Employees who are highly engaged and motivated to do what it takes to increase productivity and profitability make up successful organizations. When employees feel like they are a part of something important and their contribution has made an impact on business results, they form a mental and emotional attachment that becomes mutually beneficial for both parties.

“When people have the tools they need to succeed, feel good about their personal growth opportunities and receive the appropriate rewards and recognition for their contributions, it’s a win-win proposition,” said Mike Rickheim, vice president of talent management at Newwell Rubbermaid, in a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report on employee engagement.

A highly engaged workforce not only reduces turnover and hiring costs, but also ensures performance growth and longevity in the marketplace. According to the report of more than 550 executives, 71 percent of respondents rank employee engagement as very important to achieving overall organizational success. However, only 24 percent say employees in their organization are highly engaged.

“The engagement level of employees who receive recognition is almost three times higher than the engagement level of those who do not,” according to the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute.

Low employee engagement can result due to a lack of education, feeling underappreciated and undervalued. Companies who make it a priority to engage and empower their employees are better equipped to handle the potential changes and challenges in the marketplace.

“Learning is becoming more rounded,” said Steve Sims, CDO at Badgeville. Learners and organizations are starting to recognize the importance of social collaboration and engagement in the workplace. “Any kind of system that recognizes the learner in a social and open way and gives them validation, helps to build their reputation,” he added.

According to a Badgeville survey of over 500 business workers, ranging from entry-level employees to C-level executives, only 31 percent of employees are most motivated by monetary awards. The remaining 69 percent of employees are motivated by job satisfaction, recognition and learning opportunities.

“Badges or game mechanic techniques visualize and show affinity, purpose, progress and expertise which is more valuable for a far longer time than giving money,” said Sims. “When you give tangible goods, such as money, the problem is you establish a baseline of economic value. Once you take away that economic value, a lot of times the incentive to do anything is gone. If you are doing something for the recognition, those feelings last a lot longer and are more sustainable.”

With the increase in millennials and what some people call the “solo worker economy,” employees are driven by personal development, said Peter Janzow, senior director of business development at Acclaim. People want to feel more engaged and that what they do matters to their peers and the organization as a whole.

According to a Pew Research article, more than one-in-three American workers today are millennials. More specifically, there was 53.5 million millennials, 52.7 Gen Xers and 44.6 and baby-boomers in the first quarter of 2015.

“Millennials don’t want work to define their life, they want their work to sustain their life,” he said. “Helping them meet their material needs means helping them make a difference in the world.”

One of the ways organizations have started to invest in their workforce is through the concept of open badging, or a digital emblem credential that symbolizes a set of earned skills and achievements.

Currently, open badges are furthest developed in the IT industry, with an established tradition of third party credentials. In terms of industry segments, open badges are popular in allied health and life sciences, verifying hard and competency-based skills, Janzow explained. Since badging requires a certain formalization and standardization to stand behind an achievement, it’s more difficult to create them for soft skills in the general business industry.

Open badges provide a standardized verifiable record of people’s knowledge, skills and abilities that is digitally shareable through social media, making them more transparent to potential hiring managers, said Janzow. It also allows individuