Employee engagement is buzzy. The term is popular because it’s a great indicator of high performance, and highly-engaged people tend to stick around longer than their less-engaged peers. Doesn’t every employer want to retain their best people? Study after study by the American Psychological Association, Harris Interactive, and others show how engagement is connected to success and how engagement benefits both employees and employers. Gallup, for example, has surveyed workforces on employee engagement for more than 30 years.
Researchers debate the merits of how all that data can be applied, and there are advantages and disadvantages to the surveys themselves. However, one piece of information comes through clearly: public recognition and rewards are strongly linked to high engagement. So it’s no surprise that many companies have implemented programs to better engage their employees and get them excited about coming in to work every day. If you’re a CHRO, COO, or senior manager responsible for your organization’s morale and retention, you might be considering some type of recognition and reward program. If so, you should know the limitations of employee engagement programs upfront:
- You can’t expect 100% participation.
- Cutthroat competitions won’t work and can even be counterproductive.
Not having 100% participation is okay. A well-managed recognition and rewards program will reach the people you want. And you’ll gather some valuable information along the way. The question is, what works best for increasing employee engagement and what are the limitations?
The Limitations of Employee Engagement Programs
Less Than 100% Participation
About the folks who choose not to participate in your rewards program: if their productivity is as low as their participation, managers need to know. As for the big winners in your rewards programs, you might want to give them mentorship opportunities or just set them free to soar. The middle group should be the most interesting for managers. Although persuading average performers to join the winners can be challenging, this is the biggest opportunity for increasing employee engagement.
Cutthroat Competitions Don’t Cut it
For a rewards program to foster employee engagement, your company culture has to be positive. If employees cheat to win (yes, it happens), you’re better off reviewing your company culture.
But enough with the limitations and bet-hedging! Let’s look at what works best in recognition and rewards programs.
The Best Rewards Programs for Employee Engagement
Public Recognition from the Highest Levels
It means a lot when company ownership and management recognizes employees for their achievements. Public recognition shows that individuals are seen, respected, and appreciated for their work. To anyone who is simply observing, it also says this could be them. As long as the recognition is sincere, it’ll motivate everyone who sees it. Just make sure that what it takes to earn those kudos is clearly spelled out upfront for all to see.
Equally, if not more, important is the need for employees to win recognition from their peers—the people who know best how tough it is to consistently bring your A-game. Again, you’ll get some nice internal PR every time someone asks “how many (insert your metric here) did it take for him to win that?” It’s all about keeping your team inspired to perform well over time.
Professional Program Design and Easy Administration
A well-designed recognition and rewards program is key. Traditional points-based reward systems can unleash dog-eat-dog instincts. The right program avoids that and feels more like collegial competition with warm fuzzies and tangible rewards, all tied to the specific metrics you set, helping your organization reach its strategic goals.
Your program should be created with your team in mind. What is most important is for them to know what they will win and the recognition they’ll get. Make sure there’s something for everybody: a nice selection of the actual valuable stuff that represents your organization’s appreciation. What you’re rewarding people with will represent your brand, so make sure it shines.
Adapt Over Time
The best employee recognition and rewards programs grow and evolve with your organization. Campaigns usually last for years; when you need to focus on certain performance metrics more than others, the program should be able to flip the necessary switches as needed. You don’t want to run into fulfillment problems by changing a metric and altering the corresponding reward. It’s not just the tactical goals that should change; the physical goodies themselves need to remain relevant and attractive to your workforce.
That goes for headcounts too. Every part of the program should work as designed no matter how many people your organization has. From company stores (will your internal site hold up to rapid growth?) to personalization and fulfillment, the best rewards programs can handle it, all while delivering a solid ROI.
It takes years of experience to get it right. You need to think about the time it takes to implement a program and the ROI you will get by hiring the best professionals to get it right. Our programs have produced over 10,000 winners—every one representing increased morale among their workforce and goals reached for their employers.
Inproma’s employee recognition and rewards programs are designed to improve employee engagement and help retain your best people. We offer customized programs to help your organization achieve its strategic goals and get better results than through financial compensation alone. If you need help getting your employee engagement and retention to the next level, let’s talk.