The Importance Of Employee Engagement

The Importance of Employee Engagement

Article written by Incentive Services University

Much of the literature today on building a strong corporate culture is centered around the importance of keeping employees positively engaged at work, creating a culture in which each employee feels connected, empowered, and ultimately contributing to the forward momentum of the organization.

One important way that we can impact employee engagement is through recognition – whether it be through verbal praise, monetary rewards, social networks, or service award programs. The impact of recognition on employee engagement can be a significant factor in training – and retaining – quality employees who feel engaged and empowered to make a difference every day. In fact, research by the Aberdeen Group found that “60% of Best-in-Class organizations stated that employee recognition is extremely valuable in driving individual performance” (Driving a Culture of Employee Recognition, 2013). In addition, “ . . . in organizations where recognition occurs, employee engagement, productivity and customer service are about 14 percent better than in those where recognition does not occur” (Bersin & Associates, 2012). Recognized employees are more likely to be engaged employees – interested in and contributing to a positive organizational culture and its growth.

But what are the risks of NOT recognizing employees? Is there any negative impact to the health and well-being of a company and its culture? Research suggests that “[w]ithout a way to engage employees, organizations risk losing top talent and jeopardize organizational growth” (Aberdeen Group, 2013). Disengaged employees are decidedly less productive, contribute less and may, in fact, drive the corporate culture in an apathetic, if not negative direction. Unfortunately, “[o]nly 14% of organizations provide managers with the necessary tools for rewards and recognition” (Aberdeen Group, 2013). Recognition, even in small ways, helps employees to develop a strong sense that they can positively impact the forward-momentum of the organization.

Recognition can take many different forms, both formal and informal. Informal recognition might include anything from off-the-cuff remarks, praise or even monetary incentives based on random criteria left solely to manager discretion. While these are noble efforts, they often have no tracking or accountability either from a performance or financial perspective. In fact, research from the Human Capital Institute suggests that “ . . . sporadic recognition may in some cases be worse than no recognition” (Human Capital Institute, 2009). Left without a structured program, recognition can be inconsistent and results entirely unknown.

Formal recognition programs, however, might be the “best way to implement a recognition program . . . as a rational, carefully formulated program that is based on sound theory and is well integrated with an organization’s business strategy (Human Capital Institute, 2009). Within a formally designed program consistent with company culture and values, these programs can provide thoughtful and meaningful recognition to employees, contributing to an overall culture of both engagement and positive recognition. Furthermore, a properly-managed program with the right software can also provide significant data on use, feedback, results, accounting, and reporting. Tracking this data can pin-point effective recognition strategies, align program goals among managers and comply with financial and accounting regulations. In addition, the use of social technologies linked to a formal program “ . . . allows employees an established way to provide recognition and easily receive specific feedback” (Bersin & Associates, 2012).

Let’s look at two best practice case studies in which a formal, agency-managed program helped to build a culture of recognition and employee engagement.

A leading healthcare services company with over 80 hospitals and 80,000 employees developed a two-phased approach:

  • In Phase 1 – the company wanted to standardize the Service Award Program through the organization creating a consistent look and feel to build a culture of recognition. The program included the use of e-cards and technology alerts to engage both managers and peers.
  • In Phase 2 – the company wanted to better understand all of the recognition methods being used within the organization. To do this, they created a formalized process which included:
  • Budgeting, Tracking, Electronic Recognition Process, Social Technologies, Award Redemption, Tracking of Taxes and Accounting.

This phased approach allowed the company to start creating a consistent culture of recognition, allowing the program to gain a foothold while the second phase was being implemented. Phase 2 brought additional structure and opportunity to the program and allowed the company to see just where recognition was making an impact – and where it could be used to create more significant employee engagement.

A large food service distributor with over 30 distribution centers and 8,000 employees created an employee ‘Loyalty’ Program in which employees can earn points for Safety, Wellness, Above & Beyond Performance and Years of Service. In addition, the individual distribution centers can run ‘contests’ and ‘games’ specific to their location to help drive awareness in particular initiatives. Program technology alerts help to engage managers and peers in the recognition process while data functions track taxes and accounting for financial reporting.

