Employee engagement in the U.S. is declining, even as corporate expenses under this heading are increasing. Why is this, and what can companies do to get the results they want from their rewards, recognition, and engagement programs? Join leading Recognition & Engagement Authority, Dr. Bob Nelson, and former Engagement Director for Okta and Qualcomm, Christi Gilhoi, as they discuss what makes an employee engagement initiative successful, from launch to evaluation.
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If you prefer reading, we have an adapted video transcript so you won’t miss anything important from this webinar replay.
Sure, everybody wants to earn a good living and get what they’re worth. But study after study, company after company, shows that’s not the only factor that matters.
“Employees say they expect to be recognized,” said Dr. Bob Nelson, an expert on recognition and retention and author of many books on the subject. “They expect to be thanked when they do a good job, even if it’s what they’re being paid for. If they’re doing their best work, they’ve got to be valued for it.
“You can’t say, ‘Well, we pay above the industry average. That should be good enough.’ That’s a ticket to have people head for the exits.”
Bottom line, said Nelson: “No one’s working just for money. They want to be valued as well, and it comes down to simple interactions.”
Christi Gilhoi, who has directed employee engagement at several California companies, agreed. Both her research and her experience, she said, showed that “people who were getting recognized on a daily or weekly basis were much more likely to stay with the company.”
People want reassurance, she said, when they ask, “Do they see what I’m doing? Do they see my value? Am I being seen and heard?”
In just two years, Nelson said, the majority of workers will be from the millennial or Gen X generations. “They have a very different outlook on work, their role in it, and their expectations,” he said. “Being known to their management, having management on their side, being thanked for doing a good job is not inconsequential for those people. And true, meaningful recognition has to be specific to those people.”
Just because the boss thinks they “paid their dues” over the years to thrive at a company doesn’t mean younger colleagues have the same attitude. “The younger generation is not focused on paying their dues,” Nelson said. “They’re focused on having an exciting job now, feeling valued now. if you’re not going to do that, they will move on… if you don’t want to spend all your time just hiring and recruiting new staff, you’ve got to care about how you treat the people you have so they stay longer.”
Making employee recognition programs work requires participation and support from top leadership, “You have to get their buy-in,” Nelson said. “It’s so much easier to drive it from the top than have it bubble up from the bottom. (Otherwise) it ends up being ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ It’s never going to be part of your culture if top management ends up being dismissive.”
Then communication becomes crucial, as does having “ambassadors” throughout the company to promote the program. “Keeping it front of mind is critical to have this roll out and get stronger, not just plopping it down and then just dying, which happens in some organizations,” Nelson said.
Gilhoi added, “Whoever you put in charge of this has to have a lot of energy. They have to have ownership. They have to believe in recognition themselves. It can’t be an HR program…having them start to tell the story is very different from HR being the voice of the program.”
Every employee engagement program, Nelson said, needs “to track and measure results. This whole topic of recognition and engagement is a slippery slope. They mean a lot of things to different people and where they are in their careers… you have to have a way to measure a baseline where it is now and where we want it to be. You have to have a goal.” Quoting the legendary business consultant Peter Drucker, Nelson said, “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
Full disclosure: there are various employee engagement and rewards programs out there, but we think WorkProud is among the best, with customized tools to celebrate and inspire everyone in the company. Gilhoi said a successful engagement program could be the key to success in many other areas as well.
“This should be the overarching strategy,” she said. “You can plug so many programs into this. You can tie it into the onboarding process. You can tie it into new manager training. You can tie it into external PR. You can tie it into retention. If you build it right and the program is nimble enough, this can really be a framework you can plug all your other programs into. Instead of looking at this as a standalone, look at it as an overarching strategy to change the culture in your company.”
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Every month, we share news, knowledge, and insight into what we believe is a pretty simple proposition: If you are “proud of your work and proud of your company,” you are more engaged, more productive, and more likely to stay with your company for the long haul.