Recognition Fosters Retention

Great job!  Nice work! Thanks for staying late and getting those reports in on time. Way to go! Your patience and persistence amaze me. That’s an excellent idea and time saver.  

Words of affirmation are critical to giving recognition to your team members as a leader in your department, school, or any place you are in a position of authority. Spread them about liberally but do it honestly. People love to receive praise, but they can see and feel insincerity a mile away.  If you don’t mean it, you have done exactly the opposite of what you were trying to accomplish. They won’t feel affirmed; they will likely feel patronized. Direct and immediate communication from you as a leader for your team is highly motivational and costs you nothing other than the time it took you to say those words and validate their efforts.  

 This is the third installment of my blog series on recruitment and retention.  I was planning on writing on compensation next, but as I was reviewing our previous blogs, I realized that Carissa Courtney, our Director of Sales and Marketing, had written one on compensation earlier this year. If you missed it, you can find it at

As a result, I am going to tackle the all-important area of employee recognition.  By giving your employees honest and heartfelt recognition, you are giving them a sense of value and worth in their position. So how else can we recognize our staff for the hard work they do? What should I do as a leader to give my staff what they need so they feel the meaningfulness of their job?

The first thing I think we need to do is be an honest and trustworthy leader. By following through on our commitments to what we are doing as an organization, school, or district, we give staff the confidence to know that the leaders they look up to are taking the initiative to always strive to make things better. When we do what we say we are going to do, apologize when we get it wrong, and demonstrate respect to the efforts of those around us, we are fostering trust and honesty within our team.  If people trust you and feel they can come to you with a problem without being belittled or berated for being honest, then they will bring those small problems to you before they become major issues.

I opened with words of affirmation and their value to your staff.  Even more powerful is public credit given for a contribution to the team.  Recognizing a staff member for a job well done in a staff meaning is a great feeling.  They get both the affirmation from their superiors but also the added respect of their colleagues.  To take it a step further and put that recognition in writing through a reward for excellence or letter of recognition, stating clearly how their actions were instrumental in the success of the team or district.  We all crave to be recognized for the work we do, but when I can display it on my wall in a frame or on my desk as a reminder, the motivation to continue to improve and do our best work goes way beyond that moment in a staff meeting.

Great leaders foster leadership skills in others.  Some of your staff are natural leaders and when we provide them with opportunities to develop those skills, we are recognizing them as valued employees.  These opportunities are going to vary depending on the size and nature of your department, but some examples could include adding them to committees and showing that you value their input and opinions in those situations.  Provide them with opportunities to improve their leadership skills or develop other skills they are interested in and have them bring those skills back to the team. Increase their responsibility by giving them mentorship roles for newer employees or developing policies and procedures that increase the efficiency within the team. 

Finally, promote from within your teams.  Bringing in a new employee to fill a supervisory role without considering the team that is already there, demonstrates to them that they are not considered valuable enough to fulfill that position.  Does this mean that you should always promote those on your team instead of getting outside expertise? No. But if you do bring in a new manager from outside the team, make sure you explain to the team in place your reasons for making that choice.  If you assure them that they were not passed over without a thought, but you are doing what will help all of the team win, they are more receptive to the addition than they would be had you not communicated your reasoning to them. You can even give them roles to help get the new staff member up to speed more quickly, thus giving them some ownership and responsibility.  These choices can set the tone for a very long time if they are handled well.

Provide trust and honesty. Give words of recognition and affirmation.  Value the contributions of your team and develop their skills with increased responsibility.  This fosters a team that can grow into an amazingly effective and cohesive team. By recognizing the efforts of others both large and small you are fostering an environment where people want to work and succeed. That recognition fosters the retention of your staff for years to come.

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