Recognition Benefits Reduce Turnover, Boost Engagement, Recruitment  

Everyone enjoys a little employee appreciation, and it is no surprise that when employees are rewarded for their good work they are more likely to stick around at a job. A recent study by Globoforce and SHRM, “Employee experience as a business driver,” confirmed this notion.

The employee recognition survey found the top three workplace management challenges faced by organizations are retention, engagement and recruitment. If businesses can dedicate 1% or more of payroll to values-based rewards and recognition, they are more likely to perceive greater positive impacts on retention and financial outcomes.

“In order to be successful, organizations need to win the hearts and minds of employees,” says Eric Mosley, CEO of Globoforce. “A more human-centric approach, where employees are treated not as human capital, but as people fosters greater humanity and creates more positive employee experiences. It’s also crucial for HR leaders to take a fresh look at compensation structures and evaluate the value they bring to employees and their respective companies. As our study shows, social recognition can directly impact employee experience and financial outcomes.”

For the second year in a row, retention topped the list of HR challenges at 46%. Keeping talent from leaving companies has nearly doubled as a concern over the years, with only 25% of businesses listing it as a top challenge in 2012.

The ratio of unemployed persons per job opening was 1.4 in September 2016 — nearly the lowest since January of 2001, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This ratio peaked at 6.6 in 2009 and has been steadily declining ever since.

Because of this shrinking number, workers are less likely to tolerate a less-than-satisfactory experience at work for the sake of job security. This means that workers have more confidence — and more options — to look at better opportunities outside of their current employer.

The financial implications of voluntary turnover cannot be overlooked. The true cost of voluntary turnover not only involves direct costs, such as cost per hire and first-year orientation and training, but also includes the interim reduction in labor costs and lost productivity costs, according to a report by research firm Bersin by Deloitte.

In total, it is estimated that organizations lose more than $100,000 for every employee who leaves, and this does not include other indirect costs such as lost client relationships, institutional knowledge and pervious training for the employee leaving.

As for engagement, At least 36% of businesses surveyed see engagement as a top challenge. Highly engaged organizations have lower absenteeism and turnover, according to a separate meta-analysis by Gallup of more than a million employees.

In 2016, recruitment topped succession planning as the third-most cited organizational challenge at 34%. This means advisers and HR professionals are finding it difficult to fill open positions. The number of job openings in the United States peaked at 5.9 million in July 2016 and saw little change in September 2016 at 5.5 million, according to the study.

Recognition and organizational values

Since Globoforce and SHRM jointly initiated the survey in 2011, there has been a steady increase in the number of businesses with value-based recognition programs — where employees are given recognition for specific actions that demonstrate a company’s core values.

In 2016, 60% of organizations had a values-based recognition program, up from 50% in 2012. Conversely, there has been a steady decrease in the number of organizations with recognition programs not tied to values, down 21% from 27% in 2012.

Recognition programs outperform other programs on every metric, according to the study. Results showed that clients are more likely to report impacts such as:

· 32% more likely to deliver a strong return on investment

· 31% more likely to instill and reinforce corporate values

· 31% points more likely to maintain a strong employer brand

The results also showed greater perceived impacts on learning and development, sustainability, culture management and financial results.

Companies that spend 1% or more of payroll on recognition are nearly three times as likely to rate their program as excellent, compared to companies that spend less than 1%. In contrast, companies that spend no budget on recognition are five times more likely to rate their program as poor.

Clients with value-based programs at 1% or more of payroll are 3.5 times more likely to say their program helps attract new job candidates. They are also nearly two times as likely to report it delivers a strong return on investment and two times more likely to help retain employees.



Top 10 Objections to Gamification (and the Best Way to Respond)

User engagement should always be a primary consideration for any L&D strategy. We must provide a clear reason for employees to choose a learning experience over the myriad of other things they could do with their time. First, our experiences must provide clear value to the user. Engagement—and, dare I say, fun—is a very close second. Gamification, despite all of the possible objections, is a great way to set employee learning experiences apart in the endlessly cluttered world of work.

During the past decade, gamification has received its fair share of skepticism regarding its potential to impact employee learning and performance. But, when applied effectively and in combination with other effective learning techniques like microlearning, gamification has the power to significantly improve employee engagement and business outcomes.

Conversations about gamification have evolved during the last two years. The talk is less about gamification as a defining trend and more about how real businesses are using it with great success. We’re starting to see the results of multi-year gamification implementations. Technology is enabling more meaningful, engaging user experiences. Business stakeholders have become more comfortable with the concept, especially now that it no longer seems like just a “trendy” thing to do—prompting organizations like Bloomingdale’s, Walmart, Pep Boys, and many others to leverage it for boosting key business results. Overall, it feels like a great time to dig into gamification as a way to address difficulties with workplace engagement.

