Two organizations share how reinforcing positive behaviors and company values through recognition helps drive employee engagement.
By Debbie Bolla
Recognition is a proven lever that drives employee engagement and company culture. In fact, according to Achievers’ 2021 Engagement and Retention Report, 85% of employees report that when they are recognized, they are motivated to work harder. Such is the case for CAA Club Group (CCG).
“Aligning recognition to employee engagement helps us align with corporate CCG values and reinforces a culture of gratitude and inclusivity throughout our organization,” explains Mara Notarfonzo, vice president of total rewards for the organization. “It has also proven to increase productivity among colleagues as it reinforces positive behaviors and human connection.”
From giving a simple thank you to acknowledging team success on the company’s social platform from Workhuman, real-time recognition is a critical part of the employee experience at CCG that resonates for weeks after it is given. “Celebrating each other’s success is not just beneficial for recognition recipients, but also for the company as a whole in creating organic human moments that lend to a culture of inclusivity, safety, and gratitude,” she says.
Recognition programs that increase employee engagement are often tied to organizational values and work in tandem to shape company culture. When managers acknowledge core behaviors and actions, those behaviors are seen by other employees and often repeated.
This effect can be even more powerful when the whole workforce gets involved. Chris French, executive vice president of customer strategy for Workhuman, says that when employees have clear visibility into organizational values and can celebrate their peers for their work, recognition moments will be amplified.
“Being recognized and seen is a core human need,” says French. “Companies that create a culture of recognition and open the door for more human-centric moments to be celebrated find their employees to be more engaged, more resilient, and happier.”
Enterprise software company Unit4 experiences additional benefits by taking this approach. “It’s important to align recognition to employee engagement to provide a connection to others, a sense of community, and to better understand the value of our role in society and the business,” says Chief People Success Officer Lisa Dodman.
Unit4 emphasizes employee accountability by allowing team members to take on their own projects, making recognition even more impactful. “It’s empowering to feel a sense of pride when they do good work and take personal ownership of results,” she says. “Creating a climate of collaboration and recognition allows each person to feel that they have a distinct value. The overall benefit is creating a collaborative culture which leads to motivated and inspired employees. In the long term, this can greatly impact employee retention and satisfaction.”
There are definite strategies to make recognition stick and drive engagement and retention.
According to Dr. Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist at Achievers Workforce Institute, there are five key pillars that are critical to aligning recognition to engagement. Recognition moments should be:
- specific; and
By following these parameters, organizations will see the most value from their program. Baumgartner also recommends getting employees involved because today’s workers are looking for much more than a job— they want to make an impact.
“Employees want to feel valued and supported within their job and their organization—to experience a deep sense of belonging that leaves them excited to come to work every day,” she explains. “The best way to understand what your own specific employees need to feel supported is to get their feedback.”
Leaders can get creative in their ways of obtaining feedback from employees. Baumgartner suggests anonymous surveys, continuous listening tools, one-to-one conversations with managers, and town halls as a start. But the process doesn’t end there.
“The most important piece of the puzzle is that leaders take in the feedback from their employees and then take action to make meaningful change, helping employees stay engaged and feel that they belong,” she notes.
Unit4 keeps a pulse on employee sentiment by tracking productivity and engagement through a talent management platform.
“By using this type of platform, organizations can detect opportunities and prevent or address issues by sending out real-time regular pulse surveys to employees or specific teams across the business,” explains Dodman.
Andrew Bishop, general manager of RecogNation, sees feedback as the work GPS and compass for navigating the employment journey. He says it has the power to communicate and affirm progress; prove that employees are on the right track; and provide course correction when needed.
“Recognition is the positive feedback, validation, and affirmation that team members need and crave to thrive in their roles at their organization,” Bishop says.
Now is the Time
There may be no better time than now to invest in recognition programs. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly taken a toll on employee well-being. According to Achievers research, in the past year, employee disengagement levels have increased by 10% in some cases. Enabled by today’s technology, there are several ways for organizations to measure the success of their recognition programs to further prove the business case.
“The most common leading indicators for success are participation, reach, and frequency,” says Emily Gatton, vice president of implementation at Engage2Excel. For example, Gatton says an organization can look at the participation rates of those giving recognition, those getting recognition, and those browsing social feeds for celebratory moments.
“Reward redemption and employee feedback show overall employee engagement with the solution and can indicate how motivated employees are by recognition incentives,” she says.
Taking it a step further to get a more thorough understanding of ROI, Gatton recommends doing a cross-departmental analysis. “Use crossover data to see correlating trends between high engagement with the program and increased profits, decreased turnover, improved safety metrics, and higher productivity,” she says.
Baumgartner advises leaders also look at the impact that increased recognition is having by monitoring employee engagement. There are three metrics to consider.
- Employee satisfaction: understanding if employees are happy with their benefits and compensation, manager relationships, and working conditions like remote or in-office options.
- Alignment: analyzing how motivated employees are by the company values and goals.
- Future orientation: looking at the potential tenure and career growth of employees.
“Leaders can conduct frequent pulse surveys to understand changes in these metrics and adjust organizational policies or individual scenarios accordingly to keep employees engaged,” she says.
CCG keeps a close eye on a metrics to support its program, measuring its effectiveness by looking at adoption and cost, and linking it to performance and turnover. “These metrics have been beneficial to us and proven the ROI of recognition in the workplace,” says Notarfonzo.
“In the first two years, we achieved 132% nominator growth, 96% recipient reach, 100% senior management engagement, and 88% manager engagement. We also found that turnover is currently the lowest it’s been over a three-year period since implementing the recognition program, and we saw costs decrease nearly 40% over a 12-month timespan.”