How recognition schemes help to retain graduate talent

Keeping talented graduates in your company for the long haul can be a big benefit to your business. Kevin Chamberlain explains how engagement is key and how employee recognition schemes can help.

Retaining employees in a business can come down to one important factor: keeping them engaged. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Study shows engaged employees are those who feel emotionally connected to their company and will work energetically to obtain results.

When it comes to retaining graduates – young, keen talent, fresh from university and new to the corporate world – engagement is even more crucial.

For starters, they’re likely to be nervous, overwhelmed about their new role, and thinking questions like:

  • Is this job right for me?
  • Have I made the right decision?
  • What do I want to achieve?
  • How can I learn more or earn more?
  • Where do I want to be in a year’s time?

Ideally, a business will want their new starter to give positive answers to such questions, and to work hard and develop within the company. This is where employee recognition incentive schemes can help.

There are different recognition schemes, which can range from giving a congratulatory email for completing good work to a prize reward for achieving a set level of performance. They include:

Instant recognition – where a company can instantly recognise and reward an individual for their achievements, instead of waiting till a set time of year.

Management recognition – where managers can recognise the achievements of the individuals they manage.

Peer-to-peer recognition – where employees can recognise their colleagues’ achievements.

Team recognition – where a company can recognise the achievements of a team.

There are different ways that recognition schemes like these can retain graduates new to business, from making them feel welcome on their first day through to staying loyal to a company, years down the line.

Making them feel welcome

Many businesses don’t start thinking about recognition until after an employee’s six-month probation period, preferring instead to invest in training and support programmes. But what use is this if a graduate decides to leave after a couple of months?

It’s important to instead make a graduate feel welcome and comfortable in their new surroundings from day one. This is where team recognition and peer-to-peer recognition programmes can help.

Consider that most graduates are technology mindful and at home when using social media. A technology-driven peer-to-peer incentive scheme, where they can participate by ‘liking’ and commenting on their colleagues’ achievements – in a similar way to social media channels – helps by putting them in a comfortable environment they understand.

Inspiring job progression

Encouraging job development and progression is another key way to keep a graduate in your business. This is about getting them to aspire to do more right away.

An instant reward and recognition scheme can help with this because it shows the graduate they will be instantly recognised for their hard work. It also gives them the message that instant rewards can follow rapid development and progress, such as achieving higher targets and performance levels.

Combined with a management recognition programme, the scheme can inform a graduate that their manager will recognise and appreciate their hard work over time. This is likely to encourage them to want to work harder, learn more and achieve more.

Improving loyalty

Loyalty – and staying loyal – to a company should also be a key focus for retaining graduates. Achieving this is about getting the graduate to align some of their train of thought, feelings, and behaviours to match a company’s values and understand the principles of what is right and good for that business.

This can come down to what’s called the circle of empowerment and the idea that:

Thoughts affect feelings…
Feelings affect behaviour…
Behaviour affects thoughts…

An employee recognition scheme can help a graduate achieve positive thoughts, feelings and behaviours in relation to a business. Receiving recognition for completing an early project, for instance, can make them think they’re important to your company and, in turn, feel appreciated. This can encourage their loyalty to your business and think more positively about their role and staying in your company for the long-haul.

Benefitting your business

Successfully retaining new starters, like a graduate, means you benefit your business in the long run across:

Cost – you save your business money on finding, recruiting and training replacement employees.

Value – you gain a more experienced employee, which gives you a more valuable member of your team.

Culture – you create a better work culture by avoiding a high turnover, which can improve morale and build a more productive environment.

An engaging recognition incentive programme that’s suitable for graduates is accessible, easy to use, technology driven and fun. With such a scheme you don’t just retain your graduates; you start their potential career with your business on a high, inspiring them to develop and stay loyal to your company. If you offer graduates the tools to become part of your business, when it comes to engagement and retention, you’re in a good place.

Kevin Chamberlain is business development director of Corporate Rewards

Further reading on recognition schemes

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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