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Boost Employee Engagement: Create A Culture Of Recognition

Employee-EngagementAre your employees engaged? Are they truly motivated to achieving your organization’s goals and objectives? Are you sure?

Only 29% of North American workers are engaged in their work, according to the State of the Global Workplace, a 142-country Gallup study. And when you look at the worldwide stats, this number drops to a measly 13%.

Thus, the bulk of employees worldwide—63% in fact—are “not engaged,” meaning that they lack motivation and are less likely to invest discretionary effort in organizational goals or outcomes. Additionally, 24% are “actively disengaged,” indicating they are unhappy and unproductive at work—and they’re liable to spread negativity to coworkers.

This translates to roughly 900 million not engaged and 340 million actively disengaged workers around the globe. Wow. That’s humbling.

But don’t assume this lack of engagement is simply due to bad employees. In fact, it’s often the CEOs fault if workers aren’t engaged, posits Stephen Meyer in this Forbes article. Meyer writes:

“A friend of mine named Don Rheem runs a company called Engagient, and he has a counter-intuitive approach to employee engagement. ‘A lot of CEOs think high employee engagement is something they have to program into people,’ he says. ‘That’s not true. All the so-called triggers of engagement are hard-wired in the brain at birth, and the neurological default setting is to be a valued participant in the workplace tribe. The real challenge facing CEOs is how to avoid the life-sucking influences from a toxic culture or manager that suppress these intrinsic motivators.’”

So as a leader, what can you do to boost employee engagement? One thing is to create a culture of recognition. While giving praise for a job well done is important, it’s just the beginning. Meyer says the best leaders understand the “why” of recognition because they frame it through the lens of employee engagement.

“They understand that employees have a deep psychological need to perform their jobs well and to help their organizations succeed,” he says. “Smart leaders don’t just tell people, ‘Nice job’ and walk away. They personalize praise. They take the time to map an individual success to the innate talents and qualities that enabled that success. Ultimately, the message they communicate is ‘I get why you’re good.’ That’s the most deeply satisfying thing employees can possibly hear. They won’t remember the words you said. But they’ll remember the ‘feeling’ that you, a person with high standards, know good work when you see it, and take the time to notice.”

There are so many ways to build recognition programs that it would fill a series of articles. But one thing is consistent with any kind of program—cash isn’t the motivator you think it is. Research has found that employees work harder for noncash tangible incentives and appreciate these gifts more because of the emotional pull tangible rewards possess. (For more insight, check out this Inc. article.)

Beyond sales incentives, corporate events that thank and recognize employees for their contributions are also a means of boosting morale and overall satisfaction. Think of ways you can incorporate celebrations throughout the year. Did you know that 94% of employees would be disappointed if there were no holiday festivities at their workplace? But to make the event meaningful, more goes into it than reserving a venue and hiring a caterer. Check out this previous post for ideas.

Commemorate achievements with an award that can be displayed in the winners’ offices as a reminder of past accomplishments and a motivator for continued success.
Commemorate achievements with an award that can be displayed in the winners’ offices as a reminder of past accomplishments and a motivator for continued success.

Depending on the size of your staff, consider an annual employee awards program that recognizes outstanding performance for sales, customer service and any other measureable metrics you can build into the program. Commemorate achievements with an award that can be displayed in the winners’ offices as a reminder of past accomplishments and a motivator for continued success.

In the spring, give others a hand by doing some charitable work. Bonding during a neighborhood cleanup or Habitat For Humanity project gives employees an opportunity to give back in a meaningful way.

Incorporate fun and function into your corporate events. A folding hat is easy to take to a company picnic or neighborhood clean-up day.
Incorporate fun and function into your corporate events. A folding hat is easy to take to a company picnic or neighborhood clean-up day.

In the summer, host a company picnic. Go to a baseball game. You could even sponsor a local 5K or half marathon. There’s something invigorating about working a water station and supporting those running for charity. The point is to get employees out of their workstations to interact on a personal level and develop and strengthen relationships with each other that in no way happens in the office on a daily basis.

Giving small, thoughtful gifts—such as gourmet chocolate chip cookies—throughout the year shows employees that you’re always thinking about them.
Giving small, thoughtful gifts—such as gourmet chocolate chip cookies—throughout the year shows employees that you’re always thinking about them.

And don’t forget about the little things—welcoming a new employee on his or her first day, celebrating staff birthdays and honoring employment anniversaries. Giving small, thoughtful gifts—such as these gourmet chocolate chip cookies—throughout the year shows employees that you’re always thinking about them.

But the most important ingredient in any recognition program, whether large or small, is sincerity. Design recognition programs around what is truly valuable to employees and you’ll reap the rewards.

In fact, increasing employee engagement programs by 10% can grow profits by $2400 per employee per year, according to Workplace Research Foundation via Graziano Associates. And there’s more: Increased employee engagement can boost customer satisfaction by 12%, which in turn can raise revenue and margins. Improved employee engagement can also reduce annual sick days from 6.19 days on average for disengaged employees to 2.69 sick days for those who are engaged.

The bottom line: Spending time and resources on increasing employee engagement pays off not only monetarily but also in the overall wellbeing of everyone involved. Herb Kelleher, co-founder and chairman emeritis of Southwest Airlines got it right: “Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that.”

 

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