As employee turnover is one of the biggest costs to a business, adopting employee recognition programs could be your ticket to increased engagement and by extension better retention of your best talent. Gallup reports that only 32 percent of employees in the U.S. are engaged, which means 68 percent of U.S. employees are disengaged at work.

It's critical to understand and increase the engagement level of your employees, and investing in employee recognition programs can lead to better engagement and save you money from an array of direct and indirect costs.

Here are four steps to help you get started setting up an employee recognition program.

1. Start Talking About It

Initiate a dialogue among strategic partners — especially finance and HR leaders — to define the values, goals and behaviors you want to incentivize. Start by asking what success looks like, perhaps by focusing on your top performers and most engaged talent, in order to identify key behaviors that foster the outcomes you seek. Define the outcomes you want your employee recognition program to drive.

2. Develop Criteria

Will people get rewards when a fixed goal is achieved, and how will progress be measured? Be careful about integrating too much subjectivity into your employee recognition program, which can stir up office politics, competition and comparison. Instead, create a system of measurement that's fair to all and has clear ground rules. For example, there's a big difference between offering a trip to Hawaii for your top salesperson and offering a trip for your most improved salesperson.

3. Engage in Continuous Employee Feedback

In a recent 2016 ADP Employee Engagement Study, nearly nine out of ten employees said they expected to be recognized for their accomplishments. How do you find out how employees want to be recognized? Ask them. Not only will this constant feedback loop result in defining appropriate rewards and recognition, it will also drive employee engagement. Smaller rewards delivered frequently may work better than one big reward offered annually. Talk to your employees about the rewards and how they'll get delivered.

4. Be Transparent

The 2016 ADP Employee Engagement Study also revealed that 72% of employees feel that it is important that the company they work for provides open and honest feedback. Be transparent about your employee recognition program. For example, share information about how it's positively impacting your strategic goals, including employee engagement, preferred behaviors and other improved business outcomes. Good communication builds momentum and helps create the virtuous cycles of behaviors, results and rewards you want. You could also create an employee recognition program planning group that has access to your organization's social media channels to formalize a process for sharing ongoing good news.

Unique Rewards Programs

There are many unique rewards program possibilities. For example, Entrepreneur reports Zappos has a program that lets employees nominate their peers for a $50 bonus each month for doing something that goes above and beyond their role, and global enterprise Tata offers their employees a "Dare to Try" award that rewards employees for taking risks and trying new creative ways of thinking.

By making the necessary resources available to support employee recognition programs, you should be able to not only drive engagement further, but also retain your top talent and reduce lost productivity costs.

To find out more about how employees feel about recognition and other key engagement factors, take a look at ADP's Engagement Meter.

Tags: Engagement Workforce Planning