How to pursue true, genuine employee engagement

Workers want to know they’re respected, valued and appreciated — not a generic ‘thanks!’ or a meaningless work anniversary reminder.

authentic engagement

Engaged employees are the key to making and sustaining better, stronger, more resilient organizations.

We finally live in a time when business leaders acknowledge this fact, and that they need engaged employees for increased productivity, lower employee turnover and customer satisfaction. However, there’s still work to do. A stunning number of employees are stressed out, burned out and increasingly tuned out on the job. What gives?

The problem is, many businesses think of employee engagement as something you must do to employees, rather than genuinely working to create an environment where employees can be motivated and engaged at work.

Employees want to be appreciated

Research from Reward Gateway shows that only 27% of employees in the U.S. agree that showing appreciation is a natural part of their company culture. The keyword here is natural. Employees want to feel valued within the organization and crave recognition for their hard work that isn’t forced–but is an expression of gratitude from the company that employs them.

Humans crave genuine respect, purpose and relationships. When engagement programs are automated once a year, or otherwise not woven into the fabric of company culture and business strategy, they can often come across as disingenuous. So, those generic “Great job, <insert name>!” notes from the CEO might not be making the impact you’d hoped.

The same Reward Gateway survey found that two in three employees believed their managers could do more to praise and thank them in a timely, specific way. Seventy-five percent of employees said a simple “thank you” from their manager would improve motivation and morale.

Research from Josh Bersin shows that 86% of recognition programs focus on tenure. On the flip side, employees have said they don’t find this type of recognition meaningful. Of the U.S. employees in Reward Gateway’s survey, just 20% said they liked receiving praise at a single event.

Organizations must find a way to reconnect to the modern worker–especially those who are still toiling remotely–and create a genuine solution to employee engagement. To do this, we should look at who is involved in the engagement strategy, and understand that a strategic employee engagement and recognition strategy involves more than just one person or department.

Genuine engagement is a team effort

Employee engagement has largely been labeled an HR issue, but the overall approach to engagement requires a full team effort. CEOs, the leadership team, managers and employees are all part of the engagement team.

First, CEOs must lead the charge. The leader of the business has a huge impact on any organizational initiative. At the same time, this voice must be honest to deliver on business results.

Second, the leadership team influences success. They have the ability to pull the necessary levers that ultimately decide whether employee engagement works or fails. Discuss the details of your employee engagement strategy with them so they can adapt to the needs of your team.

Presbyterian Homes Vice President of Human Resources Miriam Wallace says every employee at their organization is part of their overall engagement strategy to create a culture that is special and unique. Leaders at the organization “walk the talk” by tracking, reviewing and even sharing employee recognition. Their managers are trained and reminded about how, when and why recognition should be given and are responsible for at least two recognition posts per month. This has led to recognition activities becoming a natural part of the culture and a way of life for Presbyterian Homes’ employees. As such, each team member plays an important role in an organization’s strategy helping to keep engagement genuine.

A modern engagement strategy relies on managers, but the program shouldn’t live and die based on them. You must have a CEO and leadership team who believe in the power of genuine engagement.

Finally, employees must be part of the engagement team. They should be able to contribute toward engagement and should be viewed as invaluable engagement ambassadors, as they are an organization’s indicator for authentic human interaction.

For true culture change to happen, the entire team must be on board. The formula for successful employee engagement is a human component and team work. Engagement has to be sincere and meaningful.

Employees, leaders and CEOs are all humans. Engagement initiatives shouldn’t be robotic, forced or fake. Organizations must provide strategic employee engagement and recognition initiatives that are human, genuine and help support the organization’s business goals.

Robert Hicks is the group HR director at Reward Gateway. Read more of his work at TLNT

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