Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Walking the Walk

As I prepared for a meeting to discuss employee recognition and engagement with a customer, I turned to a couple of thought leaders in this practice...one being WorldatWork's 2013 Trends in Employee Recognition survey summary, the other was Gallup's summary on 2012 "State of the American Workplace" regarding employee engagement.  What I found, didn't completely surprise me, but something wasn't adding up.

According to WorldatWork, 88% of the companies surveyed have at least one formalized employee recognition program in place (and most have more than one)...that would seem like a pretty impressive number, but it also indicates that there are 12% of the companies out there that don't give a hoot about recognizing their employees...just imagine what the 12%'s benefit package looks like...ugh!  

Although an employee recognition program does not "define" the employee condition at an organization, the inclusion or exclusion of one does give you an idea of how that organization feels about it's employees.  So to that 12% out there...you need to start evaluating the message you are sending to your most valuable resource.

And based on the statistic that 88% of the companies out there have a recognition program in place, you would assume that the level of employee engagement would be fairly high, right?  Well according to  Gallup's "State of the American Workplace" report, 70% of the 25 million employees they have surveyed over the last 12 years state they are either "not engaged" or "actively disengaged". 

Wha?!?!  Are you kidding me?!?!  That almost sounds depressing.  No...actually it is depressing.  70% of the American workforce doesn't care about the job they are doing or are actually actively trying to sabotage the work that is being done.  It's estimated that active disengagement costs the U.S. between $450B & $550B annually.  OOF!

To summarize...88% of companies are trying to connect with their employees, but 70% remain disengaged.  How do you even attempt to minimize this trend?

Well...first try to truly understand the engagement level of your employees, so you can determine who to reach and how (stay tuned...I've got some interesting ideas about how to do this, and will elaborate in my next blog post).  And for God's sake...communicate, communicate, communicate!  If no one knows why these programs are in place, where to find them (make it simple) or how they work, you've created the most expensive engagement programs out there...those that don't work.

Secondly, don't just implement an employee engagement initiative and check it off your list.  It needs to be a living, breathing organism within your organization.  It needs to change as your company and employee population changes.  What worked 5 or 10 years ago, won't work today.  Understanding who your employees are and where they live will give you the ticket for the engagement train.  Technology is an amazing enabler these days!!!

Lastly, make it meaningful.  This comes in all forms.  Some companies measure it, some companies handsomely reward it, and some companies do both.  Choose one, two or all of the above...but for cryin' out loud, don't do nothing (nice double negative, huh?)

The companies that put programs in for program's sake are missing the boat completely.  There are tons of resources out there that can teach you about effective recognition and numerous organizations that specialize in helping you execute.

Now I realize that focusing on recognition programs and relating them to overall employee engagement is a stretch at best.  My main point in this post is that recognition is a key component in the overall employee experience and that how your organization approaches it possibly translates to how you execute your people strategy.

Do yourself a favor...invest in your people now, before the economy really takes off and it ends up being too late.  Walk the walk...

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