Whether you’re just getting starting with the idea of gamification or trying to perfect your strategy, you’re likely to run into some of the same challenges I, as well as many others, have encountered. Here are the 10 most common objections to gamification as well as how to respond, including follow-up questions for discussion.

Objection 1: “I don’t get what gamification is all about.”

Response: Simply stated, gamification is an opportunity to improve employee motivation and engagement at work—two vital considerations for the modern workplace. Advances in technology mean we have the ability to use the same kinds of game mechanics used in the real world (like earning badges for contributing content online or gaining points for taking actions that promote a particular brand) to improve employee learning and working activities.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

How are we already using game mechanics with our customers?

Where do you encounter game mechanics in everyday life (e.g., loyalty programs), and how have they motivated people to engage in an activity?

Objection 2: “Games are a waste of productive work time.”

Response: Letting people play games all day would certainly not be a valuable use of work time and, fortunately, that’s not what gamification is all about. Gamification uses familiar methods (such as game play, points, rewards, and leaderboards) to motivate employees to engage in learning that helps them do the things management already wants them to do on the job, such as reach performance goals, complete training activities, or share their knowledge with their peers.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

How much time and effort, and how many resources, are we currently wasting trying to get our employees to engage in taking the right actions on the job without any result?

How much value would added engagement provide to our employees, customers, and business? Is this value worth the trade for the small amount of time dedicated to gamification activities?

Objection 3: “Older employees won’t like this.”

Response: While gamification does appeal to “Millennials,” repeated studies have proven that game mechanics are about individual preference, not demographics. Factors like age and gender don’t make a difference when it comes to the potential for gamification impact, which means it’s important to put aside assumptions. For example, while many people may assume males dominate the gaming industry, adult women now make up the largest demographic. An effective gamification strategy is designed to accommodate individual preference and workplace culture, not generalizations.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

On what evidence are we basing our assumptions regarding demographics and employee engagement?

How does the reality of a multigenerational workforce relate to the potential of gamification?

Objection 4: “This won’t work in our culture.”

Response: Every company culture is unique. What works for one organization won’t automatically work for another. The same is true for gamification. Game mechanics have a proven impact in the real world across all demographics and use cases. To be effective in a particular organization, the gamification strategy must take into account the unique elements of the culture and what truly motivates and engages the company’s employees. Take Toyota, for example. The company puts together a huge knowledge-based competition every year for its dealership reps that encourages them to compete on what they know about their products for a chance to win prizes, including a trip to the Super Bowl.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

What unique elements of our culture should we keep in mind when designing programs focused on employee engagement and motivation?

In what ways may our current perceived culture potentially be inhibiting our ability to try new ideas and evolve as an organization?

Objection 5: “We’re giving people points and badges. So what?”

Response: Badges and points aren’t valuable on their own. An effective gamification strategy ties game mechanics, like points and badges, to real-world value (see the article on Pep Boys linked above). This could include a variety of value propositions, such as tangible rewards, certifications, credibility, or even bragging rights in a highly competitive environment.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

How are we already using symbolic items, such as certificates and pins, to recognize employee accomplishments?

What types of workplace accomplishments and recognition would employees potentially find worth sharing with their peers and managers?

Objection 6: “I can see how this would work for front-line employees, but this isn’t for professional roles.”

Response: We all learn all the time, regardless of our roles. While the process is consistent, the topics and context in which we learn change based on the nature of our work. Employees in professional roles often have high levels of autonomy, unique knowledge requirements, and considerable time constraints. (Check out these PDF documents—profiles of employees who work in professional roles at MCAP, a call center; TBC, a tire distribution firm; and Ethicon, a division of Johnson & Johnson—to get some additional context on this subject.) For these individuals, engaging and high-value learning experiences are of great importance. Not only does gamification fit in this context, but it can also help address the variety of different motivators needed with such a diverse audience.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

Do we struggle when trying to engage employees in professional roles in continued-learning opportunities?

What are the potential benefits of using similar strategies to develop our employees in front-line and professional roles?

Objection 7: “There’s no proof this will work.”

Response: We’re now starting to see evidence of the impact gamification can have on employee engagement and business results long-term. Ethicon (see above) regularly sees 90 percent voluntary engagement among its medical sales teams within its gamified training platform—and that’s just one example. To achieve early success with gamification, it’s essential to leverage the knowledge and shared experience of gamification thought leaders to create a unique organizational strategy.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

How do we typically introduce new, innovative ideas within our organization?

Which audience(s) may be most ready to try out our gamified strategy based on their willingness to accept new ideas and related business objectives?

Objection 8: “We don’t have the time or money to build games.”