Works Cited

Aberdeen Group. 2013. Driving a Culture of Employee Recognition,

Bersin & Associates. 2012. Bersin & Associates Unlocks the Secrets of Effective Employee Recognition,

Human Capital Institute. 2009. The Value and ROI in Employee Recognition,

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Learning To Be Comfortable

Learning To Be Comfortable With Discomfort

Article written by Incentive Services University

We can all identify the A players. On sports teams, they are the stellar athletes. They are recruited by top universities and professional teams. They are the standouts. They make multi-million dollar deals with endorsements and commercial contracts. And in business, they are often the dealmakers, the go-getters and the promotion-seekers.

In contrast, you may not notice the B players, in sports teams or in your business. But they are also there – day after day, consistently and conscientiously getting the work done. On a sports team, they are the solid, dependable players who deliver reliable results – game after game. In your business, they always execute.

Every day, companies are focusing more and more on the B players as they realize their untapped potential. As writer Del Jones points out, “the backbone of every company is in the middle where the ether of great thoughts is hammered into reality” (Employers Learning That ‘B’ Players Hold the Cards, 2009). But what drives the B Players may be significantly different than what drives the ‘A’ players. It’s not necessarily the fame, the money or even the position.

According to Jones, “ . . . B players are embedded in both their jobs and in their communities.”

The difference is in temperament. There are many types of B players, but most are loyal (to a point), don’t live and die for the next promotion (but want challenging work), don’t need coddling (but can die of neglect), are honest (if not diplomatic) and are not as driven by power, status and money as are A players, who live for little else.

Companies should be looking for ways to address the needs of B players, says Jones, by recognizing their performance and their longevity. B players might just need different motivational incentives.

In addition, some B players want to be A players but are “risk averse”. They may be caught in the comfort zone (The Comfort Zone, Incentive Services University). The comfort zone is:

. . . that area of thought and action where a person feels uncomfortable. Anything we haven’t done or thought about often enough to feel comfortable doing lies outside the parameters of our comfort zone.

B players don’t necessarily seek out ‘uncomfortable’ situations. But they “ . . . must learn to tolerate discomfort in order to grow, to maximize personal or organizational performance” (The Comfort Zone). Take the time to learn about what motivates your B players. How can you add a bit of discomfort to stretch their responsibilities and their goals? By learning to recognize your B players, you can maximize their potential and identify their drives and incentives for growth and improvement.

B players might just become your A players – if you can help them to expand their comfort zone.

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Circles Of Influence

Circles of Influence and Social Recognition

Article written by Incentive Services University

World class athletes understand that no matter how hard they train, it’s impossible to maximize performance unless they compete. They can’t be at their best unless they measure themselves against the best. Competition, visibility and recognition fuel performance. – Incentive Services University

As organizational leaders, we know that employee recognition is crucial to maintaining motivation among quality employees. We all want to be recognized for our achievements, appreciated for our efforts and commended for our contributions. A hand-written thank you note, a tasty treat, or even an extra day of vacation can all be a grateful gesture for a job well-done.

More often, though, we are influenced by something greater than internal motivation or a private gesture of thanks. Our “circles of influence” and our levels of visibility extend to our colleagues, our leaders and even our social circles. We refer to this as social recognition. Social recognition isn’t a very complex concept. If you sum it up as the public acknowledgement of merit, you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head. So when a manager praises an employee during a private discussion, that is not social recognition. But if that same manager honors the employee in a weekly team meeting, it is social recognition. – “4 Tips for Starting a Social Recognition Program”, TribeHR Staff, January 16, 2013

While social recognition may not fit in all situations, research shows that more and more employees want to connect with their workplace community – and with one another – through technology. Use of a corporate intranet for social recognition can help employees to feel appreciated, connected and can set a standard for employee culture and expectations.

For example, you might include a “Thank You” Wall where employees are recognized for their contributions or hard work. Perhaps employee anniversaries are acknowledged on an electronic Anniversary website. Or you might create a peer-to-peer site where employees are able to virtually “recognize” one another.

