Several years ago, I attended my brother John’s retirement from the United States Air Force along with 22 other family members.
If you have never attended a military retirement ceremony, I encourage you to do so. The business world can learn so much from how the military recognizes its people. Not only were eloquent speeches delivered, recognizing the contribution and service by my brother, but the ceremony also recognized his wife Kelli for her commitment to keeping their home fires burning during John’s frequent and often long deployments.
The retirement ceremony took place on the bow of the USS Missouri, located adjacent to the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. I can think of very few better places to commemorate the significance of a career. The audience included not just our family and John’s commanding officers, but also current and former coworkers and their families.
As the ceremony progressed, I found myself wondering why in business, we do not include our employees’ families in recognizing the significant milestones of each of our team members. It seems that every top leadership book today tells us that meaningful recognition of staff members is critical to the long-term success of our companies. But, they fail to discuss the need for the family members to also see how much we value their mother, father, spouse or sibling.
In the race to greatness, talent is the only variable that will ensure long-term success. A critical factor in attaining and retaining that talent is the value the employees and their families put on our companies and the work that we are doing. It is not enough in these days of career mobility, where we ask our people to achieve more in less time with fewer resources, to simply pass out certificates of appreciation at an annual meeting. We must ensure that our reward and recognition processes are regular and significant.
Sitting at the ceremony, I overheard a child of about 10 or 12 years of age tell his father, “Dad, I can’t wait until your retirement so I can hear about all the great things you do for America.” Wow. This came from a child who knew that the odds were great that his father would soon be deployed to a war zone. His words spoke volumes about the power of praise and recognition.
What are you doing to inspire your employees and their families to go to war for you? Is your company winning the war for talent, significance and success? Are you waiting for a retirement to tell your people how important they are to you?