Co-founder WorkTango
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State of Employee Recognition in the UK 2015

9th Jun 2015
Co-founder WorkTango
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Rob Catalano writes on recognition, engagement, alignment and forward-thinking methods for helping organisations focus on employees to drive business success. He leads global engagement and expansion at cloud recognition and engagement company Achievers. Rob is a Certified Recognition Professional (CRP) and a popular speaker on the HR circuit, having presented on best practices and trends in over 30 cities. His writings include a ‘wisdom of crowds’ approach leveraging his work with hundreds of organisations globally.

Josh Bersin said that we spend too much time measuring employee engagement and not enough time acting, with measuring costs as high as $400 per employee.

It’s time to act.

According to a 2014 HBR report, the most impactful driver of employee engagement is employee recognition.  Not salary, career development, or leadership – rather genuine recognition that reinforces that employees are conducting the right behaviours that align to the purpose and vision of their organisation and that they belong to a culture that embrace, promotes and recognises those behaviours.

For this reason, I wanted to find out what the state of employee recognition is in the UK.  I’ll share my thoughts here, but feel free to access the whole report

Must-have versus nice-to-have.

It is clear that companies need to start taking employee recognition more seriously – shifting its focus from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a ‘must have.’  I won’t go into detail here, but I’ve seen countless examples of organisations seeing positive impact from implementing a sound recognition strategy.  Increases in employee engagement and retention, a positive impact on culture and most importantly seeing increases in business results such as customer satisfaction, sales and more. 

But my goal is to focus on what the HR community in the UK shared with me. The most telling response from the survey was this:

Two questions were asked: On a scale of 1-10 (10 being very important) how important is employee recognition to help positively impact employee engagement and align employees to the company strategy and values, versus how effective the organisation’s current strategy is effective at accomplishing those goals.

The weighted average was 8.3 of being important versus 5.3 of it being effective.

That’s a considerable difference of opinion and we should be asking ourselves why.

Alarming few data points from the research:

  • Over one-quarter of organisations do NOT have a formal recognition programme
  • Annual service awards is the most prominent type recognition programme
  • Only 15% of employees are recognised weekly or daily
  • The biggest challenge identified is measuring the impact of recognition

On the bright side, 53% of companies will attempt to improve their employee recognition strategy this year, and with another 25% unsure at this moment. It boils down to FOUR important factors to consider when improving a recognition and reward strategy:

  1. Make recognition inclusive.  Almost 40% of companies have a recognition scheme that doesn’t involve every employee being able to recognise colleagues. Having everyone involved increases adoption, builds trust and impacts culture.
  2. Recognise Often - With today's modern workforce and velocity of business, recognition in-the-moment is imperative - not annually. What gets recognised, gets repeated and doesn’t have to have a reward attached to it to be impactful.
  3. Make it easy and consistent – technology enables programmes to deliver a consistent employee experience regardless of employee type, language or location. A simple-to-use platform allows it to be easily adopted by the whole employee base.
  4. Benchmark what’s important – you can only define ROI when you start with the right base. Whether employee engagement or business results such as customer satisfaction is your goal, defining what your company wants to improve at will help focus your recognition goals and measure success.

There are a myriad of other considerations such as program design, communication, implementation and training, but these four are key. 

Each year, CEB (Corporate Executive Board) does research on the priorities of HR leaders globally. For the second year running, the number one priority for HR are initiatives/areas around employee engagement and retention.

Coming full circle, employee recognition helps positively impact these two metrics. Part of that CEB study identified that 92% of organisations conduct an engagement survey and 76% believe that employee engagement is critical to achieving business objectives. Yet only 20% believe that employee engagement initiatives are driving business outcomes.

It’s about time to reconsider improving your employee recognition strategy.

It’s about time to act.

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