I was speaking about retention strategies at an HR conference when an audience member asked if employee service recognition worked. The image that immediately popped into my head was of those little lapel pins cluttered with the business logo and the milestone year of service – 5 years, 10 years, etc. In my head, I was thinking, “Who works that long at any one job anymore?” My other thought was, “I don’t want more junk in my house.” With these front and center in my mind, I responded that service recognition wasn’t a motivator for retaining employees; full stop.
For a more thoughtful response to the idea of service recognition, I would expand with a few key questions for consideration:
- Is it appropriate to reward everyone for staying long term?
- Do all employees continue to contribute or increase their contribution to the organization over time?
Retaining employees is certainly more efficient than recruiting new employees and training them. Some studies suggest costs as high as 150% of the annual salary… and that’s when a good replacement is hired and you’re not recruiting multiple times for the same position. But saving on that cost doesn’t mean employee retention trumps merited recognition. (Does anyone else cringe with the word “trump” these days???) Rather than recognition for service-time employers need to consider service-contribution. It is more involved than glancing at a spreadsheet with hire dates, but it is a better way to keep employees engaged (actively contributing) and motivating them to stay with your business long term. Then you need to find out what recognition will work for the employee. Two questions to consider are:
- Have you asked your employees how they want to be recognized?
- How do you want to be motivated to stay long term with your organization?
Service time recognition was a great way to recognize employees in the past because people were hired into full-time permanent jobs. In today’s workforce where alternate and short-term work arrangements are so common and contribution is more than simply following set procedures repeatedly, employee recognition is far more complex than service pins alone. But if your employees want service pins, by all means, give them service pins! They can lend a sense of belonging to employees, plus provide great branding your workplace.