October 27, 2022

Reward, Repeat, Retain: Best Remedy for Churn? Employee Recognition

Dani Cahn

It’s simple—what gets rewarded gets repeated. 

But what seems self-evident to our team at 1Huddle is far from obvious to many employers. An amazing 82% of employees have never been thanked or rewarded by a boss or supervisor for their work.

No wonder 79% of those who quit cite a lack of appreciation as their reason why. 

One of the primary reasons why employees quit is because they feel underappreciated and undervalued. Not feeling appreciated has an especially pronounced impact on younger workers, with nearly 8 in 10 millennials saying they’d look for new opportunities without positive reinforcement from colleagues or leaders.

Whether it takes the form of praise, a promotion, or perks, employee recognition is directly related to engagement. Without it, workers pull back, or worse, they leave. And, as costly as the disengaged are to keep—$450-$550 billion in lost productivity in the U.S. alone—they’re even more costly to replace. 

That cost can include payouts for accrued vacation time, unused sick days, and severance pay (not to mention fees related to recruiting and training their replacement) for a tab that can run from 50% to 200% of that employee’s annual salary.

Then, of course, there are the things that are harder to quantify, like knowledge loss and lowered morale—all of which are associated with additional monetary costs of their own.

Last week, according to documents leaked to Engadget, we found out that churn is costing Amazon a whopping $8 billion. 

Workers across all levels, from hourly warehouse employees to managers and leadership, are twice as likely to quit as they are to be fired—Only a third of those hired in 2021 have remained with the company.

A former Amazon software engineer posted the article to Hacker News, a Reddit-like website run by the startup incubator Y Combinator, and described how engineers “would kill themselves working every night, every weekend, coding, writing documents, and so on,” for “very little in return, if anything.” 

Praise was non-existent. As for promotions? If they were promised, they were withheld. Leadership “was actively coached on holding promotions as a carrot. ” According to the post, Amazon “burned out dozens of engineers” that way, all of them leaving “within a 1-2 month window of each other.” 

According to Pew, a lack of development opportunities and “feeling disrespected” at work were the reasons most American workers cited for why they left their jobs in 2021. 

In that light, Amazon’s story is like that of many American companies during these past few years. Not only are they confronting similar problems around retention that many smaller organizations are facing— they’re also making some of the same mistakes, on a much larger scale.

According to reporting from Engadget, there are “considerable issues within Amazon’s vast learning and development complex, some 97 programs and 2,000 learning modules of which are overseen by the Consumer Talent Strategy, Management and Development (CTSMD) team.” 

As of December of last year, CTSMD did not have a standardized process to even measure the impact of their training programs. The report’s authors were “unable to determine whether the learning path had detectable effects on behaviors or business impact” including regretted attrition, promotion rates or a variety of internal indexing scores. 

A quality learning and development program not only has the capacity track its impact on those outcomes, but  to increase retention, employee performance and satisfaction– especially when it includes self-directed, voluntary upskilling opportunities: “Those self-selected courses can tell you a lot about the workforce, including who has a passion for an in-demand skill that isn’t part of their current role.” 

The best learning and development programs, have the capacity to coach and reward workers;  making “current employees feel valued and optimistic” while also attracting “new workers from a restless and growing talent pool.”

But somehow, Amazon has managed to invest millions in one that does neither. 

Worse, beyond the program’s $90 million budget, managers and workers at every level have wasted on average 113 hours of their time each year on training where the definition of “completion” for a learning module is “simply clicking through to the end of the course.” 

That’s no way to learn anything– and it’s no way to make an employee feel appreciated. 

But Amazon is apparently aware of this. They’re in the midst of streamlining their learning and development programs under a new scheme called Brilliant Basics. 

From Engadget:

Brilliant Basics was slated to be deployed across operations this past June. The pilot module (called ‘employees want to be treated with dignity and respect’) — which was projected to take 60 to 90 minutes total — was tested among a group of 2,059 leaders in September 2021. Only 65 percent completed the module, and nearly a quarter never started it. A graph (which lacks any sort of labeling on its Y axis) does not show Brilliant Basics overtaking ‘existing programs’ in terms of ‘learning hours/investment’ until Q1 of ‘2024+.’ A comment on the document notes that, like its predecessors, there do not appear to be any financial metrics currently associated with Brilliant Basics performance.

There are all kinds of barriers that hold people back from recognizing their people and creating an environment that honors effort with advancement. At 1Huddle, we’ve heard it all – from those who claim they don’t have the budget, to others who worry that they don’t have the people skills to give praise effectively.

The Brilliant Basics that guide our work are simple: It’s about people. Period. 

And leaders know that what gets rewarded, gets repeated. They see their people, and the rewards they give make their people feel seen, and they invest in tools that help them do that more consistently.

Want some rewards ideas? Check out the list!



About 1Huddle

1Huddle is a coaching and development platform that uses quick-burst mobile games to more quickly and effectively educate, elevate, and energize your workforce — from frontline to full-time.

With a mobile-first approach to preparing the modern worker, a mobile library of 3,000+ quick-burst employee skill games, an on-demand game marketplace that covers 16 unique workforce skill areas, and the option for personalized content, 1Huddle is changing the way organizations think about their training – from a one-time boring onboarding experience to a continuous motivational tool. 

Key clients include Loews Hotels, Novartis, Madison Square Garden, PIMCO, TAO Group, and the United States Air Force. To learn more about 1Huddle and its platform, please visit 1huddle.co.


Dani Cahn Communications and Creative Development