“Recognition that is timely, values-driven, and open to all employees builds a more connected and fully-engaged workforce” (“The Social Workplace”, Lupfer, 2011). By acknowledging employee value and accomplishments not only privately, but publicly, you create a larger circle of influence for each and every member of your organization.

When performance becomes visible in our circles of influence, we will do almost anything to succeed. – Incentive Services University.

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The Need To Be Noticed

The Need to be Noticed

Article written by Incentive Services University

Call it whatever you want: recognition, honor, pride, self-esteem . . . it’s very basic – the inner desire to have one’s achievements noticed. In some cases, a pat on the back will do the job. In others, it is tangible recognition. Whatever it is, it represents that you are important and your efforts are appreciated – you’re a winner, a performer.

~ Joe Cronin, President, Incentive Services

Every employee has an innate desire for recognition – recognition for hard work, for dedication, for accomplishments and contributions to the organization. Every employer wants their employees to be fully engaged – engaged in work, in corporate values and in organizational objectives. It is the intersection of these two desires that leads to the growth and success of both the employee and the company. In fact, it is the sincere recognition of employee accomplishments which contribute to engaged, excited employees who are ready to contribute to the organization each day.

According to a study by The Kenexa High Performance Institute (KHPI), “ . . . employees are engaged by managers who recognize employees and mobilize their teams for Peak Performance” (2009). In addition, studies by Towers Watson have shown that “ . . . employees who receive recognition in the workplace feel more valued and more committed, plus they can deliver 57 percent more effort than employees that feel underappreciated” (Cordray, 2013). Highly-satisfied, engaged employees deliver substantial, quantitative and qualitative results within the organization.

At a basic level, employee engagement starts with every employee’s need to be noticed and recognized for a job well-done. In many instances, this acknowledgment might be words of praise or thanks for extra time or dedication. Perhaps it is “ . . . the kind words of encouragement, the handshakes, the smiles and pats on the back – given sincerely and frequently” (Cordray, 2013). Do not, however, underestimate the importance of tangible recognition. When “given sincerely and with genuine thought”, tangible rewards can show employees that they are a valuable and recognized part of the organization.

No matter the reward – tangible or intangible, large or small, public or private – every company has the ability to demonstrate to its employees that they are noticed for their efforts and that they are recognized, valued, and appreciated.

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Recognize And Retain Employees

Recognize and Retain your Best Assets

“The engaged stay for what they can give, the disengaged stay for what they can get.”
Article prepared by Incentive Services University

What sets your organization apart from the competition? What makes your customers keep coming back to you – and not to another company? What is it that defines your company, your brand, your business?

In today’s competitive market, the answers to these questions revolve around the most important assets that drive your business – your people. It’s your employees who bring the commitment, the drive and the message that you deliver to your customers every day. “People are, have always been and always will be the Number One differentiator” (R. Vaden, Employees Set Business Apart from Competitors, 2013). Your people set you apart.

At the same time, it is also your people who can make or break your business. Who are your high performers? What do they bring to your organization every day? Are they delivering the right message, a consistent message, to your customers with every encounter? It isn’t enough to talk the talk, if your employees can’t walk the walk.

According to Vaden, ” . . . companies that develop their people develop their profits. The companies that overlook their people undermine their profits.” How do you engage your employees? How to you retain your high-performers who deliver your message every day? Marketing expert Yvette Wikstrom suggests that every company must ” . . . improve employees’ willingness to stay employed . . . and the extent to which employees communicate positively/negatively about the brand/employer to colleagues, friends, family and other contacts” (Market Probe Blog, 2013). Give your employees reasons to stay – and to stay engaged: the right training, the rights tools, leadership and value. Recognize and appreciate contributions both big and small. Thanking employees, whether through an Integrated Rewards Platform, Recognition Dinners or a simple Thank You Note, goes a long way toward telling your best assets that they are appreciated and valued.

Remember that your employees confirm and deliver your organization’s message every day with their commitment, their performance and their interaction with your clients. “The future . . . will belong to the companies that create the best lifestyles for the ones who give life to the company itself – its people. . . . Your people are your Number One asset. Love them. Reward them. Train them. Teach them.” (Vaden, 2013) Make sure that your employees know that they are your first – and best – investment.

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