When was the last time you were able to retain your top talent because you recognized them well? When was the last time someone gave up on a better company, role, and compensation, career because they felt they were recognized in their organization?
The answer will depend on what is the definition of “recognition” in an organization. Traditionally and unfortunately even today, the idea of recognition is restricted to ceremonies, certificates and reward points. Monthly, Quarterly and Yearly programs happen to the idea of recognition for most organizations. Are these enough for engaging your top talent? Are they really expected to act as retention tools?
The answer is NO. They won’t and they shouldn’t because the traditional philosophy of recognition is not only flawed but also redundant to a large extent.
Today, recognition is about “recognizing” your top talent to “focus, nurture and help them grow”. It’s not an event, but an evolutionary process where the individual is engaged with a vision in mind. It involves trusting them with high-value projects, giving them visibility, offering them on and off the job learning and most of all, show them a career path for the next 2-3 years.
Dan Pink, the celebrated motivation psychologist, shared some very intriguing insights on the “theory of motivation”. A research done by MIT showed, as long as the tasks used involved mechanical skills, bonuses worked as expected. The higher incentive leads to higher the output. However, something interesting happened the moment tasks called for even rudimentary cognitive skills, the larger award leads to poorer performance.
How did they defy the laws of behavioral physics? And this is not anomalous, this experiment was repeated over and over across sections and geographies and results were consistent.
The biggest insight that came through was that the moment the task gets more complicated requires some conceptual, creative thinking. Money is a motivator at work, only if you don’t pay them enough. If you pay people enough money to take the issue of money off the work table, 3 factors lead to better performance. Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. If the conventional tools are incapable of even motivating people, how do we expect them to retain our top talent?
So, what’s the way forward? “Total Recognition Concept” – A wholesome approach to “recognition”. Move from a buffet approach to A-la-carte approach that offers customization depending on the talent pool. What works for sales may not for finance and vice-versa. Periodic recognition platforms have their space and they serve a certain purpose and hence they need to continue, however, the “Total Recognition Concept” will include “fast track program, global exposure opportunities, challenging projects, autonomy and much more.
Young working parents are often supported by organizations with child care facilities, work from home, domestic allowances to recognize their need for finding balance and manage work and personal life. All these special benefits can form a part of an organization’s “Total Recognition Concept”
The organization mix is going through a metamorphosis. With Gen X and Gen Y working within the same group, the ideas of recognition are quite diverse. So, while the above work well with the Gen Y, the Gen X still values aspects of loyalty and experience. Hence, loyalty recognition for tenured folks, child education sponsorship and even forced vacation breaks are going to remain a crucial part of “Total Recognition Program”
One of the new additions to the recognition menu has been the introduction of ESOPs. The start-up decade augmented this option as one of the most sought-after forms of recognition. Millennials managing critical roles are given stock options, making them an integral part of the company performance. While this may not have immediate returns, they have long-term benefits and act as a great retention tool. This also creates a sense of inclusiveness which is a great attribute of an effective recognition program.
Having said so, none of the above are a substitute for the softer and qualitative aspects of recognition. A heartfelt appreciation, a culture of calling out every small little effort and cheering up the team after a bad month is irreplaceable and the essentials of a good recognition program. The need of “being valued” and “cared for” is and will be the core of every successful recognition program. Leadership is nothing but the choice of words and what happens in 29 days of an individual’s life creates far more impact than the big day of the ceremony.
The war for talent will become stiffer with the inception of AI & Machine learning. “Total Recognition Concept” is going to be a key part of organization strategy to engage and retain top talent. Total Recognition will not be completed without the opportunities of “career” and moments of “care” in them. It may not be completely wrong to say that rewards are becoming an inseparable part of the recognition. The two have merged seamlessly and complement each other to make it an extremely potent tool for retention. However, like with every innovation, the ‘law of diffusion of innovation’ will apply. The innovators and early adopters will have a significant advantage over those who fail to make this paradigm shift.