Want Higher Employee Engagement? Build a Culture of Recognition


Although employee engagement has been a priority for many organizations, only 32% of U.S. workers are engaged in their work, according to a Gallup study. Because companies with higher employee engagement outperform their competitors by over 200%, this is increasingly important. Earlier this month we discussed signs of a negative workplace. Here we’ll discuss how to build a culture of recognition that leads to higher employee engagement.

Of course, workplaces with highly engaged employees start with salary and benefits that are competitive in their industry, autonomy for employees, perhaps flexibility in benefits, work hours or other components, however not all jobs lend themselves to flexibility. One thing that all companies can do is make certain their employees understand what is expected, and that they’ll be rewarded and recognized for achieving company goals and going “above and beyond”.

Here are some ways in which to build a culture of recognition, no matter what industry you’re in:

Support from the top: engage the entire enterprise – CEO must lead. Any company initiative that is not lead from the top will initially be ignored. Employees have been trained to keep their heads down until “this too passes”. Employees focus on what is measured. Doing an initial Engagement Survey or other metric and then designing a program to address problem areas will show employees that the company is serious – especially if announced and supported by the top leadership.

A strategic rewards & recognition program is a key component of every engaged workplace. Companies with highly engaged employees have a culture of recognition. Every age group from the coveted Millennials to Baby Boomers appreciate being appreciated. A formal and strategic rewards and recognition program will help to build that culture of recognition.

Hire a professional to help design a comprehensive program. It looks easy but don’t try this at home. There are specific steps to designing an effective recognition program and a trained professional can help you thoughtfully design your program to achieve results but also avoid unintended consequences.

Identify areas of improvement, set goals with employee input. The professional you partner with to design your program will undoubtedly suggest that you invite employee input to determine areas of improvement and set goals accordingly. Employees are typically eager to improve performance when they are invested in the process and goals are set in conjunction with management.

Training and Infrastructure. Once goals are determined, what tools and resources are necessary for employee groups to achieve the goals? Is additional training necessary? Software? Additional equipment? Employees must have everything they need to succeed.

Which employee groups can impact each goal? Every employee will not be able to impact every goal. The professional you partner with to help design your program will be able to guide you to determine which groups impact which goals and then make sure the program is equitable to all groups.

Train management in implementation of the program. Most managers are made, not born. It’s imperative to get buy-in on the concept and structure of the program, then coach management through the execution of a recognition program. Even a perfect program improperly executed will not be successful.

Reward meaningfully; recognize publicly. Experience shows that the way in which a reward is presented is almost as important as the reward itself. That said, make sure to get employee input when you’re selecting the rewards as well. Are they appropriate to your company brand? Are they something your employees will appreciate and work toward earning? Are the rewards commensurate with what is required to earn them? Public recognition of an accomplishment is an important factor. If employees cannot all be there in person, consider an on-line ceremony or other way in which to include remote employees.

Rinse and repeat. There will be learnings from every recognition program and ways in which the next program can be improved. Invite feedback from managers, employees and reward recipients to identify areas that would make the program more effective or meaningful next time.





In economic terms, the multiplier effect refers to the proportional increase or decrease in final income that results from an injection or withdrawal of capital. In terms of Safety Reward Programs, the multiplier effect might refer to the ROI² (Return on Incentive Investment). A properly structured program significantly impacts overall employee engagement and safety culture, where employees are attuned to safety-related issues, inspired to display “Above & Beyond” safe behaviors, willing to be safety ambassadors, and encouraged to promote learning and support continuous improvement. Such best-in-class programs are designed to promote group objectives and reward individual behavior, engaging, motivating, and rewarding the people behind your success.

Fortunately, there are thousands of companies in high-risk industries that have excellent safety programming, training, and coaching in place. Many include safety in their list of core values and have invested heavily in EHS (Environment, Health, and Safety) technology, training, telematics, and personnel. However, too many miss the opportunity to incentivize and recognize individual safety contributions, behaviors, and performance.

Programs featuring tangible and experiential awards as the reward currency can have a multiplying effect that pays dividends. Benefits include a more highly engaged workforce, fewer accidents and incidents, reduced claims and losses, lower turnover and absenteeism, better communication, increased productivity, visibility to leading and lagging indicators, incremental coaching and training opportunities, and improved profitability.

So, what’s the rub? Are engagement programs focused on employee safety, health, and wellness expensive to implement? Do they only make sense for companies with thousands of safety-sensitive workers? The answer to both questions is no. Properly structured programs can be cost-effective and right-sized for companies with as few as 100 safety-sensitive workers up to those with 10,000 or more. The ROI² of these programs can be expressed as a ratio (in this case, 4:1), with quantitative results showing a savings of $4.00 for every $1.00 invested and qualitative results revealing higher employee morale, which serves as a catalyst for productivity. Safety Reward Programs help to mitigate risk, elevate employee engagement, and improve overall safety culture. They also present an excellent opportunity for companies to simply say thank you to their employees for being safe, committed, and engaged.

People have an inherent need to know that their efforts do not go unnoticed. Safety Reward Programs provide the stimulus and energy that encourage employees to perform at their best and achieve new heights.



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