Employee engagement, the measurement of employee satisfaction as it relates to furthering the interests of a given business, is gaining a lot of focus. Mid-wave companies that have seen talented individuals walk out their door know all too well the implications of failing to foster a positive culture, promoting and cultivating the excitement of staff accomplishments, and recognizing the contributions made outside of the baseline expectations set for a given role.

The traditional approach is to focus on improving benefits packages, reexamine compensation ranges, and find a new place for the holiday party in hopes that employees will take notice and think, “Why would I ever leave?” The reality of this approach is simply broken: staff don’t feel like they are being noticed, benefits packages only reinforce baseline requirements for a position, and the holiday party is fun and then forgotten about. People don’t stay at a company for these things any more than they leave a company for these things.

Instead, staff members looking for that differentiator tend to notice things like peer-to-peer recognition programs, a company-wide opportunity to encourage and support the behaviors that aren’t covered on the job description. When Marcy is at work for 3 extra hours to get the proposal done for Kim, Kim has a framework for publicly recognizing Marcy’s contribution to the company. And get this: Marcy doesn’t even report to Kim! Each of them have been engaged by the simplest, most impactful thing: someone stopping to say thanks.

Some businesses are now taking things a bit further by providing a sort of corporate sponsorship of recognition systems whereby staff kudos are also bundled with point values freely given by the submitter to the recipient. Those points can then be accumulated and used to purchase anything from apparel featuring the company logo to the intangible such as an extra day of paid time off (PTO). This allows the company to budget for these expenditures on a per-employee basis each year, but encourage activity that ultimately leads to increased employee satisfaction and cross-team engagement. If the big differentiator from one organization to the next is the people and staff members are becoming raving fans of each other, the new reality is easy to extrapolate: the staff have become engaged, raving fans of the organization!

Often I hear, “Matt, this is great, but we already have a quarterly rewards program for this.” What a great start and this sort of statement tells me that your heart is in the right place, and you are focused on the level of engagement I talk about. That being said, one of the trappings of rewards programs that focus on fixed deadlines for submission are that they almost always suffer from the same thing regardless of the time period: the error of recency (also called recency bias).

Put more simply, period-based recognition programs often lead to a rush of submissions by employees “as the buzzer sounds” ending the period. Kim doesn’t really remember that Marcy stayed late because that was 3 weeks ago and has been forgotten about. While she sincerely appreciated it at the time, there was no impetus for taking the time to thank her now. Instead, Kim sends a single item of recognition to Bill who happened to pop in to fix her printer settings. Great for Bill, bad for Marcy.

And then there is the whole issue of engagement interconnectivity or, as I tend to think of it, “the spider web of thanks.” Without having kudos and recognition notifications flying around at near real-time, there isn’t that constant “buzz” of a recognition culture that causes a recipient to not only appreciate when they receive recognition, but also to leverage that moment as a reminder to do the same for those they have been encountering in the day. With ad-hoc recognition, the perception that we have all the time in the world to remember to say thanks is removed. It is really this mechanism that allows Kim’s recognition of Marcy to trigger Marcy’s awareness in the day so that when John pops by later to show her the pieces he has delivered ahead of schedule, she doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge this. From there, it can spider out further with John’s awareness refreshed so that he can thank Bill (it turns out Bill is fixing a LOT of printers today).

Nearly real-time recognition, meaningful rewards, and the spider web of thanks: all components of a renewed focus on employee engagement with an updated recognition system. Look for more components of this “Employee Engagement Refreshed” series soon!

Also, because I love a shameless plug, have a quick look at Hddle, our employee engagement platform. If this article resonated with you, wait until you see it all coming together with Hddle!

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