7 Steps to Improve Employee Engagement with Recognition

Success in business is all about the people. People make a business successful, not matter what industry you are in; employees are your biggest competitive advantage.

The foundation of any successful business is the people, and a focus on ensuring staff feel happy and valued is important. It requires an understanding of the intangibles, most importantly the parts of work that people enjoy are their colleagues, team co-operation, and team interaction. As leaders, we are responsible for ensuring morale is high.

In this day and age, businesses are challenged to find new ways to not only motivate all workers but to reward top performers. Traditional methods of employee engagement are not as relevant as they once were. Recognition is a practice that acknowledges or shines a light on an employee’s actions, behaviours, efforts, or performances. Recognition meets a basic psychological need all human beings crave. It can also encourage and reinforce certain behaviours or values within your business.

According to research conducted by the Australian Human Resources Institute, staff turnover costs are rising, and Australian businesses are paying for it to the tune of $20 billion.

I read recently that a recent Gallup study found that worldwide, only 13 percent of employees feel engaged at work. That means that 87% of employees don’t feel engaged – WOW that is a huge opportunity for businesses.

Employees who are not engaged at work offer the biggest opportunity for a business to improve their performance and probability.

About 6 months ago, I decided I wanted to tap into this opportunity and some of the strategies I used are below:

Share the big picture with your employees – Every single employee in any organistation contributes to the business, and if they understand the part, they play in the bigger strategy; they’ll feel more motivated to contribute and succeed. Communicate is a key, don’t just do it once, ongoing communication.

Acknowledgement – A manager that openly states, “Audrey, you did a fantastic job delivering a compelling business case on the latest project,” is demonstrating perhaps the sincerest form of recognition, and it is absolutely FREE. We introduced a company culture were providing ongoing acknowledgement is encouraged. All managers and supervisors introduced these strategies into their departments, and we saw a healthier workplace and experience less unproductive time due to a reduction in grievances. Employees feel valued and in turn are focused on working toward their goals.

Work-life Balance – we set the expectation in regard to work-life balance. Research shows that employees become less productive after working 40 hours a week. Employees who work long hours are more inclined to have less down time and time to look after themselves resulting in illness, stress and general resentment towards their employer. Many employees also neglect to take annual leave, which means they burn out. Many employees have family commitments and priorities outside of the workplace; if your business can demonstrate that you offer flexibility (within reason), then your employees are more likely to feel valued. The law of reciprocity kicks in, and they will want to demonstrate their appreciation by ensuring they are diligent in completing their job.

For example, I was an executive manager, and I was responsible for generating a multi-million dollar top line revenue. I negotiated a contract which states that you work four days a week and get paid four days per week pro-rata; however, I made sure that I delivered on my responsibilities regardless of how many hours I worked in the office. With technology, employees can work from remote locations at any time of the day. You can be available whenever anyone needs you, and you can guarantee that your external partners would not even know that you only work four days a week. Now-a-days, we are able to do more with less.

Employee Recognition – employee recognition is one of the best forms of motivations. When employees are engaged, they are more likely to be motivated. Providing real, tangible rewards for employees will leave them feeling surprised, happy and overjoyed at being valued. Why not thing about sending a gift, such as a luxury gift hamper to your employees home – can you image how surprised they would be?

Other, less tangible but nonetheless, valuable forms of recognition include offering an employee a well-deserved promotion within the business or offering to mentor them to assist with their personal development.

Empowering our people – as a leader, I believe my responsibility is to build capability, set the vision, demonstrate the strategy, measure performance, reward and recognise. Once I have built capability, my responsibility to step back and allow employees to flourish. Too many leaders micro-manage, which undermines employees and limits their potential.

Socialising – While I appreciate that social events can be costly, they can also be very beneficial and provide a substantial return. We have introduced cheese and wine evenings where at 5.30, we enjoy a glass of wine and a nibble with our colleagues. This promotes better interaction. A few years ago, one of my client’s, a supermarket chain within Australia hosted families and suppliers’ families to at their annual conference. I have witnessed first-hand the intimacy this creates for their employees and their families. Anecdotally, I can say this supermarket chain has acquired the long-term commitment of their staff, and they are also perceived by consumers to be an intimate and community-based supermarket. You can see a really clear correlation between these perceptions and how the business focuses on genuinely caring about their employees and the community. On a smaller scale, events such as family picnic days are just as successful. Businesses that demonstrate their appreciation in this way find that their employees enjoy the down-time away from work and build stronger relationships with their colleagues in a more relaxed setting.

The outcome for me always needs to be quantifiable, and I can confidently say that our revenue and productivity has increased as a result of these employee recognition strategies.

Starting with the ones I’ve outlined will improve your business.

They key driver, or reason, for employee engagement is the uplift in productivity I’ve seen as a result. I believe that if employees care more for their work, colleagues and customers, it will produce a better result for all, and enable us to differentiate against competition.

There are many more strategies that you can implement to increase employee engagement. Some of which I outline in my book “The Power of WOW – Why “Thank You” Makes Dollars and Sense

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