Employee engagement is talked about often but rarely clearly defined. To help give more meaning to the phrase, Clare Schooley, Principal Analyst for Forrester Research Inc. and Dean Carter, VP of Human Resources and Shared Services for Patagonia recently co-hosted a webinar with the Human Capital Institute called, “It’s Time to Rethink Your Employee Engagement Strategy.” During the webinar Clare discussed the meaning of employee engagement, what the data shows and steps to take to help improve it. Dean then offered his own perspective on how Patagonia is approaching the employee engagement challenge. In case you couldn’t join us for the webinar, here’s what they had to say.

What does employee engagement mean?

We polled attendees and asked if their executive leadership teams considered employee engagement a top priority. Almost three quarters (74%) said it was. So while it’s clearly important, employee engagement still has a vague definition. Clare provided clarity and described it as, “good work done well with others every day.” She said an engaged workforce sees meaning in their work and feels good about the organization’s direction. Employees are willing to devote extra time to their jobs to increase the company’s reputation with customers, translating into better customer service. Clare also said Forrester further defines engaged employees as having three common characteristics: they plan to stay at their jobs for the foreseeable future; they would recommend their company’s products and services; and they would recommend a job at their company to friends or family.

What does the data show?

Clare referenced Gallup’s engagement survey indicating that 70% of the workforce is not engaged. Forrester’s own research indicates the when an employee is disengaged, it’s typically because of a poor relationship with his or her manager. So even though employees want to feel empowered to solve their own problems, they also want managers who help them create goals, give feedback frequently and recognize them for effort. And webinar attendees agreed. In another attendee poll, almost 60% said that employee development was their main goal relative to employee engagement. Clare said that engagement is dependent on having “managers who are coaches, who are there to help employees do their jobs better.”

What are the steps to take?

To create a more engaged workforce, Clare said it’s necessary to address six critical engagement levers including:

  • Surveys and analysis
  • Coaching and performance
  • Communication
  • Learning and careers
  • Recognition and rewards
  • Health and well-being

Tackling each one of these buckets will help solve the “engagement puzzle” that eludes so many organizations today. She also said that each of these levers has a digital component, allowing organizations to get more visibility and data around their engagement efforts.

How does one company engage its workforce?

Dean said that Patagonia’s culture is “wildly unique” and unconventional but it’s processes for performance management and engagement were just the opposite. They were very traditional – and they weren’t working. So Dean set out to create a “performance culture that thrives on unconventional approaches, transparency and collaboration.” He agreed with Clare’s assertion that employee engagement starts with the relationship between managers and employees. Because Patagonia’s preview review processes were so manual and time-consuming, there was less time for meaningful conversations and coaching opportunities.

Patagonia needed a technology platform that aligned closely with its own business goals. Dean said they wanted a system that was responsive in real-time, uncovered data, could personalize performance, fostered a growth mindset and had a clean, intuitive design. To achieve these objectives, Patagonia partnered with Kazoo. While their new approach is in its beginning stages, Dean says they expect to see employee goals that produce better results, self-driven learning, more visibility and improved efficiency.


The webinar was an opportunity to get more clarity into an oftentimes less-than-clear idea: improving employee engagement. To see some of the attendee questions from the webinar, click here to read the Q&A.

One metric often used to assess the health and attractive power of an organization is its turnover rate. Measured as the percentage of employees in a workforce who leave during a set period of time, turnover rate reflects employee engagement at a certain company. Turnover rate is a top concern for all HR professionals and organizational leaders. The question is, what can be done to sustain or improve the rate? What are the secrets of low turnover companies?

First, leadership needs to understand the reality of turnover. The average company loses 20-50% of its employees each year, and at any given time it should be assumed that 55% of an organization’s employees are searching for other opportunities.

To curb this trend, employee engagement is key. Companies with highly-engaged employees have turnover rates 31% lower than those with employees who are less engaged. Highly engaged employees are great for business too. In addition to being two times more likely to remain with the company, these employees are two times more likely to help a coworker without being asked, and three times as likely to go beyond expectations to do something positive for the company. Dedicated employee engagement programs have been shown to increase annual organizational profits by $2,400 per employee.

