Topic: Leadership


How to Retain Employees Through Culture and Recognition

Insights from

Updated on 

April 24, 2024






In the past few years, millions of employees around the world have helped to shift what people expect from their jobs. Reports indicate it may be due in part to inadequate salaries, limited career advancement, poor work-life balance, and general unhappiness with management or the company.

As employees drive new expectations for their careers and workplace culture, employers have to consider what their companies actually have to offer the best talent on the market. If you feel like your organization is falling behind and struggling to retain exceptional workers, it’s probably a good time to assess your company culture and see how a structured employee recognition program can help.

Here are some strategies to help you improve retention no matter where your company is at.

First, it’s helpful to understand why employees would want to leave. Forbes identified five leading reasons why employees choose to leave a job:

  1. No clear career path
  2. Stress or lack of resources
  3. Health and family matters
  4. Work/life balance
  5. Money

How to create an employee retention strategy

To retain top employees, employers must implement effective employee retention strategies that support what workers need. Instead of doing the bare minimum to retain employees, successful employee retention strategies should focus on multiple areas of the work experience that are proven to combat high turnover rates and keep employees longer.

The best employee retention strategies address the reasons employees are leaving the organization. Are employees unhappy with their chances for advancement? Are they less engaged or unhappy with the work? Did they have a negative experience with a manager or co-worker? Or is a toxic workplace culture the issue?

7 strategies to retain employees longer

No single strategy can guarantee employees will choose to stay longer with the organization. But modern leadership principles, combined with focused drivers of retention will not only help reduce the turnover rate, but also increase the organization’s productivity. Consider the following seven strategies to improve the employee experience and help employees want to stay.

1. Immerse employees in the culture

Large businesses and small businesses alike continually find that company culture is a significant contributor to how employees feel and whether they are satisfied with their jobs. When it comes to attracting and retaining talent, a Glassdoor study of 615,000 participants found that what matters more than money is culture and values followed by leadership. Building an organizational culture where employees can thrive can do more to help employees want to stay than almost any other factor.

When onboarding employees, HR leaders can do more than completing the hiring process and educating new hires about their health benefits and 401k plan. They can introduce new team members to the workplace culture and let them know how that culture will help them prosper throughout their careers at the organization.

2. Focus on making connections

According to our Global Culture Report, a working environment where employees form strong connections to their team, leader, and organization leads to employees staying with their organization longer. More specifically, the odds of employees wanting to stay with their company six years or more increases 175% when connections are strong.

Leaders can encourage greater connection by focusing on efforts such as team building, holding regular one-to-ones, and connecting people’s work to the purpose of the organization. They can also check in frequently with employees and connect through meaningful conversations.

The odds of employees wanting to stay with their company six years or more increases 175% when connections are strong.
—2022 Global Culture Report, Connection, O.C. Tanner

3. Recognize and appreciate employees

It’s no secret that employee recognition plays a significant role in keeping employees happy and motivated to stay with the organization. This is most effectively done through a formal employee recognition program, such as Culture Cloud, that allows employees to appreciate great work as it happens through the apps they use every day, including peer-to-peer recognition. When companies celebrate together, employees are 20 times more likely to feel connected and want to stay.

To remain highly effective, employee recognition should be a constant, integrated element of the organization’s culture. Employee appreciation also works best when it is personalized to fit each employee. Most importantly, it should always connect employees to purpose, accomplishment, and one another.

4. Provide ongoing training opportunities

Organizations demonstrate that they are committed to employees’ long-term career paths when they offer opportunities for professional development. This can include company training programs, tuition support for college courses/degrees, trade shows, software certification, and even mentoring.

Harvard Business Review notes a strategy of designing development into everyday experiences. For example, one organization promoted weekly peer-mentoring sessions between people in adjacent functions that regularly worked together. These cross-functional sessions proved to help employees become more engaged in learning new skills and open new career paths. As further support, our 2022 Global Culture Report shows that when leaders introduce employees to mentors, the odds of satisfying connection needs improve 132%.

5. Provide work-life balance

Elevating the wellbeing of workers and creating a healthy work-life balance can make a significant difference in how employees feel about job satisfaction in their place of work. Our 2022 Global Culture Report found that 76% of workers are experiencing some level of employee burnout. A decreased work-life balance, feeling like work has a negative effect on health, or a decreased sense of belonging can increase risk of burnout by 22%, 40%, and 56%, respectively.

Employers can help prevent burnout by helping employees create clear boundaries between work and home life, especially when they are working remotely.

So why aren’t employees fulfilled in their current jobs? Three big reasons: Not enough challenge or growth, not feeling appreciated or connected, and a lack of ownership or impact. A deficiency in any of these can prevent people from experiencing fulfillment at work.
—2023 Global Culture Report, Finding Fulfillment, O.C. Tanner

6. Offer the freedom to work remotely

In recent years, employers had to offer more flexible work and make new policies on work from home or hybrid work. Many of these new work models are showing positive results and promising findings for employee fulfillment and retention.

Our research found that the more freedoms for remote or hybrid work actually improved employee experiences. We saw a 41% increased likelihood of employee engagement when hybrid workers had flexibility in where and how they work. A good practice to improve the employee experience for hybrid work is to reserve remote time for getting work done after collaborating and solving problems in the office.

7. Deliver peak experiences

What do we mean by peak experiences? These are the bigger, more impactful events that build lasting connections and lead to greater employee satisfaction in the workplace. Modern leaders who act as mentors, advocate for employee development, and connect employees to meaningful opportunities help employees (and themselves) feel a greater sense of purpose, accomplishment, and connection to each other. Additionally, our research found a 7.5x increased likelihood of improving the employee experience when an organization meets an employee’s needs of autonomy, connection, and mastery.

Some examples of peak experiences might be leading out on a big project, receiving a company-wide recognition for making a significant contribution, or a chance to exercise an employee’s unique skills in a new way. Experiences like these lead to greater employee morale and feelings of success.

Create retention strategies that fit

The most successful employee retention strategies address the reasons why people are leaving. HR retention strategies that are the best for retention at one organization may not be the best strategies for another. For example, you can retain employees longer by addressing compensation and benefits if they are lagging compared to the competition. Or if your employee turnover stems from the lack of internal promotions, then you can create an employee retention strategy to address career advancement.

The bottom line? Focus on strengthening and reinforcing your workplace culture. Then implement strategies that will provide the kinds of employee experiences that your people are looking for. Give them meaningful work and encourage regular and meaningful recognition for employees who do great work.

O.C. Tanner’s team of employee tenure experts can help you assess your retention challenges, share best practices from other top companies, and help you craft a solution to keeping more of your best employees. For a free consultation, talk to us.

About The AUTHOR:

related Resources

Here’s Why You Don’t Want To Miss the Influence Greatness HR Conference

Attend O.C. Tanner’s unique employee recognition and workplace culture conference, Influence Greatness, to unlock insights from leaders and peers in the HR industry.

Why Practical Empathy Is the Skill Your Workplace Needs Right Now

What is practical empathy and what does it look like in the workplace? Get insights and best practices from CHRO, Mindi Cox.

What Does It Mean to Be an Empathetic Leader?

Explore a new model for empathetic leadership—practical empathy—and learn what it means to be an empathetic leader in the modern workplace.

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.