Increasing the number of ways employees and their managers can stay in touch does not strengthen the relationship between the two, nor does it improve the manager’s ability to give praise. However, a manager’s praise seems to be an important factor for employee engagement.

Employee Commitment Depends on Human Relations, Not on the Tools a Company Instals

RedBalloon, a company which provides reward and recognition solutions to ensure businesses keep their employees and customers motivated, rewarded and engaged, carried out an online survey among over 4,000 company employees from Australia and New Zealand in April. More than three-quarters of those polled said they would think about leaving the company if their contribution were not recognised and one person in four said they were looking for a new job, or would be doing so in the coming three months. And while those surveyed said they expected to receive recognition from their direct managers, results indicated that managers are currently failing to praise their employees adequately, 44% of the respondents rating their manager as ‘very poor’, ‘poor’ or merely ‘satisfactory’ when it comes to delivering praise. Moreover, says the report, “three quarters of all employees are starved of praise and only get it monthly, quarterly or once per year. Worse still, “11% get absolutely nothing”. A majority (51%) of the employees polled expect to have their performance recognised primarily by their direct manager, while 35% seek recognition rather from their peers and colleagues and a mere 14% look for praise from the CEO.

The importance of face-to-face contact

The jury is still out on the question of whether the burgeoning company-internal social networks and other means of communication are actually facilitating contact between managers and their subordinates. “Technology makes contact between managers and employees easier, it improves collaboration, but it doesn’t really help the two sides to get closer because it’s a means and not an end in itself”, warned Olivier Chappert, a partner at business consulting firm BearingPoint, in conversation with L'Atelier, underlining the importance of continuing to hold real live meetings. “Employees may be working from home, but if you want to create close relationships then you need some physical get-togethers as well,” he stressed. And at the end of the day, when a given company sets up tools such as blogs and internal social networks, “you can tell one person from another at the same level by the extent to which they get into using these tools.”

Generation Y-ers more sensitive on recognition issues

"But the people who do get into these tools are the ones who already have a tendency to talk and share their knowledge, and so the tools are just there to help them stand out,” he pointed out. On the subject of the actual recognition, the RedBalloon survey makes an interesting point. Nearly half (46%) of all respondents say there is no need for a financial reward but would like to be “noticed and praised” either in writing or just verbally, with only 4% insisting that the reward is the best part of recognition. Around 50% would however like some form of physical recognition such as a gift voucher or time off work. From his own experience however, Olivier Chappert argues nonetheless that “when it comes to recognition, it’s the content not the form that really matters. Although online tools can help channel recognition, there’s nothing to beat the solid ring of coin, or the reward of a training course, for instance.” It is also noteworthy that younger staff are more sensitive to a lack of recognition. The RedBalloon survey shows 86% of the Generation Y-ers polled saying they would be inclined to quit a firm that didn’t recognise their contribution sufficiently, compared to 77% of the Generation X-ers who said the same and just 63% of the Baby Boomers.