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The impact of early recognition on turnover

Written by: John O'Brien, Vice President, Employee Performance Group
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Does recognizing your new employees early and often make a difference in an employee's intent to stay?

It’s a question worth considering as the Department of Labor statistics show that 40% of turnover occurs within the first six months of an employee’s job experience. If actively recognizing new employees contributes to reducing turnover early in an employee’s tenure, it could be a powerful way to address a huge and expensive problem.

One company decided to put this to the test. A call center that experienced a high level of turnover in the first few months of an employee’s tenure focused on establishing a culture of recognition early in the employee’s career. According to a research study on The New Rules of Engagement®, employees who receive recognition are twice as likely to feel inspired. And inspired employees are 2x more likely to stay at their jobs for the next 12 months.

The company introduced a pilot program to recognize these new employees frequently, including:


Day 1:

Welcoming new employees with branded company merchandise.

Week 1:

Having the manager send specific recognition with points. Points could be accumulated and used for a variety of merchandise and experiences.

Week 3:

Recognizing learning success with a thank you and points.

First 60 days:

Recognizing completion of training with points.

Month 3:

Ongoing recognition with a gamification component and points for positive results/successes.

Month 6:

Celebration email for this milestone anniversary along with a gift selection to reinforce the employee's value to the company.


Managers received nudges to recognize their employees along their journey to show support and reinforce new employees’ contributions to the company.

This strategic onboarding plan delivered great results. A positive correlation existed between employee recognition and retention. In fact, turnover was 4x lower among employees with the highest volume of recognitions that were given with awards (points towards merchandise and experiences) compared to those with the lowest volume.

With the level of job openings at record highs, many companies are working to retain their employees. Developing a specific plan focused on new hires helps reduce the rate of early exits (within the first six months of employment). Recognition and learning play an important role.

Three steps to get started:

1. Review your current data by tenue to get a baseline of employee turnover between 0 - 6 months.

2. Reflect on your onboarding strategy - from day one to six months - and identify the gaps.

3. Expand your plan to elevate your recognition touchpoints.


Want to learn more about engaging and retaining great employees? Begin with an overview of the moments that count: Employee Engagement | BI WORLDWIDE


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John O'Brien

John O'Brien

Vice President
Employee Performance Group

As Vice President of BI WORLDWIDE’s Employee Performance Group, John O’Brien’s primary focus is to develop employee engagement strategies and solutions that change the behaviors of employees to align with customers’ business objectives. An expert in Employee Recognition Strategy, he educates HR professionals around the world on how to best engage their employees through employee engagement strategies, solutions and best practices.