You Don’t Improve Engagement With Just Another Program

It’s a known fact that one of the biggest movements to hit the HR world is employee engagement. For good reason. Engaged employees make better, stronger, more resilient organizations. We finally live in a time where business leaders acknowledge they need engaged employees for increased productivity, lower employee turnover, and customer satisfaction.

We’ve made some positive gains. A Gallup poll reported the number of “actively disengaged” employees reached a new low of 13% in 2016. But there’s still work to do. The poll also showed only 34% of employees are engaged at work.

So, why is engagement still a workplace issue? You would think that with all the information out there, engagement should be fixed. The problem is, many businesses think of employee engagement as something you must do to employees, rather than genuinely working to create an environment where employees can be motivated and engaged at work.

Employees want to be appreciated

New research from Reward Gateway shows only 27% of employees in the U.S. agree that showing appreciation is a natural part of their company culture. The keyword here is natural. Employees want to feel valued within the organization and crave recognition for their hard work that isn’t forced, but is an expression of gratitude from the company that employs them.

Humans crave genuine respect, purpose, and relationships. When engagement programs are automated once a year, and not woven into the fabric of company culture and business strategy, they can often come across as disingenuous.

The same Reward Gateway survey found that two in three employees believed their managers could do more to praise and thank them in a timely, specific way. Seventy-five percent of employees said a simple “thank you” from their manager would improve motivation and morale.

Research from Josh Bersin showed that 86% of recognition programs focus on tenure. On the flip side, employees have said they don’t find this type of recognition meaningful. Of the US employees in our survey, only 20% said they liked receiving praise at a single event.

Organizations need to find a way to reconnect to the modern worker and create a genuine solution to employee engagement. To do this, we should look at who is involved in the engagement strategy, and understand that a strategic employee engagement and recognition strategy involves more than just one person or department.

Genuine engagement is a team effort

Employee engagement has been labeled an HR issue by the industry, but the overall approach to engagement is a business effort and requires a full team effort. CEOs, the leadership team, managers, and employees are all part of the engagement team.

First, CEOs must lead the charge. As the leader of the business, they have a huge impact on any organizational initiative. At the same time, this voice must be honest to deliver on business results.

Second, the leadership team influences success. They have the ability to pull the necessary levers that ultimately decide whether employee engagement works or fails. Discuss the details of your employee engagement strategy with them so they can adapt to the needs of their team.

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Presbyterian Homes Vice President of Human Resources Miriam Wallace said every person from their organization is part of their overall engagement strategy to create a culture that is special and unique.

Leaders at the organization “walk the talk” by tracking, reviewing, and even sharing employee recognition. Their managers are trained and reminded about how, when, and why recognition should be given and are responsible for at least two recognition posts per month. This has led to recognition activities becoming a natural part of the culture and a way of life for Presbyterian Homes’ employees.

Each team member plays an important role in an organization’s strategy helping to keep engagement genuine.

A modern engagement strategy relies on managers, but the program shouldn’t live and die based on them. They have to be bought in to the initiative by a CEO and leadership team that believes in genuine engagement.

Finally, employees need to be part of the engagement team. They need to be able to contribute to engagement and are an organization’s indicator for authentic human interaction.

The entire team needs to be on board. The formula for successful employee engagement is a human component and team work. Engagement has to be sincere and meaningful.

Employees, leaders, and CEOs are all humans. Engagement initiatives shouldn’t be robotic, forced, and fake. Organizations must provide strategic employee engagement and recognition initiatives that are human, genuine and help support the organization’s business goals.

Robert Hicks is the Group HR Director at Reward Gateway. With the support of his People Team, he is responsible for Reward Gateway people worldwide. He oversees learning and development, diversity and inclusion, people operations, internal communications, and recruitment. He brings his expertise to Reward Gateway following his time working in companies of all sizes, from small tech startups to companies with a staff of 200,000.

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