9 surprising misconceptions about employee engagement

misconceptions_smaller1. “I don’t have time to engage my employees”
Impossible. A ‘thank you’ is sometimes all that’s required. Receiving expressions of gratitude make us feel a heightened sense of worth that in turn triggers helpful behaviours. We can all find a spare few seconds to say thanks for a job well done, particularly when you consider the knock on effect.

2. “Recognition and engagement programs don’t provide a return on investment”
Not true. 65% of top-performing organisations have programs in place to deliver real-time recognition and 82% of employees say that the praise they receive motivates them to increase their performance. A highly engaged workforce can improve operating income by 19.2% within a year’s time.

3. “Engage high performers for growth”
When someone’s already at the top, there’s not much further for them to go. That’s not to say they don’t require recognition and praise to keep them there, but for growth opportunities the middle and low performers are ‘up for grabs.’ A 5% performance boost from the middle can yield over 70% more revenue.

4. “Only Millennials are interested in that ‘fluffy’ stuff”
Wrong. For them it’s an expectation. But while there’s no question that Generation Y place a high value on receiving regular praise and reward; recognition doesn’t discriminate. If you understand generational differences and adapt strategies to recognise people the way they want, it’s effective for everyone.

5. “Times are tough. Dump the employee engagement initiatives”
Hang on. There may be temptation to ditch employee motivation programs to reduce costs, but research shows a damaging impact on retention, productivity and future sales once a turnaround starts. Companies that continue to invest in reward and recognition programs regardless often outperform their competitors.

6. “Can’t our employees just motivate each other?”
Not according to science. It’s not actually possible to directly motivate others. Individually we don’t hold the power to stop someone biting their nails or eating junk food. The goal is to identify the influencers that motivate your employees, then put them in place so they are provided with the means to motivate themselves.

7. “Surely managers don’t affect levels of engagement that much?”
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Providing the opportunity for peer recognition is important, but leadership is still a crucial piece of the engagement puzzle. In fact, workers in organisations with higher business value are 68% more likely to agree that their “immediate manager recognises and appreciates good work.”

8. “A one size fits all approach will do the trick”
We all get out of bed in the morning for different reasons. A bottle of wine for every employee may seem extremely generous on face value, but not everyone drinks. An effective recognition program has to tune into the individual. Non-financial reward programs that are tied to the quantity and quality of individual performance have the greatest impact on improving overall business value.

9. “Cash is the best reward”
Cash is the invisible reward that is quickly forgotten. Based on a study, performance is noticeably better when in pursuit of the non-cash incentive. Performance improved by 14.6% when a cash reward was offered compared with an increase of 38.6% when a non-cash incentive was used.

Employee engagement isn’t a myth. Its effects are very real.

Data from a leading retailer showed that stores where employee engagement increased by just a tenth of a point on a five-point scale realised a $100,000 increase in annual sales.

Think for a moment. What could a small increase in engagement mean for your business?


Image credit: Shutterstock.com

Sources: Study by Harvard Business School, Studies conducted by the partner organizations of the Incentive Marketing Association (IMA) – the Incentive Federation and the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement, Aberdeen Group, Gallup poll, Bruce and Pepitone, Forum, Incentive Research Foundation, Human Capital Institute – Value and ROI in employee engagement report, Using Noncash Rewards to Motivate, Retain and Engage Employees, Talent Management Online, The Impact of Rewards Programs on Employee Engagement, Dow Scott, Ph.D., Loyola University, Tom McMullen, Hay Group, WorldatWork, Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study, A report by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), Motivation Strategies, Motivating the Middle, Maritz