Why Recognition STILL Matters



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Carolyn Fraser

Ericho Communications

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Why Recognition STILL Matters 

Even in a Soft Economy, Employee Retention and Productivity Programs Remain Important 

NEW YORK, NY (October 6, 2011) – In the
midst of an economy with very little growth, and with U.S. unemployment levels
hovering around nine percent, all business expenses continue to attract
scrutiny from the cost-cutting hawks. And that leaves business leaders
questioning if employee retention still matters.

According to a new white paper released by New York–based Madison Performance Group, the
worldwide leader in developing employee engagement and incentive marketing
programs for Fortune 1000 corporations that include CA, Citigroup, Kawasaki and
Siemens—the answer is a resounding YES!

The pressure to do more with less continues to guide corporate
thinking, and executives are wondering if programs designed to strengthen an
employee’s commitment and loyalty still make sense in an economy that has an
abundance of idle labor.

Engaged employees—those who are emotionally and intellectually committed
to what they do, and who they do it for—are proven to be more productive than
those who are not. But employee productivity has not wavered in years. In fact,
the average output per employee has increased. This has occurred while the
aggregate national income level for workers has been in steady decline for
quite some time. Essentially, employees are doing more with less and for less.

“Most employees feel overworked and underappreciated,” says Mike Ryan,
Senior Vice President of Marketing & Client Strategy for Madison
Performance Group. “They are productive now because they have to be, not
because they want to be, and they are planning to leave their present employers
when the opportunity presents itself. The surge of productivity companies have
enjoyed will not go on forever. Businesses that ignore this reality, and that
do not take proactive steps to reconnect with their workforce, run the risk of
being the big losers when hiring heats up again.”

Business leaders who continue to think employees have no options are
playing with fire. While the labor market to date has been inconsistent—some
might say soft—many experts say a new phase of robust hiring is coming. At the
beginning of the year, multiple economists surveyed by CNNMoney forecasted that
an average of 2.5 million jobs would be added to the U.S. economy this year,
which would be the best one-year gain in hiring since 1999. Even the most
pessimistic of those surveyed, David Wyss of Standard & Poor’s, expected
1.8 million jobs to be added this year, roughly double the pace of hiring in
2010.

Businesses have digested a lot of bad news recently, but uncertainty
will more likely delay than derail the recovery. Ryan adds, “Keep in mind that
businesses have enjoyed seven
consecutive quarters of rising profits. Third-quarter profits in
2010 rose at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion, the steepest annual surge since
officials began tracking such matters 60 years ago. At some point, progressive
companies will realize that the path to sustained growth is a combination of
increased employee commitment and additional headcount.”

Here are five steps businesses should undertake immediately to reconnect
with their employees in order to retain their best and brightest and create a
work environment that’s more attractive to potential new hires:

1.    
Repair
your culture

Two-thirds of employees believe that company culture has a significant
impact on their morale and productivity. A positive culture aligns corporate
strategy with behavioral expectations, gives employees clarity and purpose, and
provides a framework for worker contributions.

In a positive environment, workers are more likely to trust their
managers and coworkers, share information and ideas without hesitation, and
contribute discretionary effort freely. Businesses signal what’s important
through their recognition plans, and companies would be smart to take proactive
steps to repair whatever cultural damage may have been done over the last few
years. They can start by reinforcing the attitudes and actions that
characterize their internal brand—their cultural framework.

2.    
Set the
stage for continuous innovation

As companies fight for incremental growth, the ability to identify and
leverage new value-creating ideas is a valuable differentiator. Smart companies
know innovations occur when complex thinking is applied to new problems or
opportunities by those individuals who are intellectually committed to finding
more effective outcomes. These “personal patents” define the best and newest,
but often unshared, best practices emerging within every business.
 

In innovative environments, employees believe that management is open to
new ideas, not averse to experimentation and generally supportive of prudent
risk taking. It is your recognition philosophy that mitigates the fear of
failure that often stifles an innovative instinct, and it is your recognition
platform that can serve as the
place to solicit, acknowledge and socialize those new ideas, maximizing
employee collaboration and operational impact.

3.    
Involve
frontline managers

Employees are much more likely to be engaged when they feel their
manager understands what they do well, encourages them to use their skills as
much as possible, and recognizes and rewards their achievements when they do.
But in the face of competing priorities, most frontline managers in today’s talent
economy are not sufficiently committed to the development of their employees’
capabilities or careers. And in that regard, they may be taking their cues from
the top. McKinsey says that CEOs and senior leaders are not sufficiently
involved in either shaping talent management strategies or in outcomes.

4.    
Don’t
neglect virtual workers

The rapid rise of technology has accelerated the growth of the virtual
workforce. This group of employees tends to toil alone, far from physical
interactions with others (and the reassurance they bring). Distance exacerbates
their need to bond and feel connected. This is one reason why reinforcement
activities need to be more specific and frequent with virtual employees than
perhaps with any other group.

While the digital technologies virtual workers use to communicate and
collaborate are sleek, they can lead to misunderstandings that strain
relationships, trust and a sense of belonging. In other words, technologies are
the variable in the virtual
employee/employer dynamic. An overwhelming concentration of instant messages,
emails and text messages dominate virtual workers’ communication patterns and
increase the potential that things will be taken out of context.

Ironically, web technologies can also provide a solution for companies
looking to create a more closely connected employee society. When integrated
with forethought, social-networking techniques can help companies expand the
impact of recognition across worker communities of common interest. Employees,
once isolated, can build/maintain relationships, share successes and learn from
one another. Companies that have incorporated social-media-type tools report
increased employee engagement, expanded opportunities for knowledge sharing,
higher levels of innovation, superior customer focus and lower communication
costs.

5.    
Think
like marketers

No discipline within an organization is more committed to the
development and optimization of its workforce than Human Resources. But to be
better at generating the type of emotional connections that drive long-term
value and loyalty, HR teams will need to start thinking and executing like
their Marketing colleagues. Marketing teams have evolved particularly quickly
in using digital media to deliver messages that are more efficient and impactful.
Precision marketing practices that build personalized relationships with the
brand have helped Marketing teams gain new respect and status within
organizations. HR teams would be wise to adopt some of their methods as they
look to create, deliver and sustain a more meaningful employee/employer
relationship.

Companies continue to rebound, yet the unemployment rate has remained
stubbornly stuck around the 9 percent mark for almost two years. How
unprecedented is that? During the 1982 recession, the unemployment rate peaked
at 10.8 percent, but that elevated level didn’t last quite as long—only 19
months.

Workers are now doing more for companies. While the labor inequities
have helped organizations experience a windfall of productivity and profits,
they have also placed a strain on employee morale and engagement. Survey after
survey suggests that a wide-scale worker defection is forthcoming.

“To sustain high levels of productivity, organizations will need to rely
less on employee fear and more on recognition techniques that are proven to
spark and prolong an employee’s desire to contribute,” concludes Ryan. “Without
taking action now, employers will be left with a recession-damaged workplace
culture populated by disenfranchised employees who will leave for new pastures
at the first opportunity.”

About Madison Performance Group:

Over the course of nearly four decades, Madison Performance Group has
become respected for its ability to create hundreds of uniquely tailored
programs, allowing corporations to optimize workforce engagement and maximize
company success. Priding itself on its innovative ideas and strategic incentive
marketing solutions, Madison Performance Group helps build a corporation’s
competitive advantage in today’s rapidly evolving, global marketplace.

Madison Performance Group has grown to become a worldwide resource for
companies interested in enhancing the effectiveness of their current
workforces. The company has headquarters in Manhattan and offices in China,
Brazil, Sweden and Mexico.

Historically, Madison Performance Group has represented blue-chip
clients in a range of industries—from automotive and biotechnology to financial
and telecommunications—to motivate and engage their employees and create
unparalleled sales incentive programs. Madison Performance Group is proud to
include such leading brands and global organizations as CA, Citigroup, Kawasaki
and Siemens on its client roster.
 

To learn more about Madison Performance Group, please visit Madison Performance Group. 

###

Mike Ryan
is available for interview.

 

 

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