The Danger of Disengaged Employees . / Credit: Happy Workers Image via Shutterstock

Employee recognition and rewards programs are not doing their job. New research has found that fewer than half of employees said they felt rewarded and recognized by company-run programs. 

Overall, just 45 percent of workers said they felt sufficiently rewarded by programs.  Those findings have a far more wide-reaching effect on organizations than simply affecting the moods of employees.

In particular, workers who said they did not feel properly rewarded reported being less engaged and productive at work.  The research found that 80 percent of workers were not satisfied with their job and 58 percent said they were not motivated to go beyond their stated job responsibilities. An additional 71 percent said they would not be happy to stay at their company for the rest of their career. 

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"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, which conducted the research. "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 in making your program more relevant."

Therefore, companies looking to get the most out of their employees should start by focusing on the individual motivations that drive people instead of trying to tailor a standard program for all workers. This can, in turn, improve engagement at work among employees, which can help to improve employee productivity and happiness, the research found.

"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," said Pokorny. "In all cases, we have to consider that employees are people first."

The information in this research was based on the responses of more than 1,000 employees in the United States in industries across the United States.  The research was conducted by Maritz Motivation Solutions, which offers rewards and recognition services to companies.

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