Research indicates that feeling valued is a key contributor to employee engagement and satisfaction. How do you make an employee feel valued?

According to results of the Work and Wellbeing Survey, it’s important to offer access to development opportunities, career advancement, adequate monetary compensation, and non-monetary rewards for contributions.

Given that offering what is truly important is not always easy, it’s no surprise that companies try to make up for lack of substance with style sometimes. (Of course many companies manage to have both, which is ideal!) 

Here are a just a few ways we’ve seen companies waste money in the name of employee engagement:

Substituting perks for company culture

Having a ping-pong table or fully-stocked refrigerator may be a nice-to-have for employees. Those things may provide a welcome distraction from work, but they won’t help employees feel professionally fulfilled. These nice-to-have items do not ensure that the truly important aspects of engagement—meaningful work, great managers, autonomy, etc. are alive and well in your culture.

As the author of this article says, benefits aren’t about the “what”—but about the why. Make sure your program is meaningful, and supports the company culture you want to create. (Also make sure that your ping-pong or foosball table is not creating unwelcome noise in your workspace!)

Implementing technology platforms without a strategy

Implementing online surveys, intranets, communications tools, or other expensive software platforms is a waste of money if you don’t have a strategy behind their usage. For example, if you have a small office of just a few employees where everyone should be able to communicate face-to-face but they do not, implementing Slack or Skype will likely not help that situation. First you must address the harder issue of why there are breakdowns in communication among colleagues.

If you deploy an online survey tool but have no plan to address feedback, you’ll only disillusion employees who take the time to participate. Ensure that any tools that are implemented are there to enhance and support what you’re already doing, not be expected to act as a magic wand.   

Failing to align recognition & rewards with business strategy

Recognizing employees with awards and gifts like merchandise, travel, gift cards, etc. is always a nice gesture. However, those awards should be aligned with your to corporate culture, core values, goals, and objectives.

When the employee receives the award it should come with a “thank you” and an explanation of why he or she got the accolade so that the behavior is reinforced for that person, as well as others in the organization. 

Spending money on lavish office décor

Everyone likes a pleasant place to work—a mural made out of ping-pong balls, like the one at online storage start-up, Dropbox, or an airplane in the office of Airbnb sound pretty amazing. But dynamite décor can irk employees when your company isn’t doing its best to offer fair compensation, or if they’re not investing in areas that truly matter, like hiring skilled managers and showing appreciation for employee contributions. If you have extra money to spare, invest that money in ways that will truly engage employees.

Truly engaging employees requires dedication and commitment that go beyond offering fun perks. If you’re not sure where to begin, download our new Employee Experience eBook for suggestions and tools that will help ensure that you’re spending your money in the right places.

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