Research Roundup: What the Experts Say about Gaining Competitive Advantage in a Recession

The recognition management industry analysts around the world have been burning the midnight oil on this topic of competitive advantage in a recession.

Quantum Workplace, the research firm behind the US Best Places to Work contests, issued this report on Beating the Bear Market with Engaged Employees, with key items that were responsible for a disproportionate share of the variation among winners and losers, including these two factors:
Setting a clear, compelling direction that empowers each employee: Our studies tell us that in the best of times employees are more highly engaged when they see where the company is going and understand their roles in helping the company go there. This is largely a function of senior leaders and line managers clearly and frequently communicating where the company is headed and how each person makes a contribution. In more difficult times, this charge becomes even more important.

Recognizing and rewarding high performance: Now more than ever employers need to actively seek opportunities to reward employees who are making outstanding contributions to the success of the enterprise. Non-monetary recognition can go a long way to helping employees feel appreciated. You can be sure that employees are carefully watching the actions of leadership regarding recognition.”

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) out of the UK recently put Employee Engagement in Context, finding:
“Engagement is about creating opportunities for employees to connect with their colleagues, managers and wider organisation. It is also about creating an environment where employees are motivated to want to connect with their work and really care about doing a good job. ... Common themes in organisations where engagement is high:
• fair and consistent HR practices, such as rewards and appraisals
• core focus on traditional management practices such as clarity of objectives, clear performance measurement and trust
• showing employees that they are valued through well-designed and consistent involvement initiatives,
• having a friendly and supportive work environment can give employees the confidence to become engaged in their work.”

Mercer’s head of Executive Remuneration Business in Asia, Wei Zhang, offered this perspective:
“The environment is very uncertain, so we need to step back and re-examine the key talent we need to retain. That talent can go anywhere it wants. … For starters, they should make sure the rewards are aligned with a significant focus on performance. Further, there should be a specific performance that you want. Also, communication is very important — people have to know what is expected of them and what they can expect. There is a strong linkage between the two. … I would think that companies in this particular environment should take a holistic view to examine their overall rewards approach on both monetary and non-monetary payments.”

Hewitt’s Best Employers in Canada study found:
“Highly-engaged employees speak positively of their employer, want to remain with the organization, and are willing to do all they can to help achieve corporate success.”

Elsewhere in British news, a government-funded review of employee engagement is underway to examine how to improve the quality of work. According to David MacLeod, a non-executive director of the Ministry of justice, “The fact that only about 12% of the UK workforce can be considered as highly engaged shows that there is potential for huge gains for the economy if we can improve in this area.” (Review results are expected in the Spring; I’ll keep you posted on findings.)

A clear theme through all of these research reports is the need for clear communication and recognition. Both efforts are strengthened when used together with recognition as a tool for greater communication on key objectives and then using appropriate communication mechanisms to reinforce the value you place in your employees as evidenced through recognition.

The two cannot and should not be separated. Are you using recognition and communication strategically? Share your techniques in comments.

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