What’s Really Driving Employee Engagement & Career Advancement

April 20, 2016

Ever had to operate a complicated piece of machinery? There are buttons to push, and levers to pull, and they all do specific things and must be done in a specific order or they won’t work. Well, if you help run an organization, you can empathize with the struggle. It’s tough to navigate the complicated intricacies of employee engagement and oversee an employee performance management system.

What is Employee Recognition?

In a nutshell, employee recognition in the workplace is acknowledging when staff members perform well. Recognition is intended to reinforce behaviors or activities that contribute to better performance and desirable workplace outcomes. It can also boost employee satisfaction and fortify the desired culture of the organization.

Why is Employee Recognition Important?

Top talent and high performers are in demand in today’s workplace. In fact, competition is so fierce that it’s been called a “war for talent.” Organizations are looking for strategies to attract and retain top performers while increasing employee satisfaction and productivity.

Employee recognition programs are one of the more easily executed strategies that could have a big impact in many ways. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Enhances employee motivation
  • Increases employee morale
  • Provides a sense of accomplishment
  • Boosts employee engagement
  • Increases productivity
  • Attracts talent
  • Elevates company loyalty
  • Cultivates an environment of self-improvement
  • Reinforces your company culture

True recognition goes beyond just money; it helps employees feel appreciated in a way separate from other compensation and benefits. Unfortunately, for many companies, 65 percent of employees report not receiving any form of recognition for their good work in the last year. Furthermore, employees who don’t feel recognized are twice as likely to quit within a year.

Elements of an Effective Employee Recognition Program

We surveyed more than 1,000 U.S.-based, full-time employees: to find out what works for reward and recognition programs so HR and business leaders could navigate them more easily. Here’s what we found:

1. Although money still reigns supreme, other rewards are more valuable to some employees.

It’s no surprise that most employees prefer money as a reward or recognition for a job well done. What is a surprise is how many employees prefer a title promotion over a raise and how much an email from an executive is worth to a lot of employees. Check out the details here.

2. Men and women have different reward and recognition experiences.

Pay and leadership aren’t the only gaps that exist between men and women in the workplace. We found that the gap affected things like frequency of recognition and even value of birthday gifts. See how men and women’s reward and recognition experiences differ here.

3. There’s a strong correlation between recognition and employee satisfaction.

We’re blown away that 94 percent of satisfied employees have one thing in common. It also surprised us how many employees aren’t getting that one thing on a regular basis. Find out what you can do to help employees be more satisfied here.

From this survey we synthesized our findings into the four main types of recognition that are the most memorable for employees:

  1. Public recognition (awards, certificates, commendations, etc.)
  2. Private recognition (praise from a boss, peer, or customer)
  3. Promotion (increase in responsibility or scope of work that shows trust)
  4. Monetary or tangible award (trip, prize, bonus, pay increase, etc.)

Note that money is not the only way to recognize employees. And according to one study, 82 percent of employees feel that receiving praise was better than receiving a gift.

Consider surveying your staff to see what they want and need from recognition. You could give them a list of options to vote on or open it up for suggestions. With their input, you can know that the recognition program you execute will be something they truly value.

How to Start a Company Employee Recognition Program

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to effective recognition. However, it begins with company culture. Strive for a recognition-rich environment, with praise coming from every direction. Then, design your recognition program to fit your culture, your employees, and your needs. The following steps can help set you on the right path.

Step 1: Identify Your Vision

Why do you want to implement a recognition program? What purpose will it serve your company? What behaviors are you hoping to reinforce?

Step 2: Involve Employees

Individuals appreciate being recognized in different ways—some prefer public recognition while a private pat on the back will mean more to others. Send out a quick survey or have one-on-one conversations to find out what your employees would value.

Step 3: Develop Criteria

Determine meaningful criteria for your recognition program. For example, are part-time employees and interns eligible as well as full-time workers? Can the same employee receive a reward more than once?

Step 4: Get Managers on Board

For many employees, workplace recognition means the most when it comes from a direct supervisor, or even higher-level managers. Involve supervisors in the recognition and reward process—don’t simply keep it limited to human resources.

Step 5: Practice

At first, it may be difficult to remember or find the time for regular recognition. As with most things, however, practice can make perfect. And, you will likely find that recognition becomes a valued and meaningful part of your workplace, for both employees and managers.

Integrating a thoughtful, consistent employee recognition program can give companies an edge in today’s ultra-competitive environment. Anyone can do it because recognition doesn’t necessarily even have to cost a dime. The rewards may only be a simple “thank you” away.

Interested in learning more about the intricacies of reward and recognition? Download the survey summary to see all our findings.

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