So how do companies nurture employee engagement? One tactic is to communicate openly with employees about their career paths. Empowering employees to set their own goals is more effective than top-down goal-setting. Also, work to build loyalty in the office. Remind employees their work is less about individual accomplishments and more about what the team can achieve as a whole. Loyalty is easily overlooked in modern workplaces — a surprising 80% of executives say promoting loyalty in their companies has never been a priority.

Engaging existing employees is one thing, but what about addressing the issue of turnover before another employee arrives or as the next employee departs?

Believe it or not, there are occasions when high turnover can be a blessing. Sometimes organizations outgrow their existing crop of employees and it makes sense to bring in a bunch of new people with new energy and new ideas. Just be sure to keep those people engaged once they arrive!

It’s that time of year again, when we gather with family and friends and usher in the start of the Holiday Season by filling ourselves on good food and enjoying good company. Thanksgiving is a time to take pause and give thanks for the people in our lives who make a difference – and, of course, watch a lot of football.

This time of year can also be a great time to sit down and think about our employees and how we recognize their achievements and successes throughout the year. Traditionally, leaders only take stock of these things on work anniversaries, birthdays, and performance reviews. This Thanksgiving, I encourage you to make year-round employee recognition a priority and habit for the upcoming year.



Kazoo Manager's Guide - 50 Employee Behaviors to Recognize & Reward
Managers! See our 50 Behaviors to Recognize and Reward in the Workplace


Employee Recognition vs. Rewards

When we talk about employee recognition, it’s important to understand that we don’t mean rewards. Rewards are handed down for accomplishing or exceeding pre-determined goals and they are associated with winning contests or leading others in terms of goals and KPIs. Rewards often have their own pomp and circumstance surrounding them, and they involve handing down a prize or a trophy as a symbol of achievement.

Recognizing employees, on the other hand, is much more personal, which means taking the time to highlight specifically what an employee is doing right. Recognition is a display of appreciation for contributions that and employee makes, either with or without pre-determined goals or KPIs in place. Recognition can be anything from a simple “thank you,” to a handwritten note, to some type of reward, like extra paid time off.

Read more: What’s the one underutilized employee engagement tip for managers?

The key word to remember when it comes to employee recognition is “specific.” Everyone likes a general pat on the back for effort, but to recognize an employee is to highlight exactly what that person is doing right, so that the individual has the information they need to replicate that action or behavior in the future.

This thanksgiving, make year-round employee recognition a priority and habit for the upcoming year.

Recognition to Drive Productivity

Effective leaders use ongoing employee recognition to help drive productivity. When a team member is recognized for a specific action, achievement, or contribution, they will have the tools to take that feedback and use it to continue engaging in the behaviors that led to the outcome. However, recognition spreads just beyond the employee being recognized.

For example, a sales director may recognize a team member who blew their quarterly goal out of the water by trying a new sales technique. Let’s say that the director gave that recognition during a team meeting, outlining the successful employee’s approach, and expressing praise and gratitude in front if the group.

This does two things for the entire group: 1) it gives the sales team a new, tested tool in their toolbox to approach their work in the future and 2) it shows that their sales director has a true appreciation for and takes the time to acknowledge employees when they push the boundaries to achieve their goals. This can ignite a fire in a team, motivating them to try new things and work a little harder to get that same level of recognition from leadership.



Interested in Learning More?

Looking for more information on driving employee performance? Beth was featured in Entrepreneur.com discussing ongoing performance feedback.

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Recognition is a way to hand down positive reinforcement, solidifying behaviors in employees that leaders hope to see repeated. However, it is also an excellent way to motivate an entire team, as it is just human nature to desire recognition for achievement.

It’s Always a Good Time to Hand Down Recognition

Employee recognition doesn’t have to be reserved for quarterly meetings, holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions. In fact, it shouldn’t be. For recognition to have a long-term, positive impact on a team, leaders should be prepared to recognize employees throughout the year, in real time. If a team member is recognized three months after an action, they won’t closely associate the recognition with the action. When recognition happens in real time, it is far more impactful and helps drive positive change.



I wish you, your family, and your employees a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. Eat well, enjoy your company, and don’t forget to take the time to recognize a team member or two before you close up the office for the holiday weekend.


