Recognition Ideas for Every Stage of the Employee Lifecycle

You’ve done it. You’ve spent hours combing through resumes and interviewing job candidates. You’ve hired only the best employees, and you’re ready to get to work. It’s that simple, right?


Recruiting top talent and enlisting the help of people who are passionate about the things you value is an excellent way to set your business up for success. However, your job isn’t over once you’ve hired the recruit. The hardest part is yet to come.

A Forbes study proved that companies that foster a “recognition-rich culture” enjoy a 31 percent lower voluntary turnover rate than companies with poor employee recognition programs.

As your employees mature in their positions, your job is to make sure they have everything they need to succeed. There are six stages of an employee lifecycle, and each stage presents a new set of challenges that affect employee happiness, productivity, and retention. Using recognition, you can develop a retention strategy that makes employees feel valued and appreciated at every stage.


Stages One and Two: Outreach and Recruitment

The employee lifecycle begins at outreach. This is the very first opportunity you have to make an impression on a potential job candidate. As you are going through resumes and meeting potential hires, use social media channels, or email to reach out and get to know job candidates better.

Recruitment is all about courting candidates you are most interested in hiring for your company. Deciding to accept a job offer can be stressful for both the employer and the potential employee. Potential employees want to know that they are working for companies that share similar passions, values, and ideas. Show candidates, you are strongly interested in that you value your relationships with employees and take time to connect with them on a personal level. Connect and communicate with them during the recruitment process. Answer questions and show that you can give individualized attention when addressing concerns.

This type of recognition shows employees in the outreach and recruitment stage that they are already a valuable part of your company. By taking the time to speak with them one on one outside of the stressful interview atmosphere, you are easing their concerns and setting them up for an enriching career path.



Stage Three: Onboarding

Once a job candidate has accepted a job offer, it’s time to set them up for success within your company. How you introduce new hires to your workplace culture can make or break their commitment to staying with your company. Onboarding is a great time to introduce new hires to company policies, procedures, and any performance expectations they should expect. It’s also a great time to welcome them to your company and make them feel like a valued part of your employee base.

Recognize new employees on day one! Send them a welcome letter or ecard expressing your excitement and thanks that they have chosen to join your company. Consider gifting them with an employee welcome basket that includes a company shirt, coffee mug, desk gadgets, and office supplies. Don’t forget to include a map of the building and a week one itinerary outlining training session times and important meetings. It can be tough being the new employee; give them a tour of the building and introduce them to other employees throughout the day.

Invite new hires to complete an Employee Recognition Survey to learn more about their hobbies, likes, preferences, and how they want to be recognized. Use their answers to engage them through the company’s recognition software or during employee celebrations.

Continue to make new hires more comfortable throughout their first month by regularly checking in to see how they are doing and answer any questions they may have. Invite them to be part of company events and celebrations. Be sure to recognize them for anything they have accomplished in the first few weeks of joining your company.



Stage Four: Performance

Employees who have been with the company for several months or even years can begin to feel as if they are part of a never-changing routine. They are set in their ways and complete their daily job tasks with little to no incentive to go above and beyond their normal rate of production.

Company performance begins to dwindle when employees aren’t inspired to achieve more than just average expectations. It is at this stage in the employee lifecycle that your employers begin to crave more from their work environment. They want to know that the work they are doing is meaningful and appreciated. They want to know that if they work harder, they’ll be rewarded for their efforts and recognized for their achievements that go beyond expectations.

At this part of the lifecycle, employees need engagement. Your company can achieve this by practicing various recognition techniques. There are several types of recognition programs designed to foster employee engagement at every stage of employment.

Years of Service Awards: Recognize and thank long-standing employees for their ongoing commitment to your company with awards that highlight their achievements.

Gamification Programs: Who says the workplace can’t be fun? With a gamification program, you can challenge employees at every stage of employment to work harder and achieve more. When they’ve met their goals, the program allows you to recognize employees with gifts, merchandise, and other incentives.

