Retain Talent by Recognizing Employees from Afar

Posted in: Employee Benefits

Recognizing employees is key to retain star performers, which is even more critical during this pandemic. But showing appreciation could be more difficult with many businesses shifting to remote work. In this post I’ll discuss the importance of employee appreciation as a retention tool, especially during COVID, and provide five ideas on how to do it in the changing work environment.

No matter your location or occupation, the events of 2020 changed every work environment and stretched teams to think outside the box. Essential workers adapted strict, new safety procedures from PPE to COVID training, while most of the American workforce was pushed into their homes, scrambling to assemble make-shift desks and video-call backdrops. Leadership teams, managers, and employees have overcome endless challenges and transitions in the “new normal” of remote working.

With the need to quickly switch gears, adapt business models, and sometimes just survive, aspects of the work environment such as company culture, employee development, and employee recognition have taken a back seat. While it’s easy to push those less-tangible goals to the back-burner—now is not the time. In fact, it may be more important than ever to appreciate your star performers.

Importance of recognizing employees for their outstanding performance

While we have hope of returning to in-person work settings in 2021, we need to find ways to thrive for the remainder of the pandemic and in the flexible working arrangements that are sure to follow in the future. The pandemic has put a lot of things into perspective for businesses and employees. Individuals are rethinking or making major life decisions about where they work and where they live. One study indicates that only 12% of workers want to return to a physical office full-time. This makes recognizing employees for work done even more important as a tool in retaining top talent.

Many organizations are moving into, or are in the midst of, the annual performance review cycle. Thought leaders have been clear about realigning expectations in the 2020 disrupted environment. Recognizing star performers has always been important. Before remote work, they walked the halls to cheers and pats on the back from their colleagues. Star employees, and the less recognized stellar nebula, are not receiving the same amount of recognition in a remote setting. The best way to retain great employees has always been to be intentional and clear about appreciating them; however, it will look different post-pandemic.

Here are five ideas how to appreciate your employees who always get the job done.

  1. Lean into change. Make it clear that the organization is not looking to return to a normal that does not exist, and acknowledge that without star performers like them, the future is not as bright. Start developing the policies needed to establish new work practices for the work-from-home star performer.
  2. Say it face-to-face. When impressed with a presentation or a job well done, make a five-minute video call (and be clear it is only five minutes) to tell the employee what they did well. Maybe film a short video message and send it to them.
  3. Allow people to pull back. There may have been stretch assignments pre-pandemic that should have excited your star performer, but they are not jumping at the bit now. Give them space right now to negotiate other things in life. Another study performed recently has found that promoting the “ideal worker” concept in this work from home environment has a disproportionately negative impact on working parents, especially mothers.
  4. “Show-up” at their door. Send a hand-written note of thanks or a small token of appreciation like a gift-card for coffee. You could even put together pandemic-safe basket of hand sanitizers and a stylish facemask.
  5. Show appreciation in “public.” All-employee video calls are the best time to quickly acknowledge and recognize accomplishments. Allow time for other employee shout-outs as well.

As our work situation continue to morph in the new year, organizational leaders must remain innovative about connecting with and recognizing employees. Interested in discussing ways you can engage and appreciate your workforce from afar? Our HR Consulting Team at PSA would love to brainstorm with you and come up with solutions that would best suit your employees. Feel free to get in touch with me at for more ideas surrounding employee recognition and retention during this time.