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The Neuroscience of Engagement

The Neuroscience of Employee Engagement

Job satisfaction is at the heart of employee engagement. And as early as 1959, it received decisive momentum when Psychologist Frederick Herzberg published the Two Factor theory of motivation. Herzberg’s research suggests that fulfilment at work is due to two set of factors:

  1. Motivators – intrinsic conditions of the job
  2. Hygiene factors – extrinsic factors causing in dissatisfaction if absent

With more advancements in brain science over past decades, Herzberg’s psychological studies have been given deeper scientific substance. Today, neuroscience (the study of the nervous system) can explain the fundamentals of human motivation at a molecular level.

This makes me question: how can we leverage neuroscience findings to help optimize employee engagement initiatives?

Let’s explore …

Neuroscience and Motivation

In “Motivation on the Brain – Applying the Neuroscience of Motivation in the Workplace”, Kimberly Schaufenbuel details the four core drivers of motivation at work:

  1. Drive to Defend: this is the only brain circuit triggered when people feel threatened.The most common “threat” at work is to feel undervalued. Usually triggered by lack of feedback or line manager interactions, it can be fixed through continuous, positive feedback.
  2. Drive to Acquire: the need to seek, to take control, and to retain objects and personal experiences of value in pursuit of immediate gratification.This can be fulfilled with short term gratification through employee recognition and rewards.
  3. Drive to Bond: the brain is wired to be social, and this drive allows like-minded people with shared interests to work cooperatively together.This is strengthened by a company culture where collaboration is valued, and leaders positively “walk the talk”.
  4. Drive to Learn: The natural desire to make sense of our world and ourselves. It exists in a cooperative atmosphere where curiosity is rewarded and knowledge freely shared.Through appreciation and gratitude, you can encourage creativity and learning.

Address the Drive to Defend: Continuous Feedback

Drive to Defend- Neuroscience and Engagement

Did you know that our brain interprets “social pain” much like physical pain?

This is the conclusion of the work by Naomi Eisenberger, Psychologist at UCLA.

Let’s take employee feedback and annual reviews for instance. If sporadic, people can experience those as an attack on their “status”. The brain is quick to perceive feedback like a physical attack, and reacts with a defensive strategy.

Achievers, a leader in employee engagement and recognition, has been an advocate of continuous feedback and listening. Egan Cheung, Vice President of Product at Achievers, shared at the 8th Annual Achievers Customer Experience (ACE) conference in New Orleans:

“To engage a modern workforce, an organization needs to be continuously listening to its employees.”

Access to constant feedback is now real. Achievers recently released Listen, where employees can provide feedback to management on their day-to-day issues via check-ins and pulse surveys.

Achievers’ Listen goes even a step further, taking into consideration the importance of positive feedback. Allie, an intelligent, digital “coach”; interacts with employees in a familiar conversational way, while guiding employees with effective feedback and providing recommendations back to managers.

Address the Drive to Acquire: Incentives

Drive to Acquire - Neuroscience and Engagement

The value of incentives to motivate employees has been debated for long. Still, money can be effective to express appreciation: a survey by Harris Interactive and Glassdoor revealed that 75% of employees consider a pay raise as a form of appreciation.

But some leaders argue material gifts are a short-term fix only. What does neuroscience to say about it?

Receiving a gift triggers an immediate dopamine response in the brain. Described initially by Wolfram Schultzreward more than 30 years ago, reward systems in the brain heavily influences our behavior.

Achievers’ platform is a good example of alternatives to cash bonuses. Through points-based employee recognition, each employee can receive monetary and non-monetary based rewards and recognition.

And it works! As shared at ACE 2017, organizations using a rewards and recognition technology solution reported better levels of employee engagement, employee retention, and productivity over the course of a year.

Address the Drive to Bond: Social Connection

Drive to Bond - Neuroscience and Engagement

Matt Lieberman is the Director of UCLA’s Social Cognitive Neuroscience lab. In his TEDx St. Louis talk “The Brain and Its Superpowers”, he shares:

“Social is not one of our programs. It is our basic operating system.”

