(Editor’s Note: Today’s article is brought to you by Bonusly, a fun, personal recognition and rewards program that enriches your company culture and improves employee engagement. They were named one of the 50 Best Places to Work by Outside Magazine. Enjoy the article!)
I’d like to think by now that we all know employee engagement is an organizational challenge, regardless of what your current engagement scores are. Creating and maintaining an engaged workforce is tough. And as human resources professionals, we spend a lot of our time trying to help our organizations figure out how to do it better.
The good news is that we know the solution. The way we get employees more engaged is to make them feel connected to their work. And show them their work has value. Sounds simple, right?
But this is where things get challenging. It’s not as easy as it sounds to create those connections. I can immediately think of three employee activities that provide an opportunity to create connections between employees and their work:
Performance feedback. I think this is one of those reasons that performance management processes are being ditched and revamped. Performance feedback is about more than the annual employee review. It’s also not about discipline. Performance feedback includes those regular conversations with employees. Both the good and the not-so-good ones.
Communication tools. While performance might be discussed during formal 1:1 meetings between managers and employees, these types of meetings are also great ways to share information. In addition, today’s technology tools allow for communication to happen in a variety of ways. We’re no longer stuck with email as our only option. Video and enterprise collaboration platforms can make communication faster and easier.
Appreciation and recognition. Unfortunately, I don’t know that we talk about using this aspect nearly enough as a means of connecting people with their work. I do believe there’s some connection between the work employees do and the things they enjoy and do well. Organizations have an opportunity to create connection by sharing with employees what they excel at.
Connecting Recognition and Employee Engagement
In the Bonusly and HR.com report “The State of Employee Engagement in 2019”, 71% of highly engaged organizations recognize employees for a job well done. On the flip side, only 41% of less engaged organizations recognize their employees. The bottom-line? Old school mantras like “No news is good news” isn’t an acceptable form of performance feedback. Employees want to be recognized for their hard work. Eighty-two percent (82%) of employees say that recognition is an important part of their happiness at work, according to a Bonusly joint study with Survey Monkey.
The good news is that the basic principles of recognition haven’t changed. Recognition doesn’t need to be grandiose or expensive. That being said, it does need to be:
- Authentic. People can tell when they’re being given fake praise or a fake compliment. It’s an empty gesture that does nothing for the giver or receiver.
- Timely. Telling someone, “Hey! You did something great six months ago.” doesn’t make a person feel good. If the employee’s actions were terrific, let them know right away.
- Behavior-focused. I don’t have anything against the phrase, “Good job!” but let’s face it, good job doesn’t tell an employee what they did that was good. “Thanks for turning in your report a day early.” does.
- Addresses the needs of the receiver. Recognition should be delivered in a way that the receiver appreciates. Not everyone responds to public recognition. And some people really want public recognition. Recognize employees in a way they enjoy.
However, even though some of the principles of recognition haven’t changed, there are a few things that have. The biggest change I see is that everyone needs to be involved in the process for effective employee engagement. Managers obviously need to be involved and we’re used to that. Managers also receive training on how to properly deliver feedback and recognition. In many organizations, managers are even given a recognition budget.
This is where we often don’t offer equal training and resources – for employees. Not to take anything away from managers, but employees want to be recognized by their co-workers for a job well done. Chances are employees spend more time with their peers than with their managers.
But remember the four components of good recognition above (i.e. authentic, timely, behavior focused, and meets the receiver’s needs). Organizations can’t simply create those “Caught ya!” programs and expect it to do much to move the needle on engagement. Those types of spot reward programs serve a different purpose in the organization.
5 Ways to Encourage Peer to peer (P2P) Recognition
In a Bonusly survey, respondents were asked about their preferred methods for receiving appreciation and the responses were varied. Employees want words, deeds, and gifts. They want it all. Which means that both managers and employees need to be in a position to effectively deliver them all. Since I’d like to believe that most organizations have some resources set aside for managers to recognize employees, let’s talk about five ways that organizations can encourage peer to peer recognition.
- Build a tribe. While it is important to have support at every level of the organization, a great way to encourage peer to peer recognition is by having employees promote it. Companies can put together employee groups to find out what people are thinking about recognition and how they want to be recognized.
- Align recognition with existing programs, specifically recruiting. The hiring process is a candidate’s first impression of the company culture. Organizations can use collaborative hiring as a way to build relationships between employees. Current employees become invested in a new hire’s success and they provide recognition along the way.
- Examine your technology capabilities. Obviously, all recognition shouldn’t be online, but many human resources technology solutions have the ability to integrate with recognition solutions. Employees are used to giving feedback via their mobile devices. It could be a win for everyone, especially remote workers.
- Find ways for managers and employees to partner. To this point, we’ve talked about managers providing recognition and peer to peer recognition. There are types of recognition experiences in which employees and managers might want to work together. The first ones that come to mind are celebrations such as birthdays, graduations, and retirements.
- Embrace empowerment. I’m sure there are skeptics out there who might say P2P programs promote “quid pro quo” gift card swaps. Personally, I believe those situations are the exceptions and not the rule. In fact, I chatted with the Bonusly team about this and their research has found quite the opposite – that P2P recognition encourages positive behavior. It’s time to trust our employees to do the right thing.
Organizations want employees to connect with them and their work. The way to do that is by telling them they’re doing a good job. And not just once a year during their annual review. Or once a month in a one-on-one meeting. Granted, those things are important, but employees can feel connected daily through words, deeds, and gifts from managers and co-workers which are delivered in an authentic, timely way, that meet their needs.
If you want to learn more about creating a peer to peer recognition culture, check out Bonusly’s “Guide to Modern Employee Recognition”. This is one eBook you’ll want to share with your management team.34