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Employee Engagement – Who to Blame for Low Numbers?



Seems you can’t swing a possum without hitting a new “research” study measuring employee engagement.  Same with consultants that will tell you how to get more employee engagement (those would be consultants without any employees – go figure how they know.)

The net-net is that over the past few years there has been a HUGE focus on engagement and a HUGE focus on recognition as a cure-all for engagement.  So much of a focus that new companies offering employee recognition solutions are springing up like weeds in the spring.  Whenever there is a huge uptick in “solution providers” it is a sure sign something is wrong in the marketplace.  I find that typically happens when a market is underserved, buyers don’t really know what to buy, there is a lot of money to be made off of people’s lack of knowledge (that’s call information asymmetry) and there is little barrier to entry.  Think “.com” boom of early 2000s.

Same thing is happening in the recognition space.

More Solutions – Less Success

I’ve watched as companies build and release technology solutions that are easy to deploy, cheap, mobile, social and “full-featured.”  The siren’s call for HR pros.  A company can get a program launched and running with minimal headache and cost and finally get that boxed checked on their to-do list.

But it’s not working…

Today we have more companies running more programs yet engagement is down?

Recent data from a World at Work Study showed that 9 out of 10 companies have a formal recognition program in place (that’s 90% for those of you in Rio Linda ) and a full 70% offer between 3 and 6 different programs

Yet… according to Gallup one in five U.S. workers is “actively disengaged” and Aon Hewitt’s recent report showed engagement at the lowest level since 2008 (down to 63%.)

So… More companies are increasing their investment in recognition to attack engagement AND employee engagement is lower than it has ever been.  There is something wrong with this picture.

I don’t know about you but either recognition isn’t the solution – or the solution most of those “recognition” companies are selling isn’t working.

More than the Structure

For the past 10 years reward programs have focused almost exclusively on finding a way to deliver recognition quickly, easily and cost effectively.  So much focus has been placed on being “efficient” they’ve lost the ability (or never had it) to be “effective.”

Great recognition isn’t about the delivery mechanism.

Just having quick-to-launch, all-encompassing, socially-enabled recognition software doesn’t get you engagement.  In fact, in many cases, automating a bad system increases disengagement allowing your managers and your employees to do poor recognition faster and in front of more people!

popeilRecognition IS a solution for engagement – when done correctly.

But that means spending time finding ways to connect your employees with the program and its intent and continuing to follow up and work with them on the program.  The key is to find the emotional connection – the meaning of the program – and inject that into the process.

Just launching isn’t enough.  Recognition is not a Popeil rotisserie.

Top 2 Reasons (IMHO)

I am convinced that one of the causes for lack of engagement even with the increase in programs is that companies are not getting what they need from their suppliers.  The data from the same World at Work study also show that while  9 out of 10 companies use recognition only 1 out of 10 provide training on how to do recognition right.  In addition, the vast majority of communication within a program is via email and internet.

Training is a MUST HAVE. And I don’t mean training on how to click a button or where to put your mouse – I’m talking about training on what IS recognition.  How is it received – how is it given – what is the psychological underpinnings of why it works and why it is “human.”  I am almost of the opinion I could train a company on recognition and never give out one award or install any software and get better results than some of the recent software solutions out there.  I really think I could.

Communication is also a key element of the training and the ongoing effectiveness of the program.  If you’re like me – I’m overwhelmed with email so using email may not be the best way to communicate.  At least not exclusively.  I get that email is efficient – just not as effective.  Communication must be more targeted, more focused, more “human.”  Have you tried combining human and electronic communication?  You might be surprised at the result.

The bottom line is that “having” a recognition program does not generate engagement.

Having a well-designed program will.

Hi…I’m Paul Hebert – and I do design.  Let’s chat before you launch.


7 Responses to “Employee Engagement – Who to Blame for Low Numbers?”

  1. […] the whole post over at Paul’s home, Symbolist. (an FOT contributor […]

  2. […] Paul Hebert inquires Employee Engagement – Who to Blame for Low Numbers?: Employee engagement is at all-time lows, and spending on employee engagement is at all-time highs. What’s the deal? Paul has some answers.  Read More. […]

  3. […] Paul Hebert inquires Employee Engagement – Who to Blame for Low Numbers?: Employee engagement is at all-time lows, and spending on employee engagement is at all-time highs. What’s the deal? Paul has some answers.  Read More. […]

  4. Visibility Software says:

    I like how you said “Communication must be more targeted, more focused, more “human.””. So many times you see companies only sending a congratulatory email or a name on a plaque. Who wants that anymore? I would rather have someone come and personally congratulate me for my hard work. In saying that though, what would you suggest for a boss that manages a virtual workforce?

  5. Symbolist says:

    […] Employee Engagement – Who to Blame for Low Numbers? (symbolist.com) […]

  6. Symbolist says:

    […] Employee Engagement – Who to Blame for Low Numbers? (symbolist.com) […]

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