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What to avoid when implementing an employee engagement program

When implemented correctly, employee recognition programs have been proven to have a positive impact on business, and can promote staff loyalty, boost discretionary effort, increase productivity and improve customer experience.  However, a lot of employee recognition programs get it wrong, and often fail to deliver real improvements in employee engagement and the resulting business benefits.

We know this because the programs aren’t successful, and while money is being invested into programs year after year, the end goal isn’t met. So how do you avoid investing in a program that fails? With experience spanning several years, we have noticed three key situations that lead to employee engagement programs not delivering against expectations.

1. Failure to really understand that employees mostly, do it for the rewards or kudos. Employees get involved with employee recognition programs because of the rewards. Many employers start to “believe their own marketing hype” and get so focused on loyalty and productivity that they forget that employees are often in it for the extra cash or time off. While rewards may be at the heart of your program don’t underestimate the effect of recognition too, especially if you have never run a reward program before. Running a Social or none rewards-based program, especially as an introduction to drive a culture of recognition can have a positive impact. People who feel valued, appreciated, respected and are given positive feedback will feel better about their work environment and are more likely to give discretionary effort, which will deliver real benefits such as lower absenteeism and improved customer service.

2. Assuming you know how to motivate everyone can create problems. Employers should spend a lot of time and effort trying to figure out how to motivate employees, and truly understand what drives individuals. What to do and how to do it seems to elude a lot of employers. The biggest mistake employers’ make is assuming the same thing motivates all employees. Different people value different things by way of employee recognition (and reward). Some may want money, some prefer time-off, some tickets to a soccer game or a donation to their favorite charity, and some just want to feel appreciated, valued and respected for their contribution. And don’t forget that not everyone will want the recognition to be public. So, it’s important to ask your staff what they want from a proposed recognition (and reward) program. it’s the easiest way to deliver something they truly value. And if you are operating a selection of rewards as well as recognition, don’t forget to cater for gender, age and ethnicity. We are all motivated by different things

3. Recognition MUST come from the top. Gone are the days of executives in their ivory towers. We work in a time of collaboration and open floor plans. Make sure you treat your employee recognition program the same way. Recognition should be able to come from anyone in the organisation, including peers and subordinates. Being innovative and catching employees off guard will guarantee that you not only “don’t screw it up” but also that your program grows roots in your organisation and thrives. Before launching any employee recognition program ensure that your Executive team are “on board” and that they endorse and openly support the initiative, while informing staff about the expected benefits. Finally, when you have the pieces in place, make sure that your Comms team produce the supporting collateral and messages to launch and maintain the program to really make the program a success that benefits everyone.

A key part of any successful employee engagement program is the regular reporting and publication of information and feedback on staff contribution to highlight what is being measured and valued, and to ensure a repeat of the positive behaviours. Brownie Points and its growing international distributors and Australian partner channel have a wealth of experience in implementing and operating successful employee recognition programs and are working with a growing number of thought leading organisations around the world. To learn how we could help your business, call us today on 03 9909 7411 to arrange a discussion or demonstration, or email us at for more information.

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