1981 Rustic Studio kan / Alvaro German Vilela / UfaBizPhoto / Shutterstock.com.


A great employee is a priceless treasure. But for businesses, losing talented team members can be incredibly costly. According to Gallup, U.S. businesses are losing a trillion dollars a year due to voluntary turnover. The cost of replacing an employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary. As return-to-work plans take effect, 95 percent of workers are now considering changing jobs, and 92 percent are even willing to switch industries to find the right position, according to a report by job site Monster.com. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were six million fewer resignations in 2020 than in 2019, likely due to uncertainty because of the pandemic, a turnover surge is under way. In March, the national turnover rate was 2.4 percent, the highest quit rate recorded for that month in 20 years. After a disruptive year, many professionals are reevaluating their work, and deciding whether their job adds to their pursuit of greater meaning and fulfillment. 

Even the happiest of employees are looking for something new. “A New Mindset at Work: The Evolving Workplace in 2021,” a study conducted by global integrated communications agency Zeno Group, found that 48 percent of satisfied employees report being open to new opportunities, with many actively searching. Burnout is a key contributor to voluntary turnover, according to the Journal of Vocational Behavior. While the pandemic increased feelings of fatigue, stress and distraction among workers, consumers in general had the opportunity to reduce expenses and save money. A high rate of employee burnout combined with enhanced financial security has led to, what one NBC writer calls, the “Great Resignation.” 

While not all employee turnover is bad, research from the Journal of Applied Psychology found that the employees who are most able and likely to quit during times of change are the highest performers. For companies, losing their top employees means losing reliable leaders, consistent innovators and talented problem solvers. One Gallup writer says, “When it comes to rare talent, ‘voluntary turnover’ is simply a nice way of saying, ‘You just lost the future.’” Thankfully, regrettable turnover is solvable. Fifty-two percent of exiting employees who left voluntarily say their manager or organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving their job, but managers aren’t creating the space to solve these problems. Over half of exiting employees (51 percent) say that in the three months before they left, neither their manager nor any other leader discussed job satisfaction or their future with the organization.

As companies reevaluate how to keep their best workers, effective employee recognition is crucial. According to a survey by Great Place To Work-certified company O.C. Tanner, respondents said that personal recognition would most likely encourage them to produce better work more often. Employee recognition boosts morale, increases productivity and fosters positive relationships, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Praising employees’ accomplishments encourages quality performance, benefiting both the employee and the organization. Despite these facts, 65 percent of employees haven’t received any form of recognition for their good work in the past year. Over 91 percent of HR professionals believe that recognition and rewards make employees more likely to stay, and they’re right. A recognized employee is 63 percent more likely to stay at his or her current job within the next three to six months, according to SHRM.

For businesses looking to reconnect with employees after a strenuous year, distributors are essential. According to the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF), with travel and experiential incentives unavailable during the pandemic, merchandise and gift cards increased, reemphasizing individual awards. Merchandise was used in 68 percent of incentive programs. The IRF’s “Rewards Preferences” study reported that “a significant merchandise gift” was ranked in both the top five employee preferences and the top five motivators. The average value of a merchandise reward is $160, and 32 percent of companies reported their average merchandise value to be $200 and higher.

In a survey done by consulting firm Achievers, lack of recognition and engagement contributed to most (44 percent) employee job changes. As workers recraft the work environment, the most effective employee retention strategy will always be recognizing excellent results and behavior. 


Employee recognition is essential to employee happiness and the overall success of a business. Something as simple as a high-quality pen can boost morale, increase productivity and build positive relationships in the workspace. According to a Gallup poll, companies that executed a formal, well-planned-out employee engagement program reported a 64-percent increase in employee engagement than those without one. Employees want to be rewarded for their good work (38 percent) and spontaneously (47 percent), according to research firm Xexec. The employee survey also found that 65 percent of employees prefer non-cash incentives, strongly agreeing that both merchandise and travel awards are remembered longer than cash payments.

According to distributor Delta Marketing Group, these five premium promotional products are the most rewarding gifts of 2021: technology gifts, self-care items, high-quality writing instruments, versatile journals and personalized drinkware. Brand Manager Campbell Davis of supplier HPG Brands says new gear to help end users start traveling again is also a major trend. 

