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Recognition Is Only One Piece of the Engagement Puzzle

Jul 08, 2015

Written by: Tim Houlihan
(View Author Bio)

Employee Recognition Program Puzzle BI WORLDWIDE Latin America


At BI WORLDWIDE, we use the principles of behavioral economics to create the best engagement strategies on the planet. We work with expert academics who advise us on the latest research on human behavior, engagement and decision-making. We use non-cash rewards and recognition to engage and motivate employees and sales teams. Check out our case study library to see how our customized and results-driven solutions have helped clients all over the world.

If troubles with employee engagement were easily fixed with a “well done,” global businesses would mandate back-patting and all would be good. They wouldn’t suffer years of poor engagement scores and high rates of attrition and businesses would all be the success that economists dream about. However, that reality doesn’t exist.

Dealing with employees and their happiness (engagement and happiness run in the same circle) automatically makes the problem difficult and the solution more complex than a few kind words and a pat on the back.

Even if a global firm installs a platform or system to channel and track recognition among employees, they still have work to do. In short: the recognition platform isn’t the only tool you have (or need) to solve your engagement problems.

There is a long list – actually 12 rules1 according to Rodd Wagner, author of Widgets – of things to focus on, change and weave into the fabric of your company culture in order to really make a difference. Engaging the people who work at your company requires a variety of initiatives. For the purpose of this article, let’s just focus on a couple: learning and relevant data.

Tools to succeed

Victor Lipman wants us to know that learning and training are important. He makes a compelling argument in Forbes when he notes, “Because there’s no widely agreed-on skillset for management (good managers come in all shapes and sizes), there’s an assumption everyone knows how to do it.” This assumption is a primary cause of poor employee engagement.

Managers are trained in the processes of things but rarely, if ever, trained in why recognition is vital to a successful enterprise. Implementing a recognition platform without tools to train managers how and why to give recognition is risky. It’s like handing a teenager the keys to a car without giving them a single driving lesson and with the directive “Go get some milk.” Sure, they’ll figure out how to get to the store and home again with minimal damage eventually – but this in no way guarantees a good experience for everyone else on the road. Most adults behind the wheel are reasonably good drivers because they took lessons. They are trained. They have experience.

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Tim Houlihan at BI WORLDWIDE

Tim Houlihan

Vice President
Reward Systems Group

For more than 25 years, Tim Houlihan has indulged his curiosities of human behavior in the workplace. He passionately pursues answers to questions such as “why do some people work harder than others?” and “why do some people set and achieve goals?” and acknowledges that behavioral economics holds excellent explanations for some of these mysteries. As the Vice President of Reward Systems at BIW, Tim is responsible for leading the development of innovative reward systems. He partners with academic colleagues from leading universities around the world and he is actively engaged with leaders in Fortune 1000 companies to develop solutions for the human side of business problems.