The Next Big HR Trend? Maybe It Should Be More Employee Recognition

I was in Berlin last week, chairing day one of a HR conference on employee engagement.

The quality of presentations were truly exceptional, with a wide variety of insights as HR peers shared their projects on various engagement fronts.

We heard lots of ambitions, including:

  • Adidas – project to improve engagement scores;
  • BP – embedding a new set of corporate values;
  • Kimberly Clarke – aiming to move further up the Best Places to Work List;
  • Electrolux – becoming a Social Enterprise (online collaboration and all);
  • Best Places To Work Institute themselves on how engagement will just be an “employment norm” by 2020;

The walls we construct in the workplace

What struck me the most, though, was not the ambitions themselves, but some of the “walls” (suitable given we were in Berlin) HR see in the workplace.  And it seems one of the biggest walls of all is managers and the nature of relationship they establish.

Yes, even in 2013, I heard:

  • How do we make managers accept that relationships is a key management task?”
  • How do we ensure they take the time to have more conversations with employees?”

Speaker after speaker spoke about the role employee recognition played in one project or another.  But, here’s my soap box – We’ve done a lot, but we have way more to do!

Why not more employee recognition?

Everyone gets that employees love the positive feedback of recognition; everyone gets that good recognition is a quality conversation. They get, too, that recognition can be telling the corporate strategy in a positive way, that we all need encouragement along the way, and that we need to celebrate the “how” just as much as the “what.”

But where is the mass mobilization of recognition in their organizations? Employee of the month or spot awards to just the 5-10 percent top performers isn’t going to cut it!

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Here’s the statistics (from Mood Tracker Spring 2012): 78 percent of employees would work harder IF they felt their efforts would be recognized. But, only 15 percent got any recognition in the past month. 

Recognition is one of the most powerful tools HR has in its toolkit. Social Recognition – done right  — has the power to make all these ambitions real, and break down the walls, too. Boost engagement, drive social behaviors, embed new values, encourage many quality conversations, reward the “how,” and just generally help employees feel really glad they came to work today!

What are your big ambitions?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is senior vice president of client strategy and consulting at Workhuman, where he leads the company’s consulting and analytics divisions. His writing is regularly featured across major HR publications, including HR Magazine, Human Resource Executive, HR Zone, and Workspan.