnect between what managers deem is an appropriate level of recognition and what employees say is enough. More than six in 10 workplace leaders and managers say they provide recognition at least a few times a week. Only 42% of workers reported receiving thanks or praise that often. 

Not only that, roughly 23% of employees felt their company recognized work milestones. And only 15% strongly agreed their employer routinely acknowledged birthdays, marriages, and other life events. 

Yet when an employer recognizes life events and work milestones, over 30% of workers report that they plan to stay at their current company for more than five years. 

Recognition, of course, isn’t one-size-fits-all, the report found. Implementing formal recognition systems can help prompt managers, supervisors, and co-workers make the time to offer the necessary thanks and acknowledgement. But only about one third of workers surveyed say their current employer has a formal system in place. 

Pairing financial rewards with recognition is also beneficial, the report found, with employees saying they’re more likely to see a growth path at their company when these types of monetary awards are in place. 

But employers don’t need to implement formal programs to see results. And vice versa: Simply having a program is not enough, especially if it isn’t properly utilized or integrated into the company culture. 

 “In today’s world of distributed and hybrid work, keeping employees connected and engaged is a major business priority,” French said.

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