According to the 2017 State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. Specifically, 18% are actively disengaged and 67% are not engaged in their work (Gallup 2017).

Approximately $7 trillion is lost in productivity based on employee disengagement (Gallup 2017). Without strong leadership that include emotional intelligence, inclusion, conflict management, and coaching capabilities, employees that are indifferent to organizational goals may never reach their full performance potential.

Therefore, leaders are critical participants in the effort to implement performance management systems that include recognition programs and are:

Performance oriented



In addition, unhappy employees often leave their job because of a poor relationship with a manager. Talented managers can leverage positive relationships to maximize productivity. In addition, talented managers seek to understand an employee’s sources of basic motivation, skills, and goals that keep them focused towards achieving their goals (Gallup 2017).

RECOGNITION is an approach to showing appreciation and acknowledgement for accomplishing goals. Traditionally, there are several methods to demonstrate appreciation, such as holiday parties, luncheons, service awards ceremonies, gifts, rewards, perks, bonuses, certificates, and paid time-off. Of course, recognition is not perceived as overrated when it is quantifiably measured. However, if a traditional recognition program is the only method used to show appreciation towards retaining talent and optimizing performance, it may be perceived as overrated? Traditional recognition options may be a limited value-added as a singular program that results in short-term impact with scheduled events, tangible rewards, glimpses of joy, and memorable photos.

Traditional recognition sounds appealing when showing appreciation is the only planned goal. More so, traditional recognition programs are associated with key words, such as “trophies” and “short-term”. Please do not misunderstand the message here today. Traditional recognition programs can add value, but an employee’s discretionary level of work, ideas, and input/output may not reach its full potential. So how do you positively influence discretionary work and retain talent?

The Competitive Advantage

To optimize performance and retention both traditional and contemporary programs are necessary. Contemporary recognition for the purposes of this article relate to behavioral norms within an organization’s culture. Contemporary recognition behaviors may not be as easily identified as recognition because the delivery is infused in the culture of an organization. It is the “expected conduct” or “the principles of business conduct”. It also gives life to the voices, ideas, and performance of direct reports consistently at all levels in an organization. Contemporary Recognition help with having the competitive advantage which includes the following best practices:

1. Leaders holding themselves and others accountable to behaviors that demonstrate inclusion, equity, mutual respect, and support (technology, tools, and resources).

2. Emotional connections with employees (non-cash value added). Promote employees being a part of business accomplishments. Celebrate the wins together. Have family-oriented events. Build trusting work relationships.

3. Professional exposure in meetings and Summits. Ongoing and frequent feedback/coaching (receiving and delivering). Do not wait until the annual performance review process.

4. Active listening and action-oriented interest with ideas, concerns, and ambitions of direct reports.

5. Public and/or private acknowledgement for ideas and performance. Encouragement to develop value added ideas to fruition.

6. Public and/or private acknowledgement of individual contributions to organizational achievements such as productivity, sales, savings, customer satisfaction, improved processes, technological advancement, people development, and change management.

7. Continuous Individual development. Employees will know that you not only recognize their work, but you also value it when you invest in their professional development.

8. Utilization of KPIs; Alignment of recognition programs. Leaders linking the cost of recognition programs to the ROI and the VOI (value of the investment).

9. Peer-to-peer recognition

10. Open dialogue with employees about preferred recognition.

Recognition is not a “one size fits all” or a “cookie cutter” methodology. Its imperative to have open dialogue with employees individually about their preferred recognition based on inspiration and motivation. If your goal is to measure and track the ROI (financial/tangible) and the VOI (financial & intangible) of employee recognition programs, then you will want to include the KPIs or metrics listed below. Just keep in mind that external factors may skew results.

1. Turnover rate of your high-potential and/or skilled employees. Be able to sort by department, reasons, and month/year.

2. Absenteeism rate

3. Overtime hours

4. Productivity: throughput, sales, quality of performance, performance quantity, overtime hours/$

5. Financial: profit

6. Safety

7. Number and type of employee grievances

8. Employee survey utilizing a Likert scale that include questions related to employee level of satisfaction, such as recognition, level of engagement, probability to resign, desire to retain employment with current employer, reasons for likelihood of resigning, desire for upward mobility, reasons for not desiring upward mobility, leadership treatment, peer treatment, culture, environment, benefits, training, advancement opportunities, resources, and equity in the workplace.

In summary recognition programs that focus on performance management with the help of talented and trained leaders will have a competitive advantage. Specifically, leaders will be able to help drive the following:

1. Increase employee engagement

2. Retain talent

3. Reduce cost of turnover and lost productivity

4. Reduce overtime cost related to high absenteeism/turnover

5. Reduce time taken for grievances

6. Reduce incidents and cost related to safety

7. Increase profit and employee discretionary effort

8. Increase productivity and work quality

9. Increase strength of the culture

10. Increase confidence in leadership – building cohesive relationships/teams

Thank you for reading my article today. If you enjoyed the article and would like information on this topic or other topics that can help you as a leader and/or your business, please go to to set up a brief consultation.


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