Beth Miller

Beth Miller

Beth Armknecht Miller’s passion for learning, and dedication to helping others, are strands woven throughout her distinguished career, which continue to guide her work with Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. As a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer, Beth holds herself to a rigorous standard of excellence, and she encourages her clients to do the same when pursuing their goals.

This article is by Beth Miller from executive-velocity.com.

Where do you spend a majority (or at least a good chunk) of your time? Work. And do you feel valued or appreciated for all of the work you do? If you’re like nearly half of employees out there, there’s a good chance the answer is “no.”

Earlier this year, the American Psychological Association (APA) released results from their online survey on employee engagement, satisfaction and motivation as they relate to feeling valued by an employer. Surprisingly or not, only 54 percent said their employer made them feel valued, but of those, 93 percent said they’re motivated to do their best and 88 percent said they felt engaged. Of those who did not feel valued, only 33 percent said they’re motivated to do their best and only 38 percent felt engaged.

How Employee Appreciation is Linked to Work Performance

While these results are only representative of a single group of respondents (there are others similar studies out there), there is a clear correlation between feeling valued/appreciated and a desire to perform well and remain actively engaged with an employer.

Unfortunately, too many companies have too little focus on this piece of the recruitment-engagement-retention puzzle but then wonder why they’re losing top talent to other organizations or not even able to get them in the door let alone discussing how work performance is impacted.

Employee Retention Strategies for 2016
Grab this free, tactical guide to boosting employee retention!

Lessons in Employee Appreciation from “The Millennials”

It may be easier to dismiss a sappy fad with no real value that’s only important to Gen Y (aka the Millennials), but with nearly half of the workforce reporting they aren’t feeling the love from their employer, it’s time to pay more attention to want employees really want. Sometimes it’s a more competitive salary, other times it’s flextime, but I would go out on a limb to say there’s always a desire to be appreciated.

Learn more with the Ultimate Guide to Engaging Millennial Employees

A Fresh Perspective on Feeling Valued & Workplace Motivation

You may disagree with my last statement, but as someone who recently went from being simply content in a role/with a company for multiple years to being amazed with a new organization in the first week alone, being valued and appreciated means more than you’d think – you just might not realize it until you experience it differently.

A fresh perspective on what a career can and should be has brought the idea of employee appreciation being a key factor in employee engagement and motivation to the forefront. It’s something that must be visible and authentic from the first interaction (think candidate experience), during the interview process, on the first day and ongoing throughout an employee’s tenure. If you fail to recognize and act upon this desire, your ability to recruit and retain the best people will prove more and more difficult as a new generation takes over the workforce.

Kazoo Manager's Guide - 50 Employee Behaviors to Recognize & Reward
Managers! See 50 Employee Behaviors to Recognize and Reward in the Workplace



Autumn McReynolds

Autumn McReynolds

Autumn McReynolds is the Content Strategist and Lead Blogger for TalentMinded, an online publication focused on talent attraction and engagement in the digital age. After landing in the recruitment space in 2009, she has spent the past three years in the job board industry as both a recruiter and project manager, consulting with clients about job advertisements, employment brand and SEO strategies for attracting new candidates via job postings.

This article is by Autumn McReynolds from blogging4jobs.com.

Mention an employee rewards and recognition programme and terms such as performance bonus, ESOPs, financial incentives and gift vouchers rush to the mind.

As organizations compete to build & retain their most prized asset – their people – Reward and Recognition (R&R) programs are crucial to motivate employees and enhance job satisfaction. Whatever name or form it takes, there has never been more of a focus on R&R than today.

Learn More: 4 Ways to Boost Employee Retention Through Engagement: An Infographic

Though financial incentives are an important component of R&R initiatives, they are not the only one. Instead, organisations are recognising high-performers through personal, unique and creative incentives that are built around everyday experiences at their jobs and memorable moments at the workplace. As more & more employers look beyond financial incentives & annual conferences, it’s time to create awards that institutionalise corporate culture, deliver the instant high of a job well done and build an emotional connect with employees.

As organizations are discovering, all it takes is some out-of-the-box thinking around R&R to capitalise on everyday achievements and energise employees.


