What 30,000 Thank You Notes Can Teach You About Retention

February 2, 2015

It seems like a no-brainer. Give employees the respect and recognition they deserve, and they’ll stick around. But, a recent study from the Harvard Business Review found that 54% of employees don’t feel respected by their bosses.

Let that sink in. More than HALF of the workforce reports regularly feeling disrespected on the job. That translates into bottom line problems for employers and recruiters alike.

Showing appreciation all year long, not just during the holidays, translates into higher retention, engagement and increased employee advocacy for your brand.

2014 was “The Year of the Employee” and 2015 will be too

Deloitte was correct in predicting that 2014 would be the “The Year of the Employee,” with top performers in charge. The firm’s Human Capital Trends report found that, due in part to the recovering economy, organizations competed for talent for the first time in five years, and retention and engagement were top priorities.

We can expect heightened competition to continue: LinkedIn’s recent Global Recruiting Trends survey revealed that companies believe competition will be one of the biggest obstacles to landing talent in 2015.

So, how do you ensure the top talent you’ve recruited isn’t lost to the competition? The HBR study found that showing respect drives two important results in an organization — a culture of high performers and low turnover. Employees who said they were treated with respect were 55% more engaged and 1.1 times more likely to stay with their organization. Fortunately, creating a culture of respect and recognition isn’t difficult, and the payoff is significant.

What you can do to increase retention rates this year

It’s common for organizations to look to bonuses and other financial rewards to motivate and recognize top performers. But Meghan Biro, CEO of TalentCulture Consulting Group, advises otherwise, arguing that it translates employee’s worth into a dollar amount.

Instead, Biro recommends approaching recognition with five things in mind:

  1. Be in the moment. If someone goes above and beyond in their work, don’t wait to recognize their effort. Be timely in your acknowledgements.
  2. Give context. Make affirmations meaningful to the big picture and bottom line by tying them back to business goals.
  3. Be appropriate in volume/scale. Match your recognition to the efforts at hand. If it’s a significant achievement, make sure the acknowledgment is as well.
  4. Be authentic, not automatic. The only thing worse than not acknowledging someone is to do it out of obligation. Be genuine and it will show.
  5. Reflect perception of value. Tying recognition only to financial rewards can have an adverse effect on the notion of value.

Campell’s Soup increases retention with 30,000 thank-you notes

Whether you’re a small business-owner, a hiring manager at a large organization or a recruiter sourcing talent, creating a culture of respect and recognition can start small.

Doug Conant, the former CEO of Campbell’s Soup, demonstrated this by showing gratitude the old-fashioned way: by writing more than 30,000 personalized thank-you notes during his tenure.

At the beginning of Conant’s leadership in 2001, Campbell’s had lost half its market share, and a high volume of layoffs led to “the worst [company engagement] ever seen among the Fortune 500.” Fast-forward to 2010 and tens of thousands of thank-you notes later, and employees not only showed loyalty, they set all-time performance records.

Little deeds like this go a long way. A friend of mine recently shared a small act that stuck with him:  As his one-year mark approached at his current company, the recruiter he worked with to land the job sent him a “Congratulations on your anniversary!” card. Flattered, he reconnected and caught up with the recruiter and speaks very highly of the agency.

With the hiring landscape looking increasingly challenging and the majority of the workforce feeling unappreciated, don’t let your new hires and top talent get away from you. Make your hires count by acknowledging, engaging and retaining them. Fortunately, it’s easy to say “thanks” – so long as you do.

*Image by Amy Gizienski

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