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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5 Myths About Service Awards

5 Myths about Service Awards

Article written by Incentive Services University

The truth is the majority of Service Award programs out there are outdated and ineffective. Many programs were designed years ago and based on concepts from decades ago. It’s easy for these programs to get put on auto pilot but if you haven’t evaluated your program, now is the time. This is real money that could be better spent.

Here are 5 common myths about Service Awards and the reality…

Myth #1: Employees only care about the award

Reality: The presentation from the manager is more meaningful to the employee than the actual award. This is why it is extremely important to provide managers with the tools to make an effective presentation.

Myth #2: Employees are overwhelmed by a large selection of awards

Reality: There’s a reason a large percentage of your employees never select an award. Today’s employees want choice. Gone are the days of offering 25-50 “traditional” options. Employees want better brands and more options.

Myth #3: The website has to be boring and only for ordering purposes

Reality: The website should be an extension of your company and a dynamic experience for your employees. Technology allows you to highlight employees and get their peers involved.

Myth #4: You can’t appeal to every generation with the awards catalog

Reality: The truth is you can. The key is to build your awards selection based on your company’s demographics. You should have a blend of traditional awards for the baby boomers and lifestyle awards for the millennials.

Myth #5: Switching providers is difficult

Reality: It’s a lot easier than you think. An experienced provider will have the knowledge and detailed plan to make the transition quick and seamless.

Is it time you re-evaluate your Service Award program?

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