Improving Engagement: Sometimes, It Just Takes a Little More Recognition

Last week, I shared information showing that increasing employee engagement is one of the best ways you can help secure corporate information. Today, I’m following up with how to increase employee engagement based on the latest from Aon Hewitt.

Last week Aon Hewitt released its annual Best Employers in Canada list. Overall, Canadian employees are more engaged (65 percent engaged) than their U.S. and global counterparts (61 percent for both). Best employers in Canada averaged 77 percent employee engagement (versus 58 percent for other employers).

This is lovely news for Canadian employers, but what does it mean? What mechanism does Aon Hewitt use to determine employee engagement?

Even the best employers need to improve

Aon Hewitt surveys employees at participating companies, determining engagement levels based on its “Say, Stay and Strive” model. To me, it’s a blend of the Net Promoter Score approach (I would refer my company to others), retention models, and the standard definition of employee engagement (I am willing to go the extra mile to deliver on organization priorities).

But even at the best employers, the survey found two areas needing improvement – recognition and enabling productivity. From the survey press release:

Study participants gave their employers low marks in a handful of areas that remain challenges to better engagement overall. On recognizing employees beyond pay and benefits, for example, average satisfaction among those surveyed stood at 56 percent. The survey findings also suggest that Canadian employers seeking to improve engagement may be wise to consider ways to better enable productive work — giving employees the tools, technology and the information to do their jobs well, and ensuring that business practices encourage (rather than stand in the way of) productivity. On enabling work, the average satisfaction score was just 59 percent.”

Why are recognition and enablement so critical to employee engagement? Because, fundamentally, both of these elements communicate to employees — “What I do is meaningful and valuable.

The power of recognition

Think about it: If your work is important to company success, then your company is going to make sure you have the tools you need to do your job (whether that’s new software, specific tools, or simply a work environment conducive to how you work best). If you want employees to go above and beyond, you have to give them the means to so. It’s just common sense.

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Recognition of work well done should be common sense, too. Recognition is the most powerful (and simple) ways of increasing employee engagement. (And the research on this abounds.) You need employees to focus on certain behaviors, contributing to certain results.

How can you most effectively help them focus repeatedly on those desired behaviors? Recognize them when they demonstrate those behaviors – every time! Praise employees for making progress on major projects to remind them of the value of their efforts on the way to success.

How do you communicate value and meaningfulness of work to your employees?

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

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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