Recognition Does Not Really Improve Employee Engagement…So There!

I know.

How dare I pronounce such heretic claims!

Many in the recognition industry parlay about what people “said,” or what others have “seen,” on one survey or another, suggesting to the world that recognition improves employee engagement.

Some consultancy firms indicate where recognition “occurs,” whatever that means, that organizations have better employee engagement as well as improved key performance metrics. Recognition industry vendors indicate how many managers or employees “say” recognition made so many things totally awesome, such as employee engagement.

But what “people say” on a survey is not exactly sufficient proof.

First off, there is no uniform definition of what employee engagement is.  With all the various surveys that agencies conduct, how can you say you have improved something if you don’t define what you’re talking about. There is no uniform explanation of employee engagement that is consistently known across all the consultancies and organizations they have surveyed.

Second, no one has properly defined recognition either. Too often, people (and vendors), get terms semantically confused – such as rewards being interpreted as recognition, and vice versa. These surveys that supposedly correlate recognition with engagement never got together to agree on their terminology.

OK. So, does recognition make any difference at all, you ask?

Here’s what I do know.

Recognition given the right way does influence behavior.

Our research shows that recognition improves the positive relationship between the giver and the receiver of recognition. It is this enhanced positive relationship strength between people that moves the dial on employee engagement measures.

Recognition also increases the level of positive attachment people have to the organization they work for. All of this—positive relationships and positive attachment— is what actually leads to higher levels of motivation and engagement.

A subtle, but powerful difference, that makes all the difference.

I shared this premise of “recognition doesn’t improve engagement” in a presentation I made one year at Recognition Professionals International conference. An attendee on the front row looked up at me a little stunned, and said, “You’ve just blown me away!”

It is so simple when you stop to think about it. Don’t let the industry myths fool you.

Recognition Reflection: What principles have you learned that dispel the myths of the many PR broadcasted “survey says”?

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