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Most companies start recognition programs because they want to increase employee engagement. High employee engagement has been linked to better productivity, customer/patient loyalty, employee retention, and overall financial performance. However, there is a lot of conflicting information out there about what “employee engagement” means, and many use the term interchangeably with recognition and rewards.

In a nutshell, employee engagement describes the relationship an employee has to your company and to their job.

An employee’s level of engagement can change based on a variety of factors at any given point in time, including the following:

  • The quality of their manager and their relationship to him/her
  • Whether they have clear, measurable goals that contribute to the company’s success
  • The freedom to perform their job with autonomy
  • Recognition for good work done
  • A pleasant work environment they enjoy coming to every day, including good relationships with colleagues

As you can see, recognition is one factor (albeit an important one) in a rather complex web of influences. In order to make the most of your recognition program as it relates to increasing employee engagement, we recommend the following:

  • A platform that fosters social recognition and engagement, which takes recognition from a one-on-one transaction to a one-to-many experience that can be re-lived as more people discover the event and interact with it through likes and comments.
  • An emphasis on non-monetary recognition (greater than 70%), which unhinges recognition from a finite budget and unleashes unlimited possibilities for each employee to be recognized often. Ideally, you want to create a culture of recognition throughout your organization.
  • Award types and messaging that align with your company’s core values, goals, and mission. Recognizing employees for embodying these principles will reinforce them and show others what success looks like. Promoting recognition in a social forum further spreads the message among employees.
  • Ensuring that managers use the program regularly. Although it is normally labeled as a concern for HR, Gallup has found that managers can account for up to 70% of the variance in employee engagement. Upper management must get behind the initiative and stress that it’s a part of every manager’s job to recognize their employees.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate! The best way to keep the program top of mind and ensure participation is to incorporate communications about it into your intranet and other tools that employees may use regularly. You should also use the platform to communicate company news and announcements and even to post training videos or tools so that it becomes integrated into the workflow of as many employees as possible.