Improving employee engagement can prove both complicated and expensive, but several studies have shown investing in employee engagement critical for profitability and employee productivity.

However, what if no budget exists to invest in employee engagement? One tactic can go a long way in motivating employees to do their best work: Say thank you.

Reinforcing positive behaviors with positive behavior (like expressing appreciation) tend to lead to more positive behaviors. Studies have shown reinforcement works better than punishment or consequences, and consequences or negative feedback has been shown to negatively impact employee engagement.

Bang for Your Buck 
The real brilliance of employee recognition as a way to improve employee engagement is that it can cost a company no more than a few moments of the recognizer’s and the exemplary employee’s time. It can even be done during regular evaluations to further improve performance. This employee engagement strategy can work simply and seamlessly into the everyday flow of operations with little planning or oversight.

Recognizing Greatness 
Good help is hard to find, but it may be even harder to keep. Four out of every five employers state that employee retention is very important to their organization, even urgent. Recognizing employee’s exemplary performance is a simple and highly effective way to retain high-potential employees. P&MM found in a recent study that employees who receive recognition by their superiors for their efforts stay with companies an average of four years longer.

Employee Recognition Program
There are many ways to implement an employee recognition program to improve employee engagement. Here are a few ideas:
• Simple managerial recognition. Instruct managers to compliment employees for a job well done. This can be a simple thanks for going above and beyond on a project or a formal recognition of improvement or the meeting of productivity goals during an evaluation. Make sure managers are making it a point to tell people when they’re doing great work.
• Make it a part of meetings. Use the first or last few minutes of staff meetings to recognize outstanding employee performance. This could mean calling upon individual employees, departments, or the entire company for doing an exceptional job or meeting a hard-fought goal.
• Physical rewards. Offer up actual rewards for exemplary performance, attendance, production, or earning. Pens, coffee mugs, or even timepieces with your company’s logo on them can serve as prizes.
• Time off. If a coffee mug is a nice recognition of an awesome job, a day off, is even better.
• Compensate for effort. If you’re serious about using employee recognition to improve employee engagement, offering people cash in exchange for doing their job well is a very straightforward way to do just that.

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