Employee EngagementRecognition & Rewards

The Search for Meaning

How employers can keep their most talented employees through the power of appreciation.

By Derek Irvine  
Did you know that more than one in five working Americans do not feel valued by their employers? And, according to a recent study from the American Psychological Association (APA), half of those workers intend to look for a new job in the next year. The study also revealed that feeling valued at work was linked to better physical and mental health, as well as higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, and motivation.
As the economy continues to recover, employees who feel undervalued will find it easier to leave their current jobs, and they’ll be riper for the picking by competitors. In fact, the Spring 2012 Globoforce Mood Tracker survey found that 55 percent of workers would leave their jobs for a company that clearly recognizes its employees’ efforts and contributions.
However, the cost of undervalued employees extends far beyond those traditionally associated with their turnover. Studies by Gallup and the American Institute of Stress (AIS) estimate that disengaged and unhealthy workers cost employers in the United States more than half a billion dollars annually in lower productivity and higher healthcare costs. With the stakes this high, how can organizations ensure that their employees are engaged and feel valued?
Social recognition has been proven to increase employee engagement, retention, and motivation. But why? At its core, social recognition addresses our intrinsic need to feel valued and appreciated by others, a cornerstone in Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs.” According to Maslow, the nature of developmental psychology is such that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs first before moving on to more advanced needs that increasingly influence behaviors and health. As HR leaders and managers, we must understand that this dynamic also plays out in the workplace and has both physical and mental health benefits for workers.
With social recognition, companies can leverage crowdsourced feedback from across the organization to recognize and reward employees for performance and behaviors that align with the company’s core values. Employees who feel good about themselves and their work are generally more healthy and happy. They’re also more likely to stay at their jobs, which is why many companies are turning to social recognition. In fact, a recent SHRM/Globoforce study found that 51 percent of HR leaders observed an increase in employee retention as a result of their recognition program.
With social recognition, managers and peers are empowered to give praise at the moment it’s deserved, reinforcing positive behaviors that align with company goals while letting employees know that they are valued and appreciated for their efforts. Companies can share this information in a social newsfeed, encouraging employees to comment and add their own congratulations. This concept addresses the higher levels in Maslow’s hierarchy where individual needs can influence behaviors and well-being of others.
These desires—social needs, self-esteem, and self-fulfillment—are classified as the engagement levels within Maslow’s pyramid. Maslow considers these the ones that make our lives worth living; in the workplace, it’s what makes our jobs worth having.
Here are three reasons why recognition makes us feel valued in the workplace:
We all want to belong. Social acceptance drives our need for relationships and the desire of belonging, friendship, and affirmation. In the workplace, we seek out positive relationships with co-workers and managers. With recognition, cooperation and teamwork is encouraged and employees are expected to notice and acknowledge stellar efforts of their peers. This leads to greater engagement, collaboration, and productivity.
When we feel part of the greater good, our mood and stress levels improve greatly.
We all want to matter. With esteem needs, we look for things that reflect on our self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition, and accomplishments. Recognition fulfills these needs by enabling the organization to tell employees how their efforts matter. With social recognition, employees understand their value to the organization and know that their assessment is based upon unsolicited feedback from the entire organization.
We all want to grow. Self-actualization is the need for self-awareness, personal growth, and the fulfillment of our potential. In the workplace, this is achieved through effective talent and performance management. Social recognition offers a crowdsourced approach to employee performance, with feedback from across the organization for greater insight into employee behaviors. Constant feedback also delivers the means for employees to achieve personal and company goals, and provides them with the opportunity to achieve their full potential.
It’s clear our instinctual desires to be valued and appreciated extend into the workplace and can be directly linked to employees’ well-being and productivity. The costs associated with workers who feel undervalued are too high to ignore. Social recognition provides a way to address the engagement needs of your employees so that they feel they’re working in a job worth having.
How will you use recognition to improve the health and well-being of your employees?
Derek Irvine is vice president of client strategy and consulting for Globoforce.

Tags: Engaged Workforce, HRO Today Global, Performance Management Rewards

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