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Employee engagement trends for 2019

Written by: John O'Brien
(View Author Bio)


Research proves that recognition is tied to employee engagement, satisfaction and retention; it’s important for managers to recognize employees and employees to recognize each other. How important? A quick search on employee recognition yields almost 300,000,000 results. So what’s next? Here’s what we see on the horizon for employee recognition.

1. Take it up a notch.

It’s great to be recognized by your boss and your peers, but what about going to the next level and elevating recognition to inspiration? Intentional recognition that elicits an emotional response will motivate and inspire employees to bring their best selves to work. It might sound lofty, but take the time to think about how to make recognition meaningful. This could be a heartfelt note that specifically calls out examples of the contributions an employee has made or giving an item you know would make life easier, like noise-cancelling headphones for the frequent traveler. It could even be giving them the opportunity to speak in front of leadership.

That answers the what but don’t forget about the how. Not everyone thinks speaking in front of leadership would be a positive experience. Get inside your employees’ heads and find out how they like to be recognized; then deliver your recognition in a way they will appreciate.

A recent BI WORLDWIDE employee engagement study indicates that when a manager recognizes an employee, that employee is 91% happier in their current job and 9 times more likely to perform with greater intensity.


2. You snooze, you lose.

You can make a difference by recognizing an employee right away; you could even take the bold step of recognizing them before they start with your company. An Aberdeen study reports that best-in-class organizations are 53% more likely to begin the onboarding process before day one.

Once an employee is on board, recognize them in their first 30 days. Our research shows that they will be more engaged and stay with the company longer.  One way to help keep this top of mind is to use BI WORLDWIDE’s Recognition Advisor. This technology has built-in alerts to remind managers about each of their employees’ recognition activity. It’s basically a virtual assistant to keep you on top of who you’re recognizing and how often.

More than 40% of employee turnover happens within the first month and another 10% leave before their first anniversary. (Source: Equifax Workforce Solutions)


3. Keep a steady pulse.

A survey by the American Psychological Association shows employees who feel valued are more likely to report better physical and mental health, as well as higher levels of engagement, satisfaction and motivation as compared to those who do not. According to recent research by Dr. Brad Shuck from the University of Louisville, employees who feel valued and are engaged are more likely to sleep soundly at the end of the day, make healthy eating choices, report higher levels of overall psychological wellbeing and drink less alcohol than employees who are less engaged. All of these factors have an indirect impact on chronic levels of sickness such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, Type-2 diabetes and obesity. 

Being in good mental and physical health is one of the biggest drivers of happiness at work, second only to employees feeling like they can accomplish more at their organization than somewhere else. And being “burned out” is the best predictor of an employee’s intent to leave an organization.

Over half of burned out employees plan to leave their organizations in the next 12 months. Employees who can avoid burnout are 12 times more committed to their organizations.


4. Spread the love.

Over the last decade, companies have tapped into sophisticated recognition systems to make it easy for managers to thank employees for a variety of activities and results. Smart managers look for every opportunity to recognize both extraordinary achievements and small victories, like completing training, helping a team member, reaching a short-term goal or hitting an anniversary with the company. A simple recognition can inspire an employee to higher performance.

In a study of over 23,000 employees, BIW found turnover is 17.7% lower among employees who experience at least one recognition moment.


5. Strike a balance.

So many leaders think cash is king but what the research is telling us is that when it comes to recognition, leaders need to strike a balance. Dr. Brad Shuck, University of Louisville, believes the focus should be on choice architecture and quality fit. He states, “It’s about how we architect choices that drive meaning and value and translate into performance rather than a one-size-fits-all transaction. Transaction will never equal transformation when it comes to the value of recognition and re-consumption.”

Managers’ ability to effectively reward and recognize achievement can increase employees’ discretionary effort and intent to stay by up to 22.7% and 31.6% respectively. (Source: Corporate Executive Board)


6. Design inspired experiences.

Once an employee has completed orientation, they settle into a routine. This is when it becomes most important to create intentional moments. Examples of this might be offering learning opportunities to help an employee grow into the next job or communicating on a regular basis to let them know they are valued. And on milestone occasions, which could start as early as one week, one month or six months, be sure to recognize employees with something you know they will appreciate. Don’t wait for the five year anniversary; they may not stay that long. Start early and make your recognition timely, personalized and memorable.

Our data shows when employees receive multiple types of recognition and reinforcement at work, they are:
• More engaged
• Happier in the workplace 
• Have longer tenure
• Are more innovative



John O'Brien

John O'Brien

Vice President Employee Performance Group

As Vice President of BI WORLDWIDE’s Employee Performance Group, John O’Brien’s primary focus is to develop employee engagement strategies and solutions that change the behaviors of employees to align with customers’ business objectives. An expert in Employee Recognition Strategy, he educates HR professionals around the world on how to best engage their employees through employee engagement strategies, solutions and best practices.

Learn more about The New Rules of Engagement.

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