Believe it or not, Millennials (1980-2000) may not be the first generation of so-called “trophy kids.” The famous quote by Samuel Adams, “Give credit where credit is due” originates all the way back to the 1700s.

So why have Millennials been pegged as “trophy kids”? Some believe we expect a blue ribbon for every task we complete, no matter how trivial.

I don’t need a round of applause every time I walk into the office or perform a standard task, but I do assume that I’ll receive recognition for exceptional work or redirection if I’m heading down the wrong path.

And it’s not only Millennials looking for some recognition and reassurance. Your Baby Boomer and GenX employees will appreciate meaningful acknowledgement of achievements, work ethic and good attitude too. Standard “Employee of the Month” awards are typically trinkets unrelated to performance or organization-wide values. Moreover, rewards such as crystal paperweights or parking spots turn employee recognition into employee competition. These limited material rewards don’t work – 82% of employees feel as though they are not recognized for their work as often as they deserve to be.

Recognition and rewards platforms like Kazoo highlight daily successes such as new clients launched or business closed, so everyone in the company is aware of achievements that otherwise might go unnoticed. Posted publicly on a social feed, peers can comment and like achievements worth celebrating. This system of recognition highlights top performers and inspires your team to work just as hard.

But employee rewards and recognitions should acknowledge more than revenue or clientele growth, since your workforce likely has some goals outside of those two objectives.

To continually foster a goal-driven company culture, HR and managers must acknowledge employees’ behaviors that embody the organization’s values and mission. At Kazoo, recognitions and rewards are tied to company-wide values, such as “Customer is King” or “Take Ownership.” By celebrating these kind of practices, we set a standard of behavior employees should strive to emulate.

Implementing a recognition and rewards program benefits every generation in your workforce – including Millennials. Managers and HR can inspire behaviors and performance standards to optimize organizational success. If an employee is underperforming, give them feedback to learn and grow from their shortcomings. If an employee is consistently performing well, or exceeding what is expected of them, acknowledge this as well to ensure long-term, continuous, commendable behavior. Recognizing an employee for their performance, rather than giving them a pen for remaining with the company for five years, will do much more to bolster company culture and increase employee engagement.

**This is the fourth post in Claire O’Sullivan’s series about Millennials in the workplace. You can read the first three posts here, here and here.** 

Just because everyone is showing up to work doesn’t mean they are happy and productive. A CIO article from last week discusses some of the findings from the CEB’s Global Talent Monitor report, and coins this new-to-us phrase, “quitting in their seats.”

It’s as bad as it sounds. Essentially, the report found that while employees plan to stay in their current role for at least another year, they’re not happy, engaged, productive or performing to the best of their abilities. There are many reasons why employees would delay leaving their jobs. Here are just a few.

  1. They are waiting for the perfect job opportunity to come along, and they’ve already decided it’s not with your company.
  2. They know they’re leaving, but are waiting to put in their two weeks until after they receive that last bonus.
  3. They are staying long enough to use up their earned paid time off… on your company dollar.
  4. They have realized they can do less work and still receive the same paycheck. And chances are, they’re encouraging co-workers to do the same.
  5. The economy is still uncertain and a paycheck is still a paycheck.
  6. They want to see a particular project through to fruition, most likely just as a resume booster.
  7. They have a side gig but just haven’t made the leap to do it full time yet.
  8. They are taking advantage of networking opportunities, education opportunities basically , any kind of opportunities on your dime

Stop and take mental stock of your employees. Have you noticed a change in any of your usual high-performers? How about your tried-and-true, long-tenured staff? If your regulars have stopped asking questions during company meetings, if your survey response rate has been on the decline or even if you’re noticing less interaction in the company breakroom, it’s probably time to do a culture check-up. While chances are you won’t be able to save them all, it’s never a bad time to re-vamp your strategy.

Here are five things that low-turnover companies do to ensure more engaged, loyal employees.

  • Make sure your online presence is reflective of your company culture. Candidates who understand your goals and values – and are attracted to you because of them – turn into employees that help put them into practice.
  • Take the guesswork out of determining employee happiness by starting an engagement program. If you make it a formal part of your culture, low employee engagement will be a thing of the past.
  • Don’t assume that employees realize and will unlock their own potential. Turn your managers into coaches, and ensure they help individual employees envision a path for advancement. Otherwise, you’ll spend all that time training, developing and grooming employees to be stars at their new jobs.
  • Create a culture of teamwork to drive loyalty, camaraderie and engagement. There’s strength in numbers and employees that feel like they’re part of a team will feel a sense of belonging.
  • Don’t let the inevitable take you off course. When employees leave, do your best to understand why, and make sure it doesn’t happen to someone else. Fix problems before they become epidemics.

