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Inspire Employee Loyalty With Recognition Rooted in Company Values Employees who are rewarded for exemplifing the values of the company tend to stay for the long haul.

By Heather R. Huhman Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Employee engagement used to top the list of HR concerns. While it's still very much among the top challenges faced by employers and HR professionals, employee retention and turnover has taken over as the leading concern in today's workplace.

The solution? Employee recognition. But not just any recognition -- values-based recognition.

Values serve as the foundation a company is built on and should drive every aspect of business -- especially recognition, as it can help retain employees. But, with only half of the U.S. workforce saying they feel valued by their employer, according to a 2014 survey of 823 employees by the American Psychological Association, something is missing.

That something is values.

A 2015 survey of more than 800 HR professionals by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) and Globoforce found that connecting recognition to values positively impacted retention for 68 percent of respondents.

Yet, while 81 percent of companies practice formal recognition, only 58 percent tie that recognition to the company's values, according to the survey.

Not all employee recognition programs are created equal. To hold on to your best and brightest, here's the formula for creating a program that reinforces the company's values:

1. Identify the traits and behaviors that embody core values.

What traits, practices or behaviors are necessary for individual and company-wide success? What company values need to be adopted to drive that success?

These questions can help identify what needs to be better enforced through recognition, as well as reveal what needs more attention. In fact, the aforementioned Globoforce survey found that in companies with a values-based recognition program, 31 percent said it helps meet learning and development goals, as opposed to only 11 percent of companies without.

Related: The 8 Values Every Company Should Live By

2. Align employees with the company values.

In order to effectively align employees with the company's core values, they need to understand how those values relate to their day-to-day tasks. That connection is formed through communication. Help employees better align themselves and their work efforts with the company's values by communicating them from the top and connecting them to overall work goals.

When it comes time to reevaluate individual and company-wide goals for the quarter, highlight how those goals can be achieved by enforcing the company's character -- and publicly recognize and reward those who do just that.

Related: 7 Ways to Build Credibility, Trust and Character That Will Grow Your Business

Step 3: Focus on the process vs. results.

Unlike other employee recognition programs, values-based recognition focuses more on the actual process than on the final results. After all, demonstrating the traits, behaviors and practices that are in line with the company values will inevitably lead to the desired outcome.

However, the aforementioned APA survey found that employers most often reward results stemming from individual job performance (46 percent), length of service (44 percent) and team performance (29 percent). A mere 18 percent recognize employees who engage in specific behaviors.

The key to creating a successful, values-based recognition program is to acknowledge and reward the process employees take to achieving work-related goals -- especially when that process follows the company moral code. By recognizing the process over results, peers are encouraged to adopt similar processes, which is much easier than trying to mimic the same results.

Use a tool like Tap My Back that allows team leaders to define what actions (Taps) are available for recognition and motivates team members to repeat those actions.

4. Lead by example.

Sometimes the best -- and easiest -- way to encourage employees to embody the company's moral code is to simply lead by example. Bring organizational values to life by living and breathing those values while at work, and employees will follow suit.

Actively model the company's character in everything the organization does, from the decision-making process to company culture activities to employee recognition. Most importantly, make an example out of employees who exhibit the company's core values to encourage peers to do the same.

Related: 5 High-Performing Habits to Instill in Your Culture

Heather R. Huhman

Career and Workplace Expert; Founder and President, Come Recommended

Waldorf, Md.-based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of Come Recommended, the PR solution for job search and HR tech companies. She writes about issues impacting the modern workplace.

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