Response: Gamification isn’t about building big, complicated games. The power comes from using simple, familiar game mechanics in meaningful ways. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways using right-fit technology. You also don’t have to jump in with every game mechanic available. It’s about finding the right place to start based on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

What tools are we already using that have gamified elements, such as points, leaderboards, characters, or achievements?

Who are the right potential partners to engage to help us better understand how we can apply gamification to our workplace?

Objection 9: “Games have to be integrated with the learning experience to be effective.”

Response: The relationship between a game and a learning activity is based on the organization’s desired outcome. Learning games, such as simulations, can deliver content in a gamified manner. Casual game play can also engage users with or without direct connection to the learning experience. This type of simple game can motivate users while creating an improved readiness state, or “flow,” that better prepares the user to receive training content. Have you ever tried to interrupt someone while they’re playing a game? Then you have experienced the impact of flow.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

On what research are we basing our beliefs regarding the connection between games and learning?

How engaged do we believe our employees are today with the learning activities we provide? How impactful could an increase in this engagement level be for the same activities?

Objection 10: “It’s going to be impossible to keep people interested.”

Response: Gamification is about human behavior, and that’s a very complex topic. Some early studies pointed to a novelty factor with gamification, suggesting that initial bumps in engagement will quickly trail off as the mechanics become less motivational. However, new research—including findings from Karl Kapp working in collaboration with Axonify—has shown that a well-designed gamification strategy that takes this into account can sustain user interest over time. For example, after more than three years, the impact of elements like rewards, achievements, and leaderboards has not noticeably changed for sample users who initially found value in these types of motivators.

Discussion questions to further the conversation:

How have our learning and engagement strategies evolved during the past 10 years to account for changing employee needs and business objectives?

Which subject matter experts and resources should we consult regarding complex workplace issues, such as human motivation and the science of learning?

Responses like those above should help you engage in more meaningful conversations about gamification with your peers and stakeholders. I also suggest sharing third-party content as a discussion follow-up, including research studies and articles from recognized thought leaders, when appropriate.

User engagement should always be a primary consideration for any L&D strategy. We must provide a clear reason for employees to choose a learning experience over the myriad of other things they could do with their time. First, our experiences must provide clear value to the user. Engagement—and, dare I say, fun—is a very close second. Gamification, despite all of the possible objections, is a great way to set employee learning experiences apart in the endlessly cluttered world of work.



The Exit Interview: An Engagement Tool?

Organizations employ a variety of methods to measure and track employee engagement, but probably none as surprising as this: In a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and Globoforce, an employee-recognition-services firm, 65 percent of firms reported using exit interviews as one of the ways they measure engagement.

“It’s like closing the barn after the horse is already out,” said Kevin Kruse, author of We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement, in reaction to the finding.

“It’s after the fact, and engagement is something that happens when they’re employed,” added Jim Harter, chief scientist of workplace management and well-being at performance management firm Gallup.

Even Derek Irvine, vice president of client strategy and consulting with Globoforce, was taken aback by exit interviews’ prominence as part of the engagement measurement process.

The bottom line, all three said, is that the exit interview is not the best place to have a comprehensive engagement conversation with an employee. Some even questioned the validity of an exit interview altogether.

Yet the three did agree, after some thought, that if an exit interview is going to be used to track engagement, there are some instances where the data could be used to help firms add value.

Harter said the exit interview might become a principal engagement measurement tool if a firm is experiencing a rash of employee defections. “If you’re bleeding, you’ve got to get the stitches out and fix it if you’ve got a deep cut,” he said.

In this case, the exit interview becomes especially important, since HR managers need to figure out what to change in the short term to boost retention and get a gauge on engagement.

“Maybe they’ve lost some of their best performers,” Harter said. “[The exit interview] is more of a short-term fix from my perspective: ‘Let’s understand what we need to do differently right now.’”

Exit interviews can also bring forth surprising candor on engagement-related subjects from departing employees, Kruse said.

“Even if you get seven out of 10 leaving that are just going to give you the party line, maybe three are going to give you good data,” Kruse said.

It’s best to conduct anonymous surveys following an employee’s departure from a company maybe three or six months after they’ve left.

“Broadly speaking, you could learn something in an exit interview that could inform you about how to improve benefits, culture or improve a bad boss … and then those things could lead to improved engagement,” Kruse said.

Globoforce’s Irvine agreed: “You do catch an employee at a very particular time in their relationship with the company where there is a very candid and frank discussion.”

That said, employers shouldn’t count on employee candor too often during exit interviews — because many are afraid of being brutally honest.

“It helps the company,” Kruse said, referring to employees’ candor during the exit interview. “It doesn’t help them.”

About the Author:

Frank Kalman is an associate editor of Talent Management magazine. Reprinted from Talent Management Magazine

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