The 2011 Employee Engagement Report by BlesssingWhite Research show that fewer than 31 percent of employees worldwide are engaged, and 17 percent are actually disengaged at work. Employee engagement ideas mean much more than activities to increase job satisfaction. Measuring satisfaction with benefits, work environment, and compensation is a place to start when analyzing employee engagement ideas, but it only looks at the transactional working relationship. In “The Engagement Equation,” Christopher Rice and Fraser Marlow define full employee engagement as the alignment of maximum job satisfaction and maximum job contribution, when employees love what they are doing for your company so much that they are working at full capacity and beyond and are happy doing it. Rice and Marlow explain today’s engagement problem as too much analysis and too little focus on practical aspects for increasing engagement.

With a Gallup analysis showing employee engagement scores directly related to their earnings, up to 28 percent more than their competitors, employers can’t ignore engagement’s effects on their bottom lines. They can implement easy, effective employee engagement ideas such as combining sustainability and engagement, recognizing employees, and training managers on recognition, even when there isn’t a big employee engagement budget.

Employee Engagement Ideas Go Green

A new trend in employee engagement is emerging. While using eco-friendly practices to attract and retain talent and build trust with customers isn’t new, it is gaining traction.

Green Research, a research, advisory and consulting firm that focuses on sustainability, including clean tech and alternative energy, has recently reported that major companies plan to invest more in employee engagement ideas through sustainability efforts.

The National Environmental Education Foundation’s report “Toward Engagement 2.0: Creating a More Sustainable Company Through Employee Engagement” describes environmental and sustainability employee engagement as the next level of engagement, where company sustainability efforts both engage employees and build the bottom line.

Brighter Planet surveyed U.S. employers in 2010 about sustainability and employee engagement ideas and found some surprising results. For example, small organizations are almost twice as likely to promote sustainability, and employees are not happy with their employers’ sustainability efforts.

Sirota Survey Intelligence reports that employee engagement rises to 86 percent when employees feel good about their employers’ commitment to corporate social responsibility.

This points to sustainability as an effective opportunity to build employee engagement.

Simple ways to combine employee engagement ideas with sustainability efforts include involving Human Resources in sustainability and engagement programs, and partnering with employees to implement sustainability initiatives through committees, employee development, and leadership activities focused on sustainability. Involving employees in sustainability efforts embeds eco-values in company culture and galvanizes them with a sense of purpose.

Let employees lead an office recycling program, or research vendor eco-friendly practices. Ask employees for ideas about how the company can develop more sustainable products and practices. Ask employee volunteers to analyze competitor sustainability efforts and make recommendations on which ones to adopt.

Recognize Employees

Employee recognition and appreciation is a key ingredient in employee engagement. People want to be acknowledged and thanked for their hard work, and they want to be part of something that matters. Regular, sincere recognition helps employees feel this way, and should be part of any employee engagement ideas.

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In her book “Make Their Day! Recognition That Works,” Cindy Ventrice explains what recognition is not, to help readers better understand effective employee recognition. She says recognition makes people think of things like raises, gift certificates, parties, and plaques, but these things are not recognition unless they are specifically tied to business achievements and presented in recognition of those achievements. She gives the example of holiday bonuses given traditionally before the Christmas holidays as generally being thought of by employees as part of their compensation unless the manager gives them as a reward for some business goal such as exceeding sales targets or increasing customer satisfaction results.

Employee engagement ideas that include regular, ongoing recognition of employee efforts, contributions, and ideas are an easy way to build engagement by making them feel valued. Basic respect in working relationships is the key to true recognition and means more than any engraved plaque or monetary award. Here is some sage advice: recruit your employees every day. What does this mean? It means that you should think about what you’d do if your best employee came in to quit, and then start doing those things proactively.

Train for Recognition

The need for recognition is universal but the know-how for doing it well doesn’t always come naturally. Many bosses don’t understand recognition and take a “Why do I have to recognize my employees for doing their jobs?” attitude, which is detrimental to a positive company culture and sabotages employee engagement. A combination of education about why recognition is important and training on how to do it well results in managers and supervisors who really understand recognition and are prepared to make it a part of company culture to build employee engagement.

Roy Saunderson of the Recognition Management Institute recommends four facets that employers must address in training managers on employee appreciation and recognition: commitment, a focus on results, accountability, and evaluation and measurement.

Senior management commitment to training on recognition is essential support for a process that is often cut or not taken seriously. Training resources for recognition supports the underlying message that recognition is essential and expected.

Focusing recognition training on the expected business results ties the training to desired business impacts such as improving employee engagement and increasing customer satisfaction ratings. This takes the training out of the “touchy-feely” realm and brings it into practical business planning.

Building accountability into recognition training ensures it will be sustainable. Managers and upper management should have recognition training expectations to meet in performance plans and evaluations, as well as be accountable for implementing recognition and getting results from recognition efforts.

Evaluating and measuring business results and the impact of the training are important for effective employee engagement. Evaluate how learners feel about giving recognition before training begins by asking them about their experience with recognition and how they feel about it. Compare these to post-training assessments to gauge any gaps or areas for further training. Compare employee surveys about recognition before and after management recognition training to measure levels of recognition efforts and how employees feel about them.

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