HR Management & Compliance

Josh Bersin Says Employee Engagement Isn’t a Program—It’s a Strategy

A recent report showed that organizations that make use of strategic recognition and engagement improve engagement scores by up to 37%. The report, which was researched by Reward Gateway and Josh Bersin, sought to understand how a strategic engagement model differs from more traditional models. We recently had a chance to ask both Josh Bersin and Reward Gateway about the results.

Source: GaudiLab / shutterstock

You can see the full report here.

HR Daily Advisor: What is strategic recognition/strategic engagement?

Bersin & Reward Gateway: Strategic recognition is tied to specific corporate values and goals. Employees are recognized and rewarded for behaviors and activities that support these goals. Traditional recognition programs, such as those recognizing work anniversaries or birthdays, do not tie into business values or intrinsic motivators.

Strategic recognition gives employees a feeling of belonging and meaningful contribution, which in and of itself increases employee engagement. It gives the company a way to reinforce the goals and behaviors the company values. When people give others thanks, they create goodwill and positive energy. When people receive recognition, they feel more engaged, and behaviors are reinforced.

HR Daily Advisor: How is it different from other forms of engagement?

Bersin & Reward Gateway: There are many other ways to engage people: giving them meaningful jobs; paying them well; giving them coaching and development; showing them how to get promoted; and creating a diverse, open, and healthy environment. Recognition fits into this tapestry and is actually one of the least expensive and most powerful of all. However, it is dependent on a culture of recognition. If the CEO and other business leaders are not bought in and involved, a recognition program will have a much lower impact.

HR Daily Advisor: What advice would you have for organizations that haven’t had much success with engagement programs or haven’t had any engagement programs at all to get started?

Bersin & Reward Gateway: Employee engagement is not a program—it’s a strategy. When employees are engaged, they like their work, they feel a sense of belonging to the company, and they provide outstanding service to customers. When they are not engaged, they perform at lower levels, create more errors, and often leave. The simplest way to get started is to build a standard annual or periodic set of engagement surveys so you can see what issues are on people’s minds. This should be shared with leaders and discussed openly so leaders can continuously improve the working environment.

HR Daily Advisor: How can HR teams manage the expectations of leaders, especially concerning immediate return on investment (ROI) versus long-term ROI (many leaders are impatient, especially when they have to justify expenditures on a quarterly basis to a board)?

Bersin & Reward Gateway: Engagement has a tremendously high ROI. When employees are engaged and recognized, turnover decreases, productivity goes up, and customer service and revenue are higher. Companies that have a high-recognition culture have a 70% lower voluntary turnover rate than those with low-recognition cultures. This saves millions of dollars per year.

HR Daily Advisor: What effects does strategic engagement have beyond making employees feel engaged?

Bersin & Reward Gateway: In addition to the other benefits mentioned above, employees are more productive and innovative and generally create a faster-growing and more profitable company.