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Employee Recognition: Three Differences Between Engaged and Disengaged Employees

/ 4.16.13

At Quantum Workplace, we have a pretty healthy amount of recognition, and it comes in many forms: 3-pointers in weekly meetings, bonuses tied to goal achievement, an annual personal development allowance, team happy hour celebrations, and more. This is probably one reason why we have a highly engaged culture.


According to our recent study, the 2013 Employee Engagement Trends Report, feeling valued has the strongest association with overall engagement, compared to other areas of engagement. Unfortunately, less than one percent of organizations surveyed actually performed best in this area.


So when it comes to recognition, what do employees want? Here’s a glimpse at some of the report’s findings:


1. Access to Training and Learning Opportunities:

Engaged employees look forward to opportunities for growth and professional development. Our research found that engaged employees would rather have access to learning and training opportunities than receive a promotion or spontaneous cash bonus. For organizations working on increasing engagement, this is great news. Rewarding employees with this kind of recognition is an investment in both the employee and your organization. Both parties stand to reap the benefits as employees work to sharpen their toolsets. It’s really a win-win.


2. Time Off:

Disengaged employees are more likely to want time off than engaged employees. In fact, time off ranked fourth in importance for disengaged employees. The only recognition types that disengaged employees ranked higher were monetary in nature. Now, this finding could be the result of two different stories. Disengaged employees might want more time off because their work environment is so far from awesome that they can’t wait to get away, or it could be that these disengaged employees aren’t given enough time off or the flexibility to enjoy a healthy work-life harmony. Either way, if you think your employees are abusing their time off or constantly requesting more time-off, it could be an indication that something else is wrong.


3. Praise:

Our study examined two forms of praise: praise from senior leaders and praise from direct managers. Engaged employees ranked both of these within their top six forms of recognition, while neither made the cut for disengaged employees. Again, this is a win for organizations with engaged employees. Praise is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to recognize employees. Unfortunately, both engaged and disengaged employees believe praise from senior leaders is given too infrequently. When it comes to praise from direct managers, 82 percent of engaged employees said the amount of praise was just right, compared to only 18 percent of hostile employees. Senior leaders should lead by example, giving praise when it’s due, and coach managers to recognize their employees’ successes.


To see more of the report’s findings on recognition, including differences among position levels and recognition preferences ranked in order, click here to view the report.


While our study discovered trends in preferred types of recognition and perceptions of how often it is given, every organization is different and each employee is likely to have unique perspectives and preferences when it comes to being recognized. The only way to truly understand how recognition is working at your organization and how your employees want to be recognized is to ask them. That’s one benefit of leveraging an employee engagement survey. It can help you discover trends within your own organization and opportunities to grow your recognition programs.


Take Aviat Networks for example, which used its survey results to drive improvements to its employee recognition program. In one year, the organization increased survey scores in all ten areas of engagement. Aviat Networks receives insight unique to its organization and even customizes its recognition questions to make the survey fit the organization.


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