Operation Employee Engagement – How To Keep Employees Motivated at Work

|   Aug 15, 2012

Employee disengagement continues to sweep across the U.S. workforce, considerably affecting productivity and the bottom line at companies. Gallup’s latest estimates classifies 71 percent of the U.S. workforce is “not engaged” or “actively disengaged,” contributing to a pandemic that is costing U.S. organizations $300 billion annually. Years of tough economic conditions responsible for dramatic layoffs and substantial budget cuts are showing in employee morale, with an alarming percentage of employees who aren’t engaged in their work. While necessary steps to stay competitive in this trying macro-economic climate are necessary, an organization’s most important asset, people, are taking a real hit.

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Operating Employee Engagement

With the recent June 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting an 8.2 percent unemployment rate and flat levels of job creation predicted, a shaky U.S. job market doesn’t seem like something you would voluntarily want to enter into. But, according to a Globoforce Workforce MOODTracker report, 37 percent or almost 4 in 10 people are actively searching for a new job. This is a clear indication that unengaged employees are looking for a change. This isn’t surprising, when people are unhappy with their jobs they are going to look for new opportunities, even if it means entering into a hostile U.S. job market. Many different factors can lead to this, but lets take a look at one that has recently caught my attention.

As companies have made budget and staffing cuts, workloads and responsibilities from once larger teams have been passed to smaller teams, often with reduced budgets and resources. Workers have been asked to take “recession promotions” and do more with less. But happy to rise to the challenge, workers become more creative and innovative, finding new ways to work. Employees have certainly demonstrated their resilience, but has this new surge of productivity been recognized

A recent Globoforce study revealed that only 24 percent of employees looking for a new job and 64 percent of employees with no plans of leaving their job are satisfied with the levels of recognition they received at their organization. What? How can this be? Companies are always celebrating wins like successful product releases, closing big deals, or generating new innovative ideas. So why are employees so dissatisfied with current recognition programs? Could it be that the dramatic changes in organizations and growing levels of individual responsibility have not been met new ways of recognizing employees? Recent studies would say yes.

While financial incentives have historically been used to motivate and recognize employees, studies show that non-financial incentives are critical for motivating workers. Increases in base pay and stock or stock options don’t carry the same weight as they used to. A recent Tanner Global Recognition study revealed that praise and commendation from a direct manager are more motivating than financial incentives. People want to be recognized for more than just their pay grade, but for the contributions they are making on a day-to-day basis, from managers and peers. It may seem hard to believe, but the almighty dollar doesn’t always beat a high five or pat on the back from your manager or co-workers.

So what can you do to start evolving your recognition programs and go beyond financial incentives to reengage your workforce?

The same Globoforce MOODTracker study found three distinct areas that workers are looking for in their companies recognition program:

  1. Eliminate favoritism: Encourage peer and manager recognition, opening the circle of people that can initiate recognition for co-workers.
  2. Recognize more than just the elite: Opening the circle of recognition givers allows for more employees to be recognized, not just employees in prominent positions.
  3. Value employees for more than their work: Recognizing employees more frequently on their contributions and behavior re-enforces that they are valued contributors. Make people feel valued as a human being and not just for their work.

Enterprise social networks not only connect people to knowledge, ideas and resources they need to work better, it also enables a new kind of recognition program employees are asking for. Enterprise social networks enable employees to freely recognize contributions as they happen, in the public communication and collaboration platform. Whether an employee completes a project early, or exhibits positive behavior that should be re-enforced, employees can receive recognition that is visible to the entire and/or larger parts of the organization. From the top down, or bottom up, companies can start to realign their expectations of what types of recognition are necessary to motivate and engage their workforces.


  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics – “Employment Situation Report” – June 2012 (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm/)
  2. Gallup Wellbeing – “Majority of American Workers Not Engaged in Their Jobs” – October 2011 (http://www.gallup.com/poll/150383/majority-american-workers-not-engaged-jobs.aspx)
  3. Gallup – “Employee Engagement” – July 2012 (http://www.gallup.com/consulting/52/employee-engagement.aspx/)
  4. Globoforce Workforce MOODTracker™ – “The Impact of Recognition on Employee Retention” – September 2011
  5. Mckinsey Quarterly Journal – “Motivating People by Getting Beyond Money” (https://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Organization/Talent/Motivating_people_Getting_beyond_money_2460)
  6. 2008 O.C. Tanner Global Recognition Study


  • One thing that would help:
    Close the gap between executive pay and worker pay. We have the highest gap in the developed world. Workers aren’t stupid. They can see when they’re getting less while the CEO and a few others are raking in hundreds of times their salary.

    Commented on August 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm
  • Great post! Employee engagement is key to reducing turnover during turbulent times. Many progressive corporate teams can benefit from a dynamic, morale-boosting, productivity-enhancing tool! Speed Networking…take a look: http://www.consultnetworx.com/speed-networking-goes-to-work/

    Commented on September 7, 2012 at 2:36 pm
  • This helps me understand more our lesson, explanation well done 🙂

    Commented on January 23, 2013 at 3:39 am
  • Employee disengagement is the biggest reason of employee churn. Social Intranet helps better collaboration, sharing and communication thus increasing engagement. Engaged customers could only keep customers happy and reduce customer churn too.

    Commented on July 31, 2013 at 4:11 am

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