40 unique reward ideas that will boost employee engagement


Real time awards work: It’s always a good idea to instantly reward team members rather than to wait for a formal announcement or end-of-year review. The employee will surely be rewarded through the regular HR process in the due course of time but by then the adrenalin rush that comes with sky-high achievement could be over. Delayed appreciation can also lead to a sense of dissatisfaction and demotivation for an employee. The solution: recognize employees through a tangible award in real time, reinforcing their belief in the organisation and creating a sense of belonging and pride.

Golden Banana Award Story

Hewlett-Packard’s Golden Banana Award is a prestigious award for inventive employees at HP. Here’s how the story behind this reward goes. A company engineer once rushed into his manager’s office with the solution for a problem that the division had been struggling with for several weeks. The manager was delighted by the initiative shown by the employee and wanted to reward him at that moment itself. He searched his office and finding only a leftover banana, handed it over to the engineer and said, “Well done! Congratulations!” The Golden Banana Award went on to be institutionalised, but it still retains its spontaneity and value as the ultimate workplace award.

Create an environment of appreciation: While R&R programs are typically about recognition from the management, employees value positive feedback from peer groups equally. Though many organisations get team members to nominate their peers for R&R programs, giving a personal touch to such appreciation can go a long way towards building motivation. Providing a platform for employees to show appreciation through a ‘Thank You’ message or a small gift of gratitude makes recognition a part of the organisational DNA and keeps team spirit going. Showcasing successful employee stories and appreciative testimonials from clients and colleagues too can skyrocket employee motivation levels.

Kazoo Manager's Guide - 50 Employee Behaviors to Recognize & Reward
Managers! See our 50 Behaviors to Recognize and Reward in the Workplace

World of Thanks Story

To create a culture of recognition, AT&T Universal Card Services, Florida, through its ‘World of Thanks’ program encourages employees to write a message of thanks and send it to each other. For giving it an official touch, employees are given a globe-shaped pad of colored paper to write their messages. It is believed that in the first four years from its launch in 2000, AT&T employees have written over 130,000 thank you notes!

Prize organisational values: It is an unsaid rule that an employee generating above target revenues or providing exceptional customer service is given formal rewards and financial incentives. However, companies are going beyond incentives related to the performance metrics of the job and recognising employees who set an example of the organisation’s values and way of life or demonstrate strong work ethics. The result is a powerful message about what the organisation stands for, that reinforces desired work styles and establishes a strong culture.

Spirit of Fred Award Story

Although Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida boasts of around 180 different types of employee recognition programs, the Spirit of Fred Award is considered to be its most popular award. The name of the award was given after Fred, a contractual employee, who personified the company’s prized values of being friendly, resourceful, enthusiastic & dependable and was promoted to a permanent position in the company. Employees who win multiple ‘Spirit of Fred’ Awards also stand the chance to win ‘The Lifetime Fred Award’!

Recognise employees for a good cause: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is also increasingly becoming integrated with exceptional employee performance. While most organisations encourage employees to volunteer for a good cause or program that the company is associated with, employees are also being rewarded for directly contributing to social causes in addition to doing their regular jobs. Not only does the employee have the satisfaction of giving back to society, recognition of these efforts helps employees to find greater work-life balance and gain satisfaction on more than one front.

Related: Impacting Corporate Social Responsibility Through Employee Incentive Programs

GEMs — ‘Go the Extra Mile’ Story

Tata Consultancy Services’ (TCS) specalised R&R platform called GEMs—’Go the Extra Mile’—is designed to recognise employees who take extra effort to get a job done. Based on their performance in a particular job, employees are awarded points which can be redeemed for products. More interestingly, in order to encourage employees to volunteer for the company’s social development activities, TCS extends its GEMs program to recognise efforts by employees towards society as well.

Simple rewards and instant recognition go a long way to motivate employees and help an organisation retain its best talent. At the end of the day, motivating employees is not just about elaborate R&R awards or big bonuses, it is about the satisfaction of a job well done and of delivering performance in a company you believe in!

Learn more with the Ultimate Guide to Engaging Millennial Employees




HeadHonchos is India’s premier job search and career portal, exclusively for senior professionals.

This article is by HeadHonchos from headhonchos.com.