Although employee recognition programs are different for each company, Great Places To Work suggests considering these five factors to make recognition programs and rewards most meaningful:

Always explain why the recognition is being given. Recognition connected to a specific achievement or business objective is more meaningful, and highlighting some of the employees’ accomplishments that earned them the recognition can help encourage continued behaviors.

Late affirmations lessen the likelihood that a company will be taken seriously by its employees. Giving recognition to employees months after it’s merited isn’t nearly as meaningful as immediate recognition. Take advantage of opportunities when presented.

Take the time to understand how everyone would like to be rewarded. Find the expression of gratitude that shows how each reward was uniquely earned and why it is specifically intended for each individual recipient. 

Foster a culture of recognition with constant praise from both managers and peers. Thanking employees for daily efforts while recognizing big achievements can motivate continued good work. 

Regularly connect individual employee goals to the company mission. Employee recognition that shows how contributions add to the success of the company and team are more valued.


With a sporty, yet versatile design, this stainless-steel watch provides the ideal solution for everyday wear. Part of the Seiko Essentials Collection, the watch has bold Arabic numerals on a pure white dial, and features a date calendar and LumiBrite hands. With scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, it’s water-resistant to 100 meters. 

Seiko Watch of America  /  PPAI 596169, S3  /  seikousa.com/pages/corporate-gifts


The Hypervolt massage gun delivers a symphony of power, performance and variability. Designed to accelerate muscle warm-up and recovery, the Hypervolt uses QuietGlide™ technology delivers three speeds of rapid percussion almost silently. The quietest percussion massage device available, it’s now connected with the Hyperice App and includes a case for easy storage.   

Incentive Concepts  /  PPAI 212912, S10  /  www.incentiveconcepts.com 


The NOMATIC Navigator Carry-On is a two-wheel roller bag designed to maximize space. Built to hold both clothing and technology, this carry-on can easily pack up to five days’ worth of clothing and a 17-inch laptop. The front section is dedicated to organizing tech, cords and other small items, with multiple mesh and zipper pockets including a tech-protected safe pocket. Built with the best materials and protected by a 100-percent Makrolon polycarbonate shell, additional details include a three-stage aluminum handle, YKK zippers and durable water-resistant materials.

HPG Exclusive  /  PPAI 792175, S11  /  www.hpgbrands.com


For a truly endless summer, the Donovan Outdoor LP Gas Firepit, complete with patented DualHeat Technology, will transform any outdoor space into an oasis. This technology combines a traditional gas firepit with an infrared patio heater below the mantel. Use as a firepit, patio heater, or add the insert and use as a table, making it versatile and built for functionality. Standard propane tank not included. 

Incentive Concepts  /  PPAI 212912, S10  / www.incentiveconcepts.com


This inflatable paddleboard provides stow-and-go convenience with excellent rigidity, durability and performance that will please experienced and novice paddlers alike. Everything needed for a day of paddling is included in the accompanying kit, such as an aluminum shaft paddle, fin, hand pump and backpack for storage transport. It’s an appreciated add-on gift for incentive trips to lakeside and beach resorts and camps.

Active Life Promo  /  PPAI 436753, S1  www.activelifepromo.com


With step-by-step instructions, this Weber Connect Smart Grilling Hub sends notifications directly to a smart phone, alerting grillers when food is finished or needs to be flipped. Combined with the Weber Connect app, users will have access to Weber’s full library of recipes, tips, tricks and preset cook programs for any grilling adventure. With two logo locations available, it is the perfect piece of state-of-the-art grilling tech for customer-facing promotions and employee recognition gifts.

Buckeye Incentives  /  PPAI 786878, S1  /  www.buckeyeincentives.com


This 12-ounce Golf Partee Can & Bottle Cooler is perfect for golf enthusiasts. The dimpled design really looks and feels like a golf ball, and triple insulation technology keeps canned or bottled beverages cold for up to 12 hours. Simply twist off the top ring to insert a can or bottle, then twist the ring back on to secure and enjoy. 

The Allen Company/ColorCraft  /  PPAI 113879, S5  www.allenmugs.com


Kristina Valdez is associate editor of PPB.