Employee Engagement Starts With You


I was honored to be the keynote speaker at TicketsatWork’s HR client “breakfast and learn” event earlier this month. The opportunity reminded me of how at home I feel when surrounded by other HR professionals.

My discussion was entitled “Best Practices for Building a Winning Company Culture: What it Takes to Engage the Modern Employee and the Upside of Rewarding.” The presentation allowed me to explore various aspects of HR’s contributions to enhancing employee engagement, with a focus on rewarding employees.


Of all the points made during my presentation the 3 that stood out to me, which can often be missed by even the savviest of HR professionals, were as follows:

1. Recognize the underlying reason for recognition:
Dr. Phil can often be quoted saying that “a relationship is only as good as its ability to meet the needs of the two people in it”.

The first thought that popped in your head may have included a family member or significant other. Don’t worry, that’s why I grew to love this quote. But, what if we removed loved one and inserted employer and employee?

Employees tend to quit jobs because of what they perceive as a one-sided relationship. It is important for HR and leadership to identify what really motivates their employees and just do it. That may sound easier said than done, but very possible.

Employees want to be recognized and supported. If you don’t believe me, then ask them. The onus is on HR and leadership to stabilize and maintain the tone of the employment relationship. My guess is that employees will follow suit, as they usually do, provided the culture is positive and conducive for carrying out their tasks at hand.

2. Define what recognition means within your organization:
All too often, leadership identifies a problem that HR is tasked to solve without very little thought to identifying the root cause. Low sales and other negative patterns tend to be a symptom of a larger issue. Sure, you can temporarily fix low sales with higher incentives or some other initiative, but the symptom may come back.

Let’s say your administrative staff is struggling to meet deadlines. You may be inclined to address the timeliness of their work without addressing the root cause. If you addressed the root cause, you may find out that they feel overworked and underappreciated. With that additional information, you could change their work experience and potentially ward off any looming resignations.

An idea would be to examine their workload to ensure it is manageable and reasonable. In concert with your examination, you could begin a rewards program for the support staff within your organization to recognize them for their hard work.

3. Determine a reward budget that fits your business needs

Money, oh money!

I know that money is a sensitive subject for many organizations, but it doesn’t have to be.

When challenged with where to find the money to begin a rewards program consider a few things:

  • It is possible to re-allocate the existing budget to implement a rewards program. For instance, the $10K allocated to this year’s holiday party can be reduced by an agreed upon number for the purposes of implementing the rewards program. Yes, this will mean one less round of open bar for the staff, but the benefits of a year-round recognition program outweigh that sacrifice.
  • Leadership wants to see the ROI on the rewards program before it begins. The best way to navigate the conversation is to request case studies and other current data from your rewards program partner, like TicketsatWork. They want you to be successful in determining the budget and will provide you with as much assistance as you need to succeed.
  • You must know what’s important to your organization and use that as leverage. Let’s say the leadership team has been toying with the idea of starting a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative. A rewards program is a great way to kick off and maintain a CSR program at your organization. As an example, if your organization values community service, employees could be rewarded to volunteer time at a non-profit within the community. This initiative would have a layered effect – engagement of staff, individual employee recognition and will serve as a marketing tool for the organization.


I know as well as anyone how busy it gets within HR. However, no matter how busy things get, we must remember that if not for the employees we would be out of a job. HR has a duty to support and maintain a healthy and happy culture, where the employer and employee are engaged in a reciprocal relationship.

Identifying and supporting initiatives to engage employees is the most talked about subject, but many organizations fail to get it right. As an HR professional never forget that engagement starts with you!

By: Sana Rasul, President and CEO of HR Girlfriends

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