We all know cash is a great way to reward people for their hard work, but there are other simple things you can offer as a company to get your employees motivated. In retail where the workforce is 50% part-time and 95% hourly, organizations are constantly trying to come up with fun ideas to engage and motivate employees. Dealing with a diverse population where people are driven by different things can make it challenging to use a one-size-fits-all model. College students may not be interested in PTO bonuses but new apparel is pretty dang cool. Retirees trying to offset their pension payments may not be interested in apparel but are interested in a higher discount on food or products your company sells.


Click for 25 Employee Reward Ideas

Here are a few ways to integrate some fun and engaging tools into your workforce:


Tokens of Appreciation

At my company, we have a program called “Seeds of Incentive” or more simply put Seeds. Being that the word “Leaf” is in the name of the organization, “Seeds” made logical sense. We use Seeds as a token of appreciation. They are distributed to managers each month and managers have the discretion to hand them out to employees how they see fit. If a manager watches an employee provide great customer service or notices an employee take the initiate to pick up some trash on the floor, they would hand that employee a seed or two. The seeds have no “cash” value but the employees love earning them! We also distribute them from the HR office and central Support Office when employees have had a favorable secret shopper report, complete certain training opportunities or anything that we want to encourage participation in (without taking the punitive route). Employees can save up their Seeds and trade them in for apparel, gift certificates, movie tickets, spa passes, etc. This is one of the only programs I can say with confidence that every employee understands and participates in across the company at all levels.

Driving a Particular Behavior

We have also focused a lot of our incentive efforts around certain behaviors or programs that we would like to see big improvements in. In the last year we did a major facelift to our safety incentive program. In grocery/retail employee safety and eliminating injuries (especially preventable injuries) is a huge concern to us. It not only affects the bottom line but we legitimately don’t want people hurting themselves. Employees are working fast, moving in repetitious motions, lifting heavy boxes, leaning over, bending down, and the list goes on. We created a workflow with a series of required actions that each store must complete monthly in order for every employee at that location to be handsomely rewarded with tons of Seeds. We made it simple for managers to administer and easy for employees to understand…and whoosh it lowered workers compensation claims and costs. Every month each location is required to hold a safety training, which every employee must attend, all facility repairs that have been identified must be corrected and no preventable accidents. It’s all or nothing if everything is met every employee at that location get Seeds based on the number of hours they worked that month.

Related: Drive ROI by incentivizing behaviors that matter

Just a Plain Old Party

Who doesn’t like a party?! Of course events are great ways to get people involved and build awareness for what the company is promoting. Whether it’s just a BBQ to let your employees know you appreciate their hard work and to let loose a little or a wellness fair to promote healthy behaviors. The list is endless and it can be simple or extravagant. Where I come from, it’s rarely an extravagant fancy dinner but nonetheless, it’s enjoyed by the majority. You can make a small budget go a long way by renting a grange hall, having a taco bar, raffling some exciting prizes, and finding a local DJ. Host a wellness fair and have booths for local vendors to make it easy for employees to learn about healthy eating, places to exercise, how to stop smoking, etc. Bring some friendly competition to the workplace. If you have different locations choose a goal for each location to compete against each other.

Related: Celebrate employees by throwing them a surprise pop-up party!

Give Them a Break

In an organization with primarily hourly employees, a little paid time off can let employees know you offer a fun and flexible place to work. Maybe offer a paid half-day or even some extra overtime. Although, legally overtime on most National and/or State holidays is not required, it’s a great incentive for employees to work on those days. In retail, operations don’t stop and during the holidays operations get busier and crazier. Giving employees extra cash for working during a time when many are with their families is a great motivator. Organizations can also offer Paid Time Off bonuses. This way the cash liability doesn’t hit the bank immediately but it provides employees a little extra time off from work.

This is only a few simple examples of how companies can offer more than just a cash bonus to help motivate their employees and provide fun environments to work in.


Sabra Reyes

Sabra Reyes

Sabra Reyes is one of those rare Human Resources professionals who knew HR was the career of choice in college. She received a BS in Business with a concentration in Human Resources Management from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. After 10 years of HR generalist work, she has found her niche as a Human Resources Director for an independent natural and organic grocery company with more than a handful of stores in the Bay Area region of California.

This article is by Sabra Reyes from blogging4jobs.com.