According to Matt Lieberman, the default state of the brain (when where we’re not cognitively engaged in anything specific) is to deepen our social cognition network. He shares:

“This network comes on like a reflex to think about other people’s minds — their thoughts, feelings and goals…It promotes understanding and empathy, cooperation and consideration.”

Promoting social bonds is a pivotal dimension of employee engagement. As organizations go global, a common platform to share and connect is a simple way to tap into social drive.

A case study covering Ericsson’s employee engagement and recognition program stated:

“The program spreads positivity throughout the geographically dispersed organization, connecting employees – through recognitions they post on daily basis – to each other, and to the company”

Address the Drive to Learn: Appreciation
Drive to Learn - Neuroscience and Engagement

Small acts of generosity and gratitude trigger a specific neurobiological feedback loop. Glenn R. Fox (Brain and Creativity Institute at USC), conducted extensive research and concluded:

“When the brain feels gratitude, it activates areas responsible for feelings of reward, moral cognition, subjective value judgments, fairness, economic decision-making and self-reference.”

Employee recognition can directly impact employee engagement levels. As the brain responds to gratitude with a positive feedback loop, needless to say that a recognition-based culture can do more than a feel-good effect! The by-products of gratitude at work are serious business assets, such as enhanced creativity, increased happiness and productivity, and better cooperation within teams.

By aligning your employee engagement strategies to main human motivation drivers, you tap into dopamine reward loops and create a lasting positive feeling.

What is the value behind employee engagement? To learn more, download this white paper covering The True Cost of Disengagement. 

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Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.

About the Author

Coralie SawrukCoralie Sawruk helps global organizations create efficient team dynamics. A people-person at heart, she believes the ultimate competitive advantage is created by the right talents working hand-in-hand, cheerfully.

Coralie shares her insights on human-centric leadership and leading happy teams on her website.

Get in touch on LinkedIn.

 

 

strengthen engagement

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey: Strengthening Employee Engagement

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) is strengthening employee engagement. Are you?

In a recent Gallup survey, they found that only 1 out of 3 U.S. workers feel they received adequate recognition in the past seven days. Even worse, employees that aren’t recognized at a satisfactory level are twice as likely to leave their job compared to those that are. Why should you care? Because 70% of workers say they’d work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated and companies with the most engaged employees report revenue growth at a rate of 2.5X greater than their competitors with the lowest levels of engagement.

It’s clear that an effective employee engagement program that makes recognition timely and ubiquitous can help your company reach new heights. Let’s take a closer look at Horizon BCBSNJ for example.

With a commitment to serving with excellence and dedication, Horizon BCBSNJ has worked to deliver quality health insurance to the people and businesses of New Jersey for over 80 years.

“Our Promise” as defined by Horizon BCBSNJ

“Our Promise” as defined by Horizon BCBSNJ

This commitment to dedication and enrichment isn’t limited to external recipients. HBSBCNJ understands that their success as a business would not be not possible without an engaged and committed workforce. Because they place such an emphasis on the well-being of their employees, they have historically scored high on employee engagement surveys.

But in 2013, seeking to replace their manually facilitated employee recognition program with a streamlined, automated solution, Horizon BCBSNJ partnered with Achievers to offer their employees an unbeatable platform that would better leverage the modern workforce’s affinity for frequent, specific recognition to obtain key business objectives.

Horizon BCBSNJ debuted their employee engagement and recognition program, Step It Up, to more than 5,000 employees across four locations and saw almost universal adoption from the get-go. The program reached a 90 percent activation rate by year’s end, with that rate further ballooning to the 97 percent it sits at today. In addition to the extremely high activation rate, Horizon BCBSNJ saw other positive results, such as:

  • A 6 percent increase in overall employee engagement scores
  • A 14 percent improvement in engagement survey results related to employee recognition

Gallup states that recognition “might be one of the greatest missed opportunities for leaders and managers.” Horizon BCBSNJ is not missing out on this massive opportunity for management; their leadership team is among the most active users on Step It Up, solidifying the employee engagement and recognition program as a very important pillar of their employee strategy.