Points-based Programs: Keep employees engaged through the daily use of a points-based recognition program that encourages communication, social sharing, goal setting and tracking, and more. Employees earn points they can redeem for merchandise and incentives.

Events and Celebrations: While not as formal as a dedicated recognition program, special events and celebrations still hold their place when it comes to keeping employees engaged and thriving. Whether hosting a monthly pizza party to recognize employees celebrating a birthday, hosting an awards dinner to show annual appreciation for the entire staff, or gifting everyone with some company swag to boost their spirits, giving your employees time to relax and enjoy the workplace is a great way to show appreciation. They’ll return to their tasks refreshed and ready to take on more after a much-needed break and time to connect with their peers.

Through recognition and engagement, you can help employees stay at peak performance. Several recognition programs have been known to inspire employees to go beyond expectations and reach goals not previously considered.



Stage Five: Development

No doubt you have some employees who have been with the company for a good length of time. They have moved out of being a new hire and enjoyed serving your company as an established skilled team member. At the development stage of the employee lifecycle, employees begin to seek new challenges and opportunities to flex their skills and learn new things. This is the right time for employers to work with employees to identify professional goals and set a path for continued success.

Remember that Employee Recognition Survey they filled out during onboarding? If you aren’t periodically referring to that document to discover ways to help your employees grow within their expressed interests, you’re not helping them to develop as professionals. Your employees like challenges, and they want to take on opportunities that allow them to spread their wings and reach new goals. Not investing in employee education and continuous training could mean a drop in retention numbers as skilled employees move on to find bigger and better.

Employees at this stage need your support when it comes to taking on the challenges of going back to school, attending training events, and even taking on new responsibilities at home.

It’s important to provide regular assessments and discuss future plans with your employees as they grow with the company. Take into account their personal goals and the things they are involved with outside the workplace. Find ways to incorporate your employee’s interests in the work environment and recognize employees for the value they bring to the company both in and outside the workplace. Happy, satisfied employees are more likely to talk about the positive things happening in your company and recommend customers to utilize your services. Employees who feel valued by their employers are also great at recruiting new talent to the team!



Stage Six: Off-boarding

Employees leave jobs for various reasons. They could be moving with their family, retiring, or taking a new position elsewhere. Regardless, the off-boarding stage of the employee lifecycle is still important. At this stage, you have the opportunity to discuss the employee’s work history, their likes, dislikes, the positives of the company, and hear any suggestions they may have about future employees fulfilling their role. This time can feel bittersweet, especially if the employee is talented and hardworking.

Taking to properly off-board employees is an important part of company growth and retention in that it gives you, the employer, the opportunity to learn how you could have improved the work environment to ensure continued employee satisfaction. This is not applicable in all cases, but as employees leave for new opportunities, it is important to reflect on their time with your company and note the many pros and cons they speak to in their own words.

The off-boarding stage is also a great opportunity to thank and recognize the employee for their service to your company and see them off positively and warmly. The type of recognition you give should depend on the reason for the employee’s departure. Retirements should be recognized in celebration and used as an opportunity to highlight the employee’s contributions to the workplace as well as their accomplishments. For employees leaving for personal reasons such as a spouse relocation, new baby, or to pursue other life and career goals, take time to listen to what their future goals are and offer to lend your support. A professional letter of reference can go a long way should the employee decide to take on new career goals in the future.

In any case, when an employee leaves your company, it is an opportunity to express your appreciation and create a lasting memory that carries them into the next phase of their life or career goals. Sending employees on to their next adventure with a positive note sets the example for other staff members in their various stages of employment and assures them that you want the very best for them regardless of their decision to leave your company. Providing that last-minute recognition is something that stays with the employee and sets them up to find the same, if not more success, in their new endeavors.

Taking time to make employees feel valued at work regardless of their position in the company can increase employee engagement and reduce turnover. Employees at every stage of the employee lifecycle are deserving of recognition. Show your employees at all levels that their work genuinely matters to the company. Retention and recognition often go hand in hand when it comes to stimulating company growth. Consider creating a retention strategy that includes recognition and allows your company to reap the benefits of both.

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