Why Employee Retention Means More Than Just Service Awards

Jane Sarles Larson
Jane Sarles Larson

Gold watch performance recognition award

If your job is unfulfilling, there isn’t a service award in the world that will make you want to stick around another five years. The promise of a gold watch or wall plaque in a few years won’t make you stay.

Service awards have more impact when they’re a part of a larger, comprehensive plan to keep your employees engaged and motivated. And that’s a great opportunity for employers.

Today, employee retention programs need a multi-faceted approach to keep team members engaged and involved. The term “job embeddedness” summarizes the necessity of this approach well.

According to a WorldatWork employee retention study, when people are embedded in their job, companies see a decline in employee turnover. As a key metric in our understanding of employee turnover, job embeddedness touches on the collection of forces that influence employee retention and offers a method of understanding why people stay in an organization.

Job embeddedness is broken into three dimensions:

  • Links, the extent to which individuals have formal or informal connections to other people in the community/organization;
  • Fit, an employee’s perceived compatibility or comfort with community/organization;
  • And Sacrifice, the perceived cost of material or psychological benefits that would be forfeited if they left.

While addressing all three of these dimensions is important to successful employee wellbeing and engagement programs, sacrifice is key to employee retention.

Companies want their employees to feel like they’d be missing out on something huge if they turned in their two weeks’ notice. To ramp up the perceived cost of benefits that would be forfeited, smart companies are taking a holistic approach—rewarding their employees for a job well done, even for things outside their time on the clock.

To revamp your employee program and address employee retention issues on a more holistic, comprehensive scale, make sure your program offers these two key components:


Offer Multiple Employee Engagement Initiatives

Employee engagement drives the growth of your company. But engagement is a personal concept—what keeps Mark engaged at work might not be effective for Lauren or Miles.

When you create multiple ways for your team members to be engaged in their work—service awards, physical wellness, training courses, volunteering and more—you’ll see an uptick in engagement.

According to this 2013 article from Gallup, high levels of employee engagement are directly connected to performance in nine business areas:

  • Profitability
  • Productivity
  • Turnover
  • Safety incidents
  • Patient safety incidents
  • Quality
  • Customer loyalty
  • Shrinkage
  • Absenteeism

And the statistics don’t lie:

  • According to a WorldatWork employee recognition study, as the number of results-driven employee programs grow (from one program to four), so does the voluntary turnover rate.
  • And, according to the same study, as those programs become more embedded in your organization’s culture, their perceived effect grows as well.

Point Pooling

If you’ve already taken a more holistic approach to employee wellbeing and engagement—great!

However, having multiple, disparate point-earning programs can have an unsatisfactory result. This is because the motivational principle behind points isn’t quite as strong when they can’t be pooled together to purchase something larger.

Think of it this way:

In his company’s program, Tom earned:

  • 5 points in Initiative A
  • 10 points in Initiative B
  • and 15 Points in Initiative C

In his program, Tom can only purchase items worth 5, 10 or 15 points, respectively. He feels a lower level of engagement with the program—he’d have to make large strides to succeed in a single initiative to earn a larger award.

In her company’s program, Kenisha earned:

  • 5 points in Initiative A
  • 10 points in Initiative B
  • and 15 Points in Initiative C

In her program, Kenisha can pool her points together to purchase a larger item worth 40 points. She’s more engaged with the program because she knows that each initiative in the program contributed, and continues to contribute to, her overall success.

The impact of multiple initiatives is best felt when the ability to consolidate earnings between those initiatives exists.

More than that, the motivational principle behind cumulative points is tied to the ability to choose awards, rather than providing a “one-size-fits-all” award. The more points one gains, the greater number of items one can choose from.

Participants who set their sights on a high-end award will more likely be involved in a program as they work towards earning enough points to achieve their desired award.

But still, complications remain. Consolidating your employee wellbeing and engagement initiatives can be a difficult undertaking, and many companies find themselves lacking the resources, time and expertise to build such a management platform.

If you want an easier way to manage your employee programs, consider an employee experience solution that addresses engagement, productivity and profit from a single, streamlined platform.

Jane Sarles Larson

Jane Sarles Larson

As the Research Manager for ITA Group’s Marketing Strategy, Jane is on the forefront of market research and thought leadership. Her interest in neuroscience and how it applies to human behavior and engagement has led to the development of ITA Group’s approach to motivation called Motivology. Her 30+ years of international advertising, sales and marketing experience is second only to her knowledge of dark chocolate.