Furthermore, with trackable data flowing through the system, Horizon BCBSNJ’s HR team has a better understanding of concepts that used to be a guessing game, such as employee morale, and can swiftly pinpoint the cause of any decrease.

The results realized at Horizon BCBSNJ is proof that any workforce can benefit from an effective employee engagement and recognition program, even one that is already engaged. To learn more, access Horizon BCBSNJ’s Case Study.

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About the Author

Iain FerreiraIain Ferreira is the Content Marketing Manager at Achievers. He lives in San Francisco. You can view his Linkedin profile here.

 

 

 

 

Recognition Provider Spotlight

Achievers Named #1 Overall Recognition Provider in Baker’s Dozen 2017 by HRO Today

Achievers is honored to be listed as #1 out of 13 ranked vendors in both the Overall Excellence category and Breadth of Service category in the HRO Today’s Baker’s Dozen Survey. Read the press release here.

Employee recognition is a very important part of company culture. So much so, more and more HR Tech is dedicated to making employee recognition easy for both employees and managers. And it can address important business objectives relating to employee engagement, like attracting top talent and increasing productivity. In fact, 40% of workers in the U.S. said they would go the extra mile for a company that rewards and recognizes them on a regular basis. This means even the smallest investment in an employee engagement platform could have a big impact on your company’s bottom line.

Here are just a few of the key business objectives HR tech, employee recognition and employee engagement can address when working together:

With more and more HR tech providers offering a solution addressing employee engagement and recognition, it might be hard to decide which is the right one for your company. But according to HRO Today’s Baker’s Dozen Survey, Achievers is the cream of the crop. As announced on August 17th, 2017 Achievers finished first out of 13 ranked vendors in both the overall score category and the Breadth of Service Category.

HRO Today ‘s rankings are based on the buyers of the services, rather than the opinion of HRO Today staff. The overall category ranking is derived from three components: features breadth, deal sizes, and quality. Check out what Elliot Clark, CEO of SharedXpertise and Publisher of HRO Today, said about why Achievers won:

“Employee recognition leads to better employee retention and engagement, and companies seeking recognition and motivation service partners consider the information provided in the HRO Today magazine Recognition Baker’s Dozen Customer Satisfaction Survey to provide extremely valuable insight to a successful RFP process. Achievers led this year’s ranking in the No. 1 position, overall and for breadth of service, differentiating itself as an exceptional provider in this highly competitive industry.”

This is a tremendous honor for Achievers. As Greg Brown, Achievers General Manager, commented:

“The eagerly awaited HRO Today Baker’s Dozen results are considered by buyers to be the gold-standard for recognition providers. Achievers is honored to have earned the No. 1 ranking in both the overall category as well as breadth of service. Achievers understands the challenges organizations face today to attract, recognize, and retain top talent. We are committed to helping our customers excel in employee engagement.”

Having pioneered the concept of social recognition, Achievers remains the innovation leader in the industry, continuously developing new approaches that drive employee engagement by delivering best-in-class employee recognition tools. Among Achievers large customer base, clients like Ericsson and Shop Direct have already seen results, such as:

  • A 3 percent increase in engagement score for Ericsson, up from an already astounding 81 percent
  • A 17 percent engagement survey increase for Shop Direct

Over one-third of Achievers’ employees are a member of a service team, existing as part of its Professional Services, Customer Success, or Member Experience team dedicated to giving the best client experience. It is this emphasis on customer service that has led Achievers to receive consistently high scores on customer satisfaction surveys.

If you’d like to learn more about the Achievers and start running an award-winning employee engagement and recognition platform across your organization, schedule a demo today.

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About the Author

Iain FerreiraIain Ferreira is the Content Marketing Manager at Achievers. He lives in San Francisco. You can view his Linkedin profile here.