One Question To Ask To Improve Employee Retention


(By Michael Doyle) I love recognition. As you can see from the graphic in this post, I have a plaque in my condo in Florida celebrating what a great idea I had several years ago to buy it. It came from my wife. It’s not my first plaque, I have one in my Rochester NY home celebrating what a great idea finishing our basement was twenty years ago.

My wife understands how I like to be recognized. I like to be right. I like to be told I’m right, and I like public recognition.

Every person who visits us sees the plaque and I get to explain to them that my wife was hesitant about the investment, but within a year told me it was a great idea. And she bought me a plaque. Cause she understands how I like to be recognized.

Understanding how your employees want to be recognized is key. Not all people want a plaque. I worked with a guy named Mike (funny we had the same name) who once showed me a drawer full of plaques he’d been given. I had just started as his boss and asked him how he wanted to be recognized. That’s when he showed me where he dumped the plaques. He didn’t want that kind of recognition, and he made that clear. He said if we even gave him the money that we would pay for a plaque he’d be happier.

The question you need to ask is, “When you are successful, how do you want to be recognized? Who do you want to know?”

Then do what they say.

I hired a new salesperson who told me that she wanted her father to know. He was a television General Manager in Syracuse where I lived. When she hit her first big quarterly budget, I wrote her father a note, outlining her success to him, and telling him how proud he should be of his daughter. I walked the note down to his office and left it for him.

He called and thanked me. She couldn’t stop thanking me. Years later, someone in my last company was recruiting her as a salesperson, and she asked if they knew me, and told them the story. She said it was the best recognition she had even gotten.

You see some people, like me, want a parade, or a plaque or a cheering crowd; other people want private recognition. I had a direct report at Entercom who hated public recognition and wanted to know specifically why you were congratulating her. It wasn’t enough that you said, “good job,” she wanted to specifically why you thought she had done a good job. In fact, she didn’t like public recognition at all. To her, knowing that you knew the effort and planning that went into her success was more important than being recognized in front of a room full of people.

Recognition is the first step in building a relationship with your direct reports. Each individual needs to be recognized in the way that matters to them. Go ahead, and ask them, “When you are successful, how do you want to be recognized? Who do you want to know?”

Then do what they tell you. It will go a long way toward improving your employee retention.

If you decide to keep this post and put it on your wall, take a picture and post it on LinkedIn. Or just repost it with your comments.

I love the public recognition. But that’s me.


For nearly 40 years, Michael Doyle, The Sales MD, has been hiring, training and developing sellers and sales managers around the United States. The success of your business is tied to the success of your sales team. Contact The Sales MD at: [email protected] .


  1. Employee retention? In the radio industry?

    The big companies, anyway, have shed jobs left and right. Things like voicetracking are more and more the norm.

    The author of this piece is asking the wrong question, two steps behind the reality that exists in the industry. How much worse will it get?…


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