According to a 2015 employee recognition survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Globoforce, organizations with programs that recognize and reward employees for their time and contribution experience better business results. The report also states that employee turnover, employee engagement, and succession planning are the top three challenges that organizations are facing today. One of the ways that organizations are trying to overcome these challenges is through Years of Service programs.
As CEO of my organization, I initiated an annual loyalty awards program in 2012, in which employees were rewarded for not only their performance but also their loyalty to the organization. The reward was directly proportional to their tenure with the company, irrespective of their position in the organization. I believe that such annual celebrations acknowledge and appreciate the commitment that employees have to their jobs and the organization.
Yet after continuing with the program for five years, I came to believe that a years of service program shouldn’t be a one-off event, but an ongoing process that is part of the organizational culture. This belief is also reflected in the SHRM survey; employees thought the main objectives of the Years of Service program are to:
- make employees feel appreciated
- increase employees’ satisfaction
- renew emotional commitment between employee and organization
- raise employee engagement
- build employee confidence and pride.
Although 74 percent of the respondents said their organizations had such programs, only 22 percent rated their program as excellent, while 47 percent rated their program as good and 31 percent rated it as fair or poor. The most commonly cited reasons for a poor rating were inadequate reward selection, lack of impact on employees, inconsistent experience among employees, and an impersonal or infrequent program.
Reading the SHRM survey report enabled me to re-evaluate our program: to what extent it has succeeded, and how it has helped us establish a culture of loyalty and motivate employees to stay? We asked 40 of our employees who had been with us for more than five years what makes them stick around. Of the 10 reasons given, the top three were:
- There are more opportunities for learning and career growth.
- They find their job challenging and exciting.
- They feel valued, recognized, and respected.
Their responses echo the sentiments of respondents to the SHRM survey. There is no foolproof formula for loyalty. Keeping people from leaving and engaging people who stay on is an ongoing process, deeply rooted in the culture and values of the company. A year-end celebration isn’t a substitute for everyday behavior. Unless you carefully and consistently balance all these elements, you cannot stop turnover, nor can you effectively engage with employees.
In the SHRM survey, when asked what should be done to improve their years of service program, employees suggested that the program should provide a more inspiring experience for employees, with senior leaders, managers, and colleagues getting more involved in the program. They also wished that the awards were of better quality and selection. Some wished that they could share the experience with their family.
Because we are a small company of 120 employees, it is not difficult for senior leaders to be closely associated with the program. Every year we try to improve on how we reward employees, to ensure that it is not a mechanical and impersonal experience but a heartwarming inspirational event, where employees share their success stories and memories with their families and the organization.
It is heartening to learn that our experience reiterates the findings of the SHRM survey: Organizations need a well-planned years of service program that effectively promotes employee motivation and encourages employee retention and engagement.