Engaging employees will be the greatest HR challenge facing employers over the next three to five years, according to a member survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Sixty-nine percent of the respondents said engagement would be “very important.” Running a close second is employee retention, cited by 63%. Recruitment and managing organizational culture were deemed very important issues by 53% and 51%, respectively.

Asked to rank their greatest workforce management challenges, more than three-quarters of HR pros said handling multiple generations (85%) and multiple cultures (84%) are important or very important. Harnessing the power of social networking technologies ranked third (72%), followed by the global diversity of today’s companies (62%). SHRM notes that larger companies are more concerned with global diversity while public employers ranked dealing with multiple cultures higher on their list of challenges.

The findings are part of the survey, “Employee Recognition Programs,” conducted by SHRM for Globoforce, a provider of solutions for recognizing and rewarding employees. SHRM polled 745 members in organizations with more than 500 employees. The research offers a glimpse into employer attitudes on a wide range of talent management and recognition topics. A report is available on the SHRM website.

Recognition programs

The survey shows that recognition programs are widespread; 80% respondents have an employee recognition program in place. Here’s what is recognized or rewarded:

  • Years of service (58%)
  • Going above and beyond with an unexpected (not regular) work project (48%)
  • Successful performance results related to the organizational financial bottom-line (43%)
  • Exemplary behavior that aligns with values (37%)
  • Completion of regular work projects with high quality results (9%)
  • Completion of regular work projects at a faster than usual pace (2%)

Despite the widespread use of recognition programs, only 13% of employers measure their return on investment, saying that doing so is difficult. The lack of measurement dovetails with the HR pros’ apparent concerns about the effectiveness of their recognition programs. Asked if employees feel that the level of recognition they receive is adequate, fewer than one-third (31%) of survey-takers said yes.
Asked about the methods used to track employee engagement, 71% of human resource professionals said the employee exit interviews are a key tool. The second most used tool is the employee retention rate, followed by vendor-administered employee engagement surveys/analysis.

“Notable, though small, is the 11% percent of respondents who said their organization follows employee social media activity—employee comments on internal and external company forums—to track employee engagement,” states SHRM.

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