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Monica Wofford, CSP, is a leadership development expert and author of Contagious Leadership and newly released, Make Difficult People Disappear

Recognition is one way to increase employee engagement, but is there more?


In their most recent body of research on employee engagement, Bersin and Associates analyze the business of talent management. While engagement is more complex than asking “Are your employees happy”, that is a factor and one of the metrics commonly used to answer that question is recognition. Are you doing all you can to ensure employees are recognized and staying engaged? Even if you are, what this article points out may surprise you.

The Marketplace is Confusing

Highlighting their market brief in this article, employee engagement is identified as a widely defined term and one that vendors each approach differently. Some focus on the “happy employee” factor, others focus on the “business results of engaged employees” and still others look at “real time” engagement, asking “how happy are our employees this month”. Sadly, Bersin, well known for their research and the ability to market its value, shines a spotlight on the numbers involved in engagement measurement, being this is what they do. Because of this, they further confuse the market by leading the belief that people and their happiness are able to actually be neatly and cleanly measured. The market place is confusing, but the message would be lesser so if employers would listen to what team members actually want when they’re asked to provide input.

Research Contradiction

The most humorous part of this article is its glaring contradiction. One paragraph states Engagement is a “BigData” issue, describing the fervent need for detailed research, followed immediately by a paragraph labeled Bottom Line, that begins with the sentence “Bottom line: our research shows that employee engagement is not something you “measure,” like blood pressure.” Well, which is it? If you’re a research firm, I’m guessing you’d say it has to be research. If you’re not, I’m guessing you would just like the problem to be fixed. You’d like employees to be happy doing what they’re doing or at a minimum, do the best job they can while working with you until they find something that makes them happy. In this way, while the “research” shows employees who receive recognition are 31% more likely to stay, I would suggest that the picture is far bigger than that. If it were that easy, all those trophies and banquets and certificates passed out after trainings would seal the deal and all problems would be resolved.


Human beings are simply not that simple. Yes, they need recognition, but they need it in the way they understand. There are four kinds of recognition: public, private, tangible, and intangible. Yes, you want employees to stick around, complain less, and produce more, but employees are people with individual needs and communication styles and personalities. If you really want a solution, start asking employees, giving them tools, teaching them skills to understand themselves better so that they CAN accurately tell you what they need, and then test or measure for results. Not all tools will work with all team members. Research is not the only effort needed and people are simply, NOT that simple. However, what seems to be an inarguable fact is that if you show an effort and TRY to give them what they need, they’ll respond favorably, even engaging in a discussion about how one tool or another might not be working and requesting a need for something different. The key is not only to measure, but to LISTEN and try.

I’m Monica Wofford, and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great Monday, an even better week and of course, stay contagious!

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