Four out of ten staff are not engaged. Rewarding your workforce can make a difference, explains Adrian Duncan
Employee disengagement places a heavy burden on UK plc. An ever-increasing body of evidence demonstrates that a significant proportion of employees are not engaged. Gallup research echoes this, showing that only 17 per cent of the UK workforce describes themselves as engaged with their organisation. Such levels of disengagement lead to increased absence, turnover and accidents and ultimately lower employee performance and productivity. P&MM’s engagement calculator1 estimates that an organisation of 500 people wastes £2.4m a year through lack of engagement. But that’s not the whole equation. As well as the impact on costs, poor engagement also affects customer service, customer (or user) engagement, and ultimately customer retention and profit.
Employee engagement is difficult to define and incorporates many factors. It is much more than employee satisfaction, which doesn’t create drive. Employee engagement is about the emotional connection employees have with the organisation they work for. Engaged employees understand and commit to the organisation’s mission and values; they live the behaviours, and have a shared desire to achieve them, which naturally drives high performance.
In the modern economy, service is often a key differentiator. It is paramount that HR and L&D professionals implement engagement-boosting strategies in 2015 that will result in enhanced productivity or service levels. Such professionals are well placed to make a direct impact on engagement in their organisation. There are a range of reward and recognition tools available to help drive an engagement strategy – if there is one – or if there isn’t, drive commitment, instil values and encourage desired behaviours. These tools:
- Personalise communications and motivation messages.
- Facilitate recognition.
- Reinforce brand values and desired behaviours on a regular basis.
- Help reinforce the manager-to-employee relationship.
- Incorporate training in a ‘game’ environment to encourage participation in training modules and educate the audience on business priorities.
- Reinforce wellness by combining reward and benefits.
- Drive innovation and increase high level involvement in business decisions.
Reward and recognition
Effective employee reward and recognition programmes lie at the heart of creating an engaged workforce.2 Great Place to Work identifies four leading indicators that an organisation should focus on to move towards the kind of high trust environment that is key to engagement: values, empowerment, innovation and recognition. A high trust culture where line managers, colleagues and the senior leadership team do what they say they will demonstrates an integrity that employees are highly likely to engage with.
‘Reward and recognition’ is fundamental as it can drive all four key indicators. Executed effectively, it has an impact in creating the desired high trust environment, embeds values, empowers colleagues and managers to look out for, recognise and reinforce what’s good, and can incorporate innovation and new ideas.
As a starting point, HR and L&D people need to assess current engagement levels and work out where the key pressure points are before putting a plan in place to recognise and reward behaviour that nourishes engagement. It is vital to be clear on what the vision and values are for the organisation and define the behaviours that will deliver that.
Your behaviours should be at the heart of all you do. To drive future engagement, these behaviours should be central to recruitment so that new recruits have a propensity for the corporate values and therefore to be engaged. For existing employees, commitment can’t just be generated through communicating the wished-for values and behaviours, but also by people living them day-by-day. This is where a recognition programme can be effective in helping translate high-level corporate values into the daily reality of what they mean for individuals in each role, team and business area.
Recognition programmes are evolving beyond simplistic tick box exercises. A sophisticated, personalised programme based on altering behaviours can actually drive the business. Technology enables a personalised approach so that messages and calls to action are more engaging – how you communicate it, how you present it and how people interact with it.
Using technology enables modern reward and recognition programmes to integrate different aspects of engagement. Solutions may integrate incentives with games and training (see Using gamification in reward programmes, p44), thereby giving employees a rounded experience which links the impact of their behaviours and performance with interactive delivery of rewards and learning and development activities.
Reward and recognition platforms that reinforce behaviours are evolving to incorporate training. Sales teams have used the combination successfully for some time but other sectors have been slower to include incentives with training. Where this is happening, organisations might link a CSI (Customer Service Index) report to an automated test to develop skills. Alternatively, patterns of recognition against specific behaviours can link to online tools or automated messages to managers. In both cases, any weak points automatically trigger a training tool to change behaviours.
Tailored for a good fit
Staff incentives, communications and education packages work best when they are tailored to individuals. By reflecting on the world of social media, organisations can tailor employee interactions to individuals. A web interface can recognise an individual and personalise the information it shows them by tapping into data held about that person’s role, which team they are in, their performance and preferences. Attempts to showcase desired behaviour will be so much more effective if employees see content that is appropriate to their area of the business, personalised so that they recognise colleagues and can relate to the behaviour.
One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to reward and recognition. A useful approach is to aim for consistency with local flexibility. Some areas of business might prefer team-based recognition, whereas individual recognition works better for others. The value of the reward can also be varied. Consider, too, how best to communicate – will an email be enough or will a presentation work better?
It is important that managers are aware of the different tools available to reward, recognise and motivate staff and have access to instant reporting. Managers play a vital part in creating emotional links to corporate values. People’s attitudes and beliefs influence how they intend to behave, so managers need to nurture emotional connections by creating an environment that fosters positive employee beliefs. They can do this by reinforcing perceptions that demonstrating engagement behaviour has a positive outcome, give confidence in their ability and ensure employees have the right tools to perform.
Measuring the success of initiatives is fundamental to ongoing improvement and investment. Engagement with vision and behaviours is measurable through engagement questionnaires, levels of recognition awarded from manager to worker or between colleagues, tracking the type of behaviours that are recognised and performance in quizzes and training. There should also be less absence and a lower turnover of staff, with all the associated costs, while more engaged people will perform at a higher productivity level.
Rewards and recognition solutions should be able to report not only how well desired behaviours have become embedded but also analyse variations across the organisation. This may uncover instances where an individual or team is always recognised for the same behaviour, such as ‘helpful’, while not recognised at all for others such as ‘innovation’. In an age of finite resources this is a critical analysis that will help target training resource appropriately to develop the desired levels of engagement as well as hit organisational KPIs.
It is worth noting that as well as achieving cost efficiencies, success in embedding behaviours so that people live them every day will be communicated to customers and colleagues, generating higher customer engagement, retention and revenues. These should also be tracked by each business unit or team.
Before they can be truly engaged at work, people need to be emotionally involved. The way to achieve that is to personalise their experience as much as possible and make it relevant to them. An online reward and recognition system is most effective with the backup of offline – real world – support from managers, co-workers and HR and L&D professionals who can offer the development the employee needs to maintain engagement and take productivity to the next level.