Better Understanding of Employees' Values Leads to Better Engagement

Aug. 15, 2012 — Companies can improve the effectiveness of reward and recognition programs they invest in by focusing on participant values, according to a Maritz Motivation Solutions study. While businesses have spent more on employee reward and recognition programs in recent years to attract top talent and retain good employees, only 45.3% of employees feel meaningfully rewarded and recognized by those programs.

"Businesses tend to create employee programs in a vacuum, adopting a one-size-fits-all approach," said Michelle Pokorny, solution vice president of employee engagement and recognition for Maritz Motivation Solutions. "However, to truly engage employees, businesses need to understand what drives and motivates individuals, and then design a program to fit those needs. We know people pay more attention to things that align with their values, so understanding the predominant values of your people is a great place to start making your program more relevant."

The study was designed in conjunction with The Maritz Institute to help employers understand employee values, attitudes, intentions and reward and recognition preferences. The national study indicated a relationship between how effectively employees felt rewarded and recognized, and several factors that can be improved with good program design. These factors include leadership support, reward and recognition efforts of direct managers, appropriate reward option and communications, support of personal goals, alignment with company strategy, reinforcement of consumer-focused actions, and alignment with corporate culture and values.

The study also indicated a relationship between feeling meaningfully recognized and levels of engagement. For example, of employees who stated they were not meaningfully recognized:

  • 80.4% did not agree with the statement, "Overall, I am completely satisfied with my job."
  • 58.3% did not agree with the statement, "I feel motivated to go beyond my formal job responsibilities to get the job done."
  • 71.4% of those not meaningfully recognized did not agree, "I would be very happy to spend the rest of my career with my company."

"To engage employees in a manner that is meaningful and motivating requires an understanding of our innate human drives and what people value and view as important," Pokorny said. "In all cases, we have to consider that employees are people first."

To identify opportunities for creating better employee programs, the study focused on distinguishing the specific drives and values of employees relating to reward and recognition programs. Four distinct employee value segments emerged: Altruists, Drivers, Pioneers and Stabilizers.

Each segment possesses values unique to their particular segment, specifically about how they work, how they prefer to be rewarded and recognized, and how to effectively communicate to them.

"Values work as a powerful filter for what we pay attention to, so understanding the predominant values in an organization is hugely important to breaking through the overload of information and reaching people. With these specific employee value segments, companies can better understand and respond to the uniqueness of employees, as well as their different needs in employee programs," said Jennifer Kallery, division vice president for insight services at Maritz Motivation Solutions. "Overall, greater understanding will help companies design more effective and efficient reward and recognition programs, leading to happier, more engaged employees who deliver on the brand and promise."

The study surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. employees across several industry sectors, including financial services, technology, telecommunications, hospitality, retail, pharmaceutical and health care. Respondents include part-time and full-time employees, and explored potential differences for remote employees.

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