For many companies, workplace psychology does little more than provide band-aid solutions to such problems as poor morale, excessive turnover and low productivity. Not surprisingly, this approach has been unsuccessful, as it puts too much emphasis on the negatives rather than focusing on the positives. As a result, companies are looking to bring a more positive psychology to the workplace -- one that emphasizes, identifies and rewards the many things that employees are doing right. To that end, OC Tanner recently conducted a global survey of people who had been at their jobs from 1 to 30+ years. The survey provides valuable insights about how employees perceive themselves at various chronological phases or "service anniversaries" in their careers. What follows is a look at how companies can boost morale, increase retention and improve productivity through a better understanding of each service anniversary phase.
Year 1 - The learning phase: By the end of their first year on the job, employees no longer perceive themselves only as sponges soaking up all there is to know and learn. They are now looking for ways to add value by applying what they've learned. Employers who provide opportunities for employees to make contributions, from early on, and then recognize and reward those contributions in relevant ways, are much more likely to retain their employees for the long term.
Year 3 - The fitting in phase: According to the survey, by year three most employees feel that they're an integral part of the team---that they finally fit in. But that doesn't mean they want to stay in with the status quo. They want to keep growing and moving forward. Employers who fail to recognize and feed this trait may soon find their employees looking elsewhere.
Year 5 -- The expertise phase: After 5 years of hard work and dedication, employees tend to perceive themselves as experts in their fields of endeavor. They have also grown more confident in their abilities and may be asking themselves, "What's next?" It's up to employers to answer that question proactively by recognizing and rewarding employee accomplishments and offering new challenges and opportunities for growth.
Year 10 -- The phase of belonging: By the time an employee has reached his or her 10-year anniversary, there is a very strong sense of belonging. Coworkers are regarded as extensions of family and corporate goals and objectives are fully internalized, promoted and defended. Corporate execs that recognize and reinforce this sense of belonging will reap the extra benefits that only skilled and dedicated employees can provide.
Year 15 -- The invested phase: Having remained loyal to a company for 15 years, employees now view their careers as valuable partnerships worthy of a lifelong commitment. Treating the company with a sense of ownership that is more about years of sacrifice than entitlement, invested employees look for ways to give back and are more than willing to assume leadership roles. Providing these loyal employees with leadership opportunities, along with openly acknowledging the value of their considerable contributions through recognition and reward programs, will ensure the continuation of a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship between employers and employees.
Year 20 -- The veteran phase: As the survey shows, those who reach the double decade mark in their careers have experienced many changes, both in their personal lives and in the companies they work for. Having served and sacrificed in the trenches, these 20-year veterans recognize that they have a wealth of knowledge and expertise to share with younger workers, and it's critical for companies to provide the ways and means for them to connect with others on the team. With the ability to lead and inspire younger workers to do better work, Veteran employees can be a tremendous corporate asset.
Year 25 -- The triumph phase: Those in the survey who had long work histories with the same company considered year 25 to be the biggest milestone in their careers. For them, this is the time to celebrate accomplishments and find ways to pass on what they have learned over the years to the next generation of employees. Armed with this information, employers would do well to join in on the celebration by recognizing those achievements in meaningful ways. They should also provide the proper avenues for these seasoned employees to impart their wisdom to others.
Year 30 -- The mentoring phase: At the 30-year mark, most employees are gearing up for retirement. But they're not about to go quietly. As they reflect on their years of service they are filled with a sense of gratitude and indebtedness. Now is their time to mentor, to leave a lasting mark and create a legacy. Companies that leverage mentors instead of relegating them to the ranks of the newly retired are tapping into a vast and powerful resource.
Author Bio: Jacob Kache works as a consultant for O.C. Tanner, a company dedicated to developing employee recognition and rewards programs that help companies appreciate people who do great work.