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I have read that employee engagement is actually declining among workers in the U.S. and across the world. Why is this happening, even though many companies and organizations are focusing more on employee recognition?

08May 2012

Employee engagement has been shown to be a powerful factor in predicting how well a company performs in the marketplace and is related to many positive factors in employees (productivity, longevity, creative problem-solving).  Unfortunately, researchers have found that the percentage of employees who are totally disengaged or are only marginally engaged in their work is at the lowest point since the concept has been measured (in 2007).  This is in spite of the fact that approximately 80% of companies have some form of employee recognition program.  How can this be? Managers are trying to show more recognition but employees are feeling more distant from their work?

In my interactions with employees it is clear they often feel cynical about employee recognition recognition programs — that the recognition is “political” (it is given to one department this month, another department next month), or that the managers are “just going through the motions” — that is, the recognition given is not genuine or sincere.  Additionally, often the “recognition” is not meaningful to the recipient — a special parking spot for the month, or a jacket with the company logo, or some relatively meaningless award certificate.

While employee engagement is a result of more than just feeling appreciated (it also includes a sense of having influence, and that the work you are doing is meaningful and makes a difference), unless supervisors and managers find out the languages and actions that are perceived as authentic appreciation and that the appreciation given is directly related to some characteristic or action unique to the recipient, they will continue to “miss the mark” and their employees will be looking for a better place to work.

For more information on the differences between recognition and appreciation, click here.

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