Going for Engagement, Not Just Satisfaction

This is part of a special advertising section on the Outlook for 2012.

Sunday, October 2, 2011
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The equation is simple: Engaged employees produce greater business results. But as job-happiness rates hit an all-time low, employers and HR professionals are constantly evaluating how to motivate and drive performance among the workforce.

Now, more than ever, boards of directors and members of the C-suite measure engagement scores to determine the health of an organization. How your business treats employees is critical to growth as well as the ability to effectively recruit in the future.

When it comes to predicting what's ahead and the main business challenge in 2012, there's no question that engagement reigns top-of-mind. With engagement being directly linked to recruiting, retention and business results, employers must create an exciting environment for the workforce -- and understand why settling for satisfaction is not an option.

Historically, companies have coined the term "job satisfaction" the ultimate measure to determine their employees' experience. Satisfied employees have their base needs being met, and they are content with their pay, benefits and type of work. These employees won't complain and they'll meet deadlines and requirements -- but satisfied employees are not motivated or driven to go above and beyond their job's expectations.

Employee engagement, on the other hand, is a management term critical to your business success. Employee engagement is not only achieved by the things an employer offers the workforce, but also by the work environment that shapes the way employees are made to feel. Engagement goes beyond meeting your employees' needs and extends to creating a culture and community in the workplace.

Employees who are made to feel valued and who are engaged at work constantly exceed expectations, promote your company to friends and family, and embrace a work-life-blend mentality. By understanding and leveraging the engagement and performance equation, companies can achieve greater business success.

Today, the "job satisfaction" status quo won't suffice: Twenty-three percent of employees are disengaged at work and are affecting your business' performance. Disengagement is contagious: Not only is this 23 percent not maximizing their performance, but they also may be influencing your employees who are engaged.

Differentiating satisfaction from engagement is the first step in implementing a strong engagement strategy. Satisfied employees feel fulfilled individually; engaged employees contribute to a virtuous circle that meets individual and corporate needs. Engagement increases productivity, helps with recruitment and, ultimately, retains top talent.

So, the million-dollar question for the business challenge ahead for HR professionals: How do you effectively cultivate engagement over satisfaction?

Build a recognition rhythm; annual performance reviews are a dated means of providing feedback in the workplace. In an era that is now entirely influenced by technology, feedback is immediately available in many different forms of communication.

Today, some organizations remain feedback deserts, where employees are rewarded for their presence, not their results. This "short-termism" practice is a de-motivator. By acknowledging employees on a regular basis, positive performance is encouraged -- and what gets recognized gets repeated. Everyday recognition will not only motivate your employees, it will engage your employees.

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Allow employees to recognize each other, organization-wide. Free peer-to-peer recognition is the purest form of recognition. Empower your employees to motivate each other by giving them the tools and encouragement to recognize their peers' successes. By providing a recognition solution in which peers can immediately provide colleagues with specific feedback, employees are driven to achieve results to impress their peers. A culture of recognition makes for an engaging environment that surpasses satisfaction.

According to the Aberdeen Group, 63 percent of employers believe a rewards-and-recognition program is extremely valuable; that being said, adopting a formal recognition platform is part of a strong engagement strategy that will heighten business results.

Achievers' (formerly I Love Rewards') Employee Engagement Model demonstrates that most great companies with high employee-engagement scores have based their foundations on their senses of corporate culture. It is one thing to recognize your employees; it is another to liken their successes to your company's values.

While all corporate cultures are distinct, each is designed to mirror the company's core values. Aligning your recognition practices with your corporate values will infuse your employees with a sense of mission. This best practice strives for engagement, not satisfaction, because employees can attribute their work to something bigger and greater than a deadline.

Creating an engaging environment for employees is no easy feat, but it is absolutely crucial to your company's success. Don't settle for just satisfaction; implement a comprehensive engagement strategy to combat disengagement.

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