by Karen Gines | May 01, 2016

Few organizations would not want an enthusiastic and committed workforce. But for those still less sold on the idea, research seems to prove that positive employee engagement has moved beyond a nice-to-have bona fide to the bottom line. Take Alex Edmans' recent Harvard Business Review article. The professor of finance at the London Business School analyzed companies that were rated "Great Places to Work" and found those with high employee satisfaction outperform their peers by 2.3% to 3.8% per year in long-run stock returns. Back in the 1990s, Gallup's research identified employee engagement as a key factor in company growth, and they've continued to find strong links between highly engaged employees and business outcomes - among them, 41% fewer quality defects, 48% fewer safety incidents, 28% less shrinkage, 37% less absenteeism.
Despite the research, nearly 1 in 4 American employees report their workplace culture needs improving, according to the just released study Pulse of Talent: Driving Culture in the World of Now, commissioned by Ceridian, the global human capital management technology company. Pulse of Talent North American respondents rated training programs (63%), recognition programs (54%), and leadership development programs (43%) the top three Human Resources initiatives influencing workplace culture. 

"Career development is extremely important to most employees, and benefits the organization by increasing the capacity and capability of the team. This can take the form of training and education and certainly should include feedback from managers and leaders," says Susan Adams, senior director of engagement at New Brunswick, N.J.-based Dittman Incentive Marketing. "Recognition lets everyone know that they matter and that their efforts on behalf of the organization are appreciated. Recognition awards are a meaningful expression of the teammate's value to the organization and serve as a confirmation that they are on the right track."   

An improving economy has boosted recognition and rewards programs. The Incentive Research Foundation's "2016 Trends in Incentive Travel, Rewards and Recognition" cites increased budgets for both travel and merchandise programs. Organizations are choosing from a wider array of destinations for travel awards, while merchandise awards show a return to luxury. Topping the merchandise list: electronics (31%), luggage (24%) and watches (23%). Experiential rewards, such as tickets to a sporting or entertainment event, can hold enormous appeal as well.
"Increasingly, people want their work to matter," says Kimberly Abel-Lanier, VP of employee solutions for Maritz Motivation Solutions in Fenton, Mo. "Workers today want to know: (1) What do you want me to do? (2) Why is it important? (3) How do you want me to do it? (4) How am I doing? (5) What's in it for me? In order to advance employee engagement, companies need to assess their culture, define their values and the work, communicate, educate, and recognize their employees." 
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