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Aug 20, 2015

In the last week, a couple of research reviews have crossed my desk, both summarizing decades of research, surveys and analysis in the complex and many-layered topics of employee recognition, engagement and retention.

The first research review is from IBM Smarter Workforce Institute and titled, “How do I recognize thee, let me count the ways.” Key findings of the report include (quoting):

  • Employees who receive recognition are more likely to be engaged at work. The engagement level of employees who receive recognition is almost three times higher (76 percent) than the engagement level of those who do not (28 percent).
  • Workers who receive recognition are less likely to quit. Without recognition, about half (51 percent) of surveyed employees say they intend to leave, with recognition just one quarter (25 percent) say they intend to leave their organizations.
  • Employees whose organizations use multiple communication channels for recognition are more likely to feel appreciated and show a higher level of employee engagement. The more channels used for recognition, the higher the employee engagement level.
  • The findings imply that technologies such as social and mobile could be strong candidates for the effective delivery of recognition as they offer interactive, frequent and immediate communication via multiple channels.

The 5 major elements driving engagement

The focus of the review is on why multiple channels for recognition matter, largely driving to how multiple channels naturally increases the immediacy, timeliness and frequency of recognition, thereby increasing employees’ sense of feeling noticed and appreciated for their efforts.

Broadening this look at the drivers of employee engagement is Josh Bersin’s article “Becoming irresistible: A new model for employee engagement” from Issue 16 of the Deloitte Review.

Observing that the employee-work contract has changed once again largely due to the “radical changes” in how we work (e.g., vastly increased passive candidate recruitment, flat organizations, increased desire for rapid rotation of duties and responsibilities, and 24/7 connection), Bersin offers a “refreshed model for engagement…of five major elements (and 20 underlying strategies) that work together to make organizations ‘irresistable.’”

Here’s the model:


Why isn’t compensation an engagement element?

Interestingly, Bersin took the time to explain why this model does not include what we all know is a very important element of employee satisfaction – compensation. The refreshed model for engagement doesn’t include compensation because compensation is a “hygiene factor” necessary for satisfaction, but not deeper engagement.

Compensation must be fair and appropriate or people will leave. But once that bar is met for compensation, simply increasing pay alone will rarely increase engagement as well. The 20 factors described above, however, can have a much greater impact on engagement in environments where “pay is competitive and fair.”

So the question becomes, are we confident that our compensation structures are competitive and fair? Have we satisfied this important hygiene factor so we can effect true change for our employees?

If we have, what’s holding us back from addressing the elements that truly drive employee engagement and thereby increased productivity, performance and profit?

This was originally published at the Compensation Café blog, where you can find a daily dose of caffeinated conversation on everything compensation.