We read a recent article explaining how Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can be applied to employee engagement. The theory suggests there are five, interdependent human needs that must be met in order to for someone to reach their full potential. The author argues that in the context of employee engagement, when five distinct needs are met, people are more motivated to be a high-performing leader.

Just as with Maslow’s theory, there’s a cause-and-effect relationship with meeting specific needs and fulfilling one’s potential in the workplace. As employees’ needs are met, their job satisfaction and commitment to the organization increases. Listed in order from most basic to complex, the five motivators are to feel: seen, accepted, included, trusted, and empowered.

By building modern engagement practices into your culture, employers can help move individuals up the path to empowerment. Here’s how to use Maslow’s theory as a backbone for structuring your own engagement strategy:

Make employees feel seen by involving them in the decision-making process. A variety of survey methods can help you accomplish this goal. Frequent pulse surveys can create a constant feedback loop, while periodic, longer surveys give employees an opportunity to share new ideas or bring issues to leadership’s attention.

A strong recognition and rewards program can ensure employees feel accepted and included. Implementing real-time, peer-driven recognition creates a social workplace culture where good work is acknowledged regularly and inspires others to do the same. Both individual and team achievements should be celebrated by peers and managers, rather than merely recorded privately and acknowledged during an annual performance review. Success breeds other success, and making accomplishments public gives employees a chance to identify and repeat good work.

An effective way to show employees they are trusted is by looking forward, not backward. Managers should focus on employee development by creating an environment of continuous coaching, conversation, and constructive feedback. Establishing this type of relationship will give employees the confidence needed to reach their goals.

Finally, employees feel empowered only after the first four needs are met. Empowerment is a state of complete engagement, where individuals are actively pursuing their own goals and helping others achieve theirs. As a result empowered employees are a key differentiator between successful companies and those trying to keep up with their competition.

While the idea first seemed to be a stretch, Maslow’s theory applies itself nicely to understanding employee engagement. Building an engaged culture isn’t a one-day process; it’s a constant work in progress that requires attention and commitment from employees, managers, and executives.

Congratulations! You just hired a new employee who has just the right experience, seems like a perfect fit for your company culture and starts in two weeks. You can forget about having to fill that position again, right? Think again.

According to one study, almost a third of new hires plan to leave their jobs within the first 12 months. It can be painful to think about the lost training time and costs, disruption for the rest of the team and HR energy and budget to go through the process again. In fact, there might not be a single benefit to losing employees quickly.

Now what? We put together five tips to help HR play a more active role in retaining new hires. Keep track of how many of these are incorporated at your company. We’ll tell you what your score means at the end.

  1. Act excited they’ve joined your company. Even though it’s just another Monday to you, that first day is the start of new journey for new hires. Buy them coffee. Take them to lunch. Acknowledge that this is a milestone in their career rather than just another Monday at the office.
  2. Be personal and honest, but don’t spend 10 minutes bashing the company. Keep it positive.
  3. Pre-emptively schedule 1-2 check-ins after the formal onboarding activities. It’ll go a long way in showing them that they’re still important, after the initial flurry of attention is gone.
  4. Many times you were their first touchpoint within the company. Because they might feel more comfortable with you, employees may share more with you than their managers. Keep that in mind, and tell their manager a bit about them to help them connect and transition the relationship.
  5. Show them how your employee engagement platform works. Don’t just give them a log in; spend a few minutes showing them all the great ways they can meet and interact with the team. It’ll be an important avenue for them, especially if employees aren’t all in the same office.

Ready to see how you scored? If numbers 1-4 are part of your process, you are a really great HR manager. But the only way to really keep your new hires happy is to do number five. Why? Although you can do a lot of things to set an employee up for success, the only way to keep them engaged is to provide tools that enable them to be an active part of your organization. Share with employees the importance of responding to surveys. Show them how to participate in your recognition and rewards program. Help them understand how your company uses goals in performance development conversations.

If Step One is to have an employee engagement platform in place, Step Two is to have a dialogue around using it with new hires. It can be the key to happiness, but only if it’s an active piece of your company culture.

Last week we talked about a few changes that HR can make to help increase employee engagement. Today we’ll tackle a few more ways that you can start creating a culture where continuous, real-time feedback are engrained in your company culture and employees are happier.

Make Real-Time Recognition the Norm

If you’re from an organization steeped in more traditional recognition practices, it might sound unfeasible to transition to more modern (i.e. social-based, real-time) approaches and technologies. It’s not.

You’d be surprised to know that most of your workforce, regardless of generation, is probably very receptive to recognition initiatives that celebrate accomplishments as they happen using solutions that closely resemble consumer apps. That’s one HUGE piece of the puzzle that’s already solved – you can be confident your user base is not only open to change, but is very likely going to embrace it.

You now have to arm your workforce with the tools that will make real-time recognition a reality. Today’s recognition platforms allow employees to choose rewards that are relevant to them, including non-monetary, monetary and creative cultural rewards tailored to your company. However, there is something more important than changing the reward – it’s about changing when the reward is given. Giving recognition as soon as it’s deserved (e.g. after a major client win or company success) is more impactful than on a standard basis. The closer to the achievement the recognition is given, the more impact it has.

Capture the Voice of Your Employees and Actually Do Something About It

Think about it: can you remember taking an annual survey during your career? Chances are you can easily recall the process. But how about this: do you ever remember any action taken after the survey was complete? What changed? You probably recall the process more than the results (if anything was even done with them.) Unfortunately for many employees, surveys are perceived simply as vanity endeavors from HR that aren’t worth the effort put into completing them.

You still need a way to easily connect with personnel and understand overall satisfaction levels from every employee consistently and surveys are indeed a meaningful way to do this But annual surveys rarely yield any meaningful changes when they are not supported by follow-up throughout the year. Unfortunately data becomes outdated and sentiments felt across the organization at the beginning of the year are likely to change many times over.

To make change, monitor organizational health more regularly through pulse surveys. And once you do – actually do something with the results. You can’t just identify what changes employees want– you need to actually acknowledge their feedback. If you answer questions and address concerns, you’ll instill trust and eliminate issues before they become huge problems. Even if a solution isn’t provided for every problem that’s being discussed, just listening to employees will make them feel empowered and as a result, more engaged.

In Closing….

While these engagement issues are nothing new, the ways you can solve them are. These problems can’t all be solved overnight, but with these changes in mind, you can make strides toward a more engaged workforce.

Last week I received excellent service from an Uber driver. When prompted to enter feedback on the app at the end of my ride, I rated my driver five out of five stars and added a comment about the exceptional service. I felt my opinion mattered, his assistance was admirable and it should not go unmentioned.

In fact, you’re actually prevented from using the app again until you rate your previous driver. If you’ve given a driver below five stars, you immediately receive follow-up questions to clarify why the service wasn’t rated higher. By requiring feedback after each ride, Uber is able to collect substantial amounts of data and reviews directly linked to each driver, and can modify service. Rider feedback is clearly important to Uber.

As Millennials, we’re used to giving feedback often. We appreciate sharing our opinions – and admittedly sometimes it’s too much. (I’m guilty of posting “What Game of Thrones Character Are You?” quiz results on my timeline.) This need-to-share behavior can be a positive push when it comes to HR’s approach to employee surveying. In the same way that Uber asks riders to rate drivers immediately, HR and managers can survey employees immediately after project completion or leadership changes. Not only will HR be armed with insights that can help them make these changes, employees will be assured that their opinions matter.

Ask Questions for Actionable Answers

Some say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It seems like employees view annual surveys as an insane undertaking. They’ve participated in surveys but no action is ever taken, so what’s the point? But conducting surveys isn’t insane.

If employees – not just Millennials – know their opinions actually matter, they are more likely to share thoughtful feedback, especially if it’s submitted anonymously. When conducted regularly, surveying can gather constructive criticism that otherwise might not have been shared.

Take Action

Following up on survey results is the most important part of the process. Even if you’re not able to make change, it’s vital for leadership to acknowledge that they’ve heard the voices of their employees. Employees will be more confident their opinions are valued, more engaged in their work and ultimately, more committed to the organization itself.

Today companies can capture employee mood and sentiment with tools like Kazoo. Whether your organization has 10 people or 10,000, conducting regular surveys is imperative. (And it’s now easier than ever through pulse surveys and polling capabilities in employee engagement platforms.)

Addressing problems in-the-moment and placing your employees’ needs first can earn your employee engagement strategy a five-star rating.

**This is the third post in Claire O’Sullivan’s series about Millennials in the workplace. You can read the first two posts here and here.**

We’re all familiar with this game, right? Often played at parties, it’s a great way to get to know someone or learn new things about old friends. Let’s apply it to increasing employee engagement, something that still eludes many HR leaders. Below we’ll share three stats that have come from news articles within the last few weeks. Then, it’s up to you to choose which two are true and which one is false.

  1. A Gallup poll found that 13% of workers are considered engaged.
  2. Companies lose $11 billion annually due to employee turnover.
  3. New research found 71% of companies are using technology and apps to increase engagement.

Think you know which one is false?

This first one’s true, sadly. This number fluctuates a bit from study to study, but it’s consistently lower than HR would like to believe. So, the bigger question becomes: what can you do about the other 87%? According to CareerBuilder’s 2015 Candidate Behavior Study, 75% your workforce is open to or actively searching for a new job. Not sure how to tell? Check out this Forbes article, Four Signs Someone is About to Quit.

Next up is our stat on lost profits. Right again. Can you even imagine what could be done with that money instead? What’s more troubling is that companies are remaining short-staffed for longer periods of time. A recent Randstad U.S. Workplace Trends report found that many HR leaders say qualified candidates are harder to come by these days.

That leaves us with our last statement, and it is indeed false. It might be wishful thinking that the majority of companies have incorporated technology into their employee engagement processes. In reality, only 29% currently do so (and even less so, only 9%, use mobile apps). Today’s engagement platforms can help you ensure your employees are happy, engaged and actively contributing to your company’s mission and culture.

I’d like to say that this game was fun, but my guess is that for those of you nodding your head in agreement over these truths, it probably wasn’t. The bad news? We’re halfway through the year. The good news? There’s six months left to make some changes this year. Let us help you. Here’s a good place to get started.

It’s no secret that HR departments understand why they need to engage employees but the focus has now shifted to how to actually make change. Here are two changes that can be made to help improve employee engagement. Stay tuned next week as we share two more. Change takes time but you can start engraining some of these behaviors in your workforce starting today.

Enable better employee performance

We know that managers don’t believe annual reviews are an accurate representation of the employee. Research has consistently shown that performance appraisals are found be painful and don’t work.

Organizations have changed their mindsets to focus on performance enablement rather than just management. They’re starting to instill systems that empower continuous feedback, allowing employees to alter behaviors when necessary and develop skills more quickly. Continuous feedback may look slightly different at every company, but according to a Towers Watson survey, 43 percent of people who identified as “highly engaged” received coaching at least once a week.

You can ensure that weekly, meaningful conversations actually occur and are documented through employee engagement platforms. Technology can make the process much easier and should include mobile functionality for on-the-fly usage.

Implement employee-created, agile and transparent goals

Has anyone in your personal life ever set a goal on your behalf? Has someone else decided what you should work toward? If someone did, how did it go over? It seems unlikely you accomplished that goal, so why has workplace goal-setting traditionally been a top-down, manager-to-employee directive?

Companies know that goal-setting is an important part of employee development but the top-down, once-a-year process doesn’t work. Successful organizations realize that when employees create their own goals and are provided with tools that help them track, adjust and update them regularly, it’s more likely those goals will be achieved.

The focus should be on the employee – not the process. So how can HR ease this transition to an employee-focused approach? Employee engagement solutions help employees set goals with objectives and key results (OKRs) that are aligned with company and team goals.

They also can be transparent across the organization to facilitate better collaboration between departments. Mobile-friendly goal management solutions like Kazoo help employers meet the real-time feedback demands of its employees and transition from an inconsistent or annual goal-setting cycle to a continuous or quarterly cadence.

These are just two changes you can start increasing employee engagement. Stay tuned next week as we share two more ways to jumpstart your strategy.

  1. Before you acquire another company. Over 70% of acquisitions fail and culture is a big factor.
  2. When you’re trying not to be acquired.
  3. If you’re unsure of how your employees feel about its leadership – both at the C-suite and managerial level.
  4. When your company is having trouble recruiting.
  5. Before your company has high turnover. One in 6 workers will change jobs in the next six months.
  6. If you’ve noticed a recent downturn in employee morale.
  7. If you’re giving out pens as five-year anniversary gifts for employees.
  8. When you ask employees about their goals and they give you a blank stare.
  9. When you’ve had a longtime CEO.
  10. When you have a new CEO.
  11. When your company has had an exceptionally profitable quarter or year.
  12. When your leadership can’t tell you the last time an employee survey was conducted. 98% don’t do anything with results.
  13. When it’s a day ending in “y.”
  14. When employees are happy. 78% of Millennials say their environment makes them leave/stay.
  15. When you notice that employees are taking more PTO than usual.
  16. When you organize a company social event and attendance is low.
  17. Before you go through a big hiring event.
  18. When a list of “Best Companies to Work For” list comes out and you realize you have very little in common with those organizations included.
  19. If your company is planning a geographical expansion.
  20. When you can’t remember the last time you conducted an employee survey. Less than half of companies issue surveys.
  21. If your company’s scores on sites like Glassdoor or Yelp are….not good.
  22. If people audibly groan when you even mention the words “performance review.”
  23. If you’re having a good hair day.
  24. When your top performers are leaving. 82% don’t think they’re recognized enough.
  25. When the domino effect happens in a particular department or location. One employee leaves. Then another. Then another.
  26. When someone suggests you come up with an engagement strategy.
  27. When you’re losing customers. Customer retention rates go up 18% when employees are engaged.

What we’ve learned here is that it’s always a good time to re-consider your engagement strategy.