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Increasing Employee Engagement: Q&A with Health & Wellbeing Experts

The benefits of workplace wellbeing programs go far beyond reduced premium costs.

Employee wellbeing not only effects our waistline but our stress levels, ability to enjoy friends and family, and most importantly, our sense of purpose. Feeling connected to a sense of purpose is the largest driver of total wellbeing, according to Gallup. Facilitating the connection between employees and their sense of purpose results in enhanced employee wellbeing and an increased sense of loyalty to you, their employer. Now more than ever, HR managers are urged to develop innovative approaches to health and wellbeing that make workers more engaged and productive. But building the case for strategy and a workplace culture that nurtures an employees’ sense of purpose isn’t always obvious and requires a thoughtful approach.

We sat down with two OneDigital Health & Wellbeing experts Sara and Kelly to get their take on employee recognition programs and how it can lead to increased purpose and productivity in the workplace.

Sara Shannon-Tarca is a health & wellbeing consultant at OneDigital Hartford
and utilizes over 20 years of experience in the wellness and health promotion
industry to support employers as they look to navigate and make strides in
workforce health improvement.


Kelly Holt is a health & wellbeing consultant at OneDigital Nashville
and brings over 16 years of industry experience to help employers design,
build and refine their corporate wellness and wellbeing strategy.


Here is what they had to say:

  1. In the past 5-8 years, we have been seeing an increase in employee recognition programs. What can we attribute this shift to?

    KH- We are in a healthy job market today, and employees are in the drivers’ seat. In a stable job market, there is a shortage of qualified candidates and employers are focused on attracting and retaining top talent in a strategic way more than ever. An employee recognition program can be a low-cost way to make employees feel valued and have a positive effect on employee retention.

    ST- Employee recognition programs are great illustrations of an overall shift in workforce health programs. Traditional wellness programs used to focus primarily on physical health improvement, but progressive employers are now emphasizing a holistic, total wellbeing approach.

    Employee recognition programs support the emotional health of the individual, providing an opportunity for the employer to reward employees in such a way that they feel valued and part of the overall success of the company.

    Studies show these types of programs can result in higher performance and productivity as well, a win-win for everyone.

  2. Why does purpose matter in the workplace? And what benefits can employers see when employees feel fulfilled?

    KH- Employees are looking for meaning and purpose in their work. Employers are looking for employees who are engaged and doing their best work. An organization that emphasizes its mission and acknowledges employee excellence will, in turn, have more productive and loyal employees. In addition to high levels of engagement and job satisfaction, a study from Mount Sinai St-Luke’s Hospital found a person with a high sense of purpose in life was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular events.

    ST- A recent Gallup study found purpose to be the greatest indicator of employee wellbeing, even compared to physical, emotional or financial health. We know that overall wellbeing is linked to engagement and on-the-job performance, so employers must take note of the component of purpose. This emotional and physical connection to the company’s goals and mission can positively impact the corporate business goals. Gallup found companies with high levels of employee engagement can be 20% more profitable and 17% more productive.

  3. Research has shown that millennials compose about 50% of the country’s workforce. What do you see with regards to how this audience perceives recognition programs and how can employers use recognition programs to help with retention with this group?

    KH- Millennials are looking to work for an organization with similar values and development opportunities. Millennials can also easily compare job opportunities with the help of technology. It’s important to make this group feel valued and to feel like their work matters, so they don’t feel inclined to look for other opportunities. Employers should look for more ways to recognize employees for meaningful achievement connected to their performance.  This recognition shouldn’t be reserved for managers. A Gallup study of more than 80,000 managers showed employees value peer recognition.  Management and peer recognition programs will help retain this demographic.

    ST- It’s important to connect with this demographic frequently. Put protocols and cultural initiatives in place that visibly demonstrate corporate support of both internal campaigns and external social missions. Millennials are not looking to be rewarded for, or after, decades of service, but they are interested in being a part of a greater mission on a daily basis. Studies show that retaining and attracting top millennial talent is more about showing the value of the work they do, versus promises of rewards many years down the road.

  4. With data and ROI metrics driving the majority of the decisions coming out of the C-Suite, how can HR leadership get buy-in on employee recognition programs?

    KH- Employee recognition programs can have a low cost and high impact. In a Gallup survey, when asked what types of recognition were the most memorable, respondents emphasized six methods in particular -- and money isn't the only (or the top) form of recognition. Recognition programs can be a cost-effective way to increase employee retention and combat the high expense of employee turnover.

    ST- I’d like to say that employers should focus on the overall employee experience and the money will follow. To quote Richard Branson, “take care of your employees, and they will take care of your business.” Of course, to the C-Suite, we know analytics speak volumes! There are many studies to illustrate the value proposition offered by recognition programs. HR leadership can study successful programs in place at companies like Google and get comfortable with the analytics that ties high performance to recognition programs. A Gallup study found that employers with successful recognition programs had 31% less voluntary turnover, a number that will have management taking notice.

  5. What are some of the ancillary benefits of an employee recognition program?

    KH- Top performers that feel valued by their organization tend to be more engaged, have higher levels of wellbeing and productivity.

    Further, according to Gallup, employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they'll quit in the next year.

    Employee recognition programs are a great tool to increase employee retention and to show employees how excellence is defined in your organization.

    ST- At the end of the day, employee recognition programs can dramatically and positively impact the overall culture at work. When the culture is one of health, support and trust, then all other strategic initiatives are affected. Employees who feel valued are more often engaged, positive ambassadors of the company and brand. Research shows that recognition programs can positively impact everything from overall revenue to quality measures and customer metrics (like Net Promoter Scores), I can’t see any downside!

Higher engagement levels lead to increased productivity, lower turnover and happier employees overall. To learn how you can transform your corporate culture into one that puts employees at the top of the equation, contact your OneDigital Consultant today.