Influencing Workplace Culture Through Employee Recognition

December 22, 2016 – As employers look for ways to deal with the challenges of low employee retention and high turnover, a new survey released from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and social recognition solutions provider Globoforce shows more organizations are tying employee recognition efforts to their core values.

According to SHRM’s survey, ‘Influencing Workplace Culture Though Employee Recognition and Other Efforts,’ respondents considered employee retention and turnover the top workforce management challenge of 2016. Almost one half of the surveyed organizations (46 percent) cited it as a top challenge in 2016, an increase from 25 percent in 2012. Other top workforce management challenges for at least one third of organizations were employee engagement (36 percent), recruitment (34 percent) and succession planning (33 percent).

Tying Recognition to Core Values

Improving employee recognition efforts could be one strategy to help organizations mitigate these challenges. The majority of respondents indicated that their employee recognition programs had positive impacts on employee engagement, workplace cultureretention and employee happiness.

Another key finding showed that more organizations are tying employee recognition efforts to their core values with good results. Overall, 81 percent of organizations surveyed had an employee recognition program, and 60 percent said their program was tied to organizational core values, an increase from 50 percent in 2012.

The study found that HR professionals in organizations where an employee recognition program is tied to organizational values perceive that the program delivers a stronger return on investment and has a greater impact on instilling and reinforcing corporate values, maintaining a strong employer brand, and meeting learning and development goals.

“This increase is a positive development because HR professionals were more likely to rate their organization’s employee recognition efforts highly if the program was tied to organizational values compared with those that were not tied to values,” said Tanya Mulvey, SHRM’s lead researcher on the survey.

Those whose programs were tied to organizational values perceived greater benefits in a variety of areas, including return on investment — 70 percent versus 38 percent, and instilling & reinforcing corporate values — 88 percent versus 57 percent.

Eighty percent of organizations that linked recognition and values said the programs helped maintain a strong employer brand, compared to just 49 percent without those ties. Two thirds (67 percent) of organizations with the linkage said their programs helped meet financial goals, while 41 percent of employers whose programs were not tied to values cited this benefit.

Additionally, when organizations dedicated at least one percent of payroll to recognition programs that were more likely to say that the programs helped the employer attract new job candidates, meet learning and development goals, meet cost-control goals and retain employees.

The survey findings also showed that many organizations are making other efforts besides employee recognition to influence workplace culture and create a more positive workplace, including by using health and wellness programs (81 percent), and learning & development programs (80 percent).

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Managing Employee Performance

The survey examined what organizations do to manage employee performance. Most employers (71 percent) conduct performance reviews on an annual basis, while 17 percent do so on a semiannual basis and five percent do so quarterly or more often. But HR professionals are evenly divided on whether such reviews provide an accurate appraisal of employees’ work, with 41 percent saying they do and 40 percent saying they do not. Another 19 percent were not sure.

A common performance-improvement technique that can be difficult to implement effectively is coaching. Over one half of organizations reported having a system that prompts managers to coach employees, and nearly three quarters of HR professionals agreed that coaching was either very or somewhat important. Yet more than nine in 10 HR professionals said managers needed more training on how to coach employees effectively.

Engaging Employees

Perhaps the best way to get the most out of an employee is to make sure they are engaged in their respective jobs. Employee engagement forms the foundation of many talent acquisition leaders’ approach to human capital. Engagement binds employees to an organization’s core values and its purpose. And it is engagement that puts people first, front and center, as an integral part of corporate business strategy.

Employee engagement is a whole lot like gravity, which binds the employees to core values, what the company stands for and the mission the company is on,” said Vineet Gambhir, vice president and head of talent for Yahoo! in Asia Pacific. “If the company were a house, then engaged employees would be its foundation. Even if the house were solidly built, without that foundation it would crumble. I see employee engagement through this sort of lens.” People go home after work and talk about what they worked on, whom they met and what they did, Mr. Gambhir added. “Their work experience is what drives them and how their day went is a function of the culture in the office.”

“Full time U.S. employees work nearly 50 hours a week – equivalent to almost six working days,” said Mark Royal of Korn Ferry Hay Group. “When you consider that nearly a third of employees are not engaged, that’s a lot of time wasted for both those employees and their employers who are not getting the full impact of their potenial.” Additional Korn Ferry Hay Group research demonstrates that an engaged workforce has a significant impact on the bottom line, boosting revenue growth up to two and a half times, depending on the level of engagement.

Employee Engagement Lacking

A critical need exists to improve employee engagement, according to a survey released by the Hay Group division of Korn Ferry. The survey, which includes data from more than 7,500 business and HR leaders in 107 countries, found that across all leadership levels an average of only 36 percent of employees are “highly engaged.”

The vast majority (87 percent) of respondents said that linking an organization’s social responsibility efforts to leadership development has a positive impact on overall engagement and performance. Unfortunately, only 59 percent of respondents said their organizations actually do link the two.

“Real leadership development doesn’t happen in the classroom. That just sets the stage,” said Keith Halperin, a senior partner of Hay Group. “The real development happens on the job, and in today’s world employees are looking for organizations that are giving back to the community. Where there’s purpose, there’s a sense of meaning. There’s a sense of value. Opportunities to give back and serve are perfect places to develop leadership.”

Companies Not In Tune With Employees

Businesses are not in tune with their employees’ perceptions of engagement, training and career development, according to a just-released survey of human resource executives conducted by talent management solutions provider Saba. The survey indicated the need for consistent employee feedback across age groups and genders in order to gain an accurate measure of engagement across an entire organization. It also confirms the need for continuous feedback to gain early warning of gaps between the perception and reality of the effectiveness of training and development programs.

The survey indicated that companies do not have continuous channels for engagement and feedback because the majority of employees are rarely asked for their feedback – less than a few times a year.  Based on these statistics and anomalies in engagement, it seems understandable why more than half of HR leaders (51 percent) and employees (52 percent) believe their organizations do not have a good employee feedback process.

Gaps In Perception 

While all the Saba survey respondents agreed that their companies are falling short on providing access to effective training, what was most surprising is the disparity between their responses. Only 22 percent of employees believe their organizations are very effective in providing easy access to training and development and the same percentage believe their organizations provide training and development that helps in career advancement. In contrast, HR managers are significantly more optimistic – 41 percent and 43 percent, respectively.

These gaps in perception are directly related to companies not having channels for continuous feedback. If companies are not in tune with their employees, it is extremely difficult for them to offer effective programs that will improve their employees’ professional development, according to the report’s conclusions.

“Employees need to be empowered to provide suggestions for improvement or what they like, giving them a voice in the company,” said Amanda Green, vice president of training and development at boutique executive search firm Becker Wright Consultants. “The first 90 days is a make it or break time for any new hire. Providing a feedback mechanism early on helps reinforce the culture of continuous feedback.”

The firm recently helped one of its clients implement a 90-day new hire employee roundtable to engage freshly hired associates during the very beginning of their tenure. The purpose, said Mrs. Green, was to solicit specific feedback on their hiring and onboarding experience. It is one part of the process that she said companies frequently miss, and this leads not only to disengagement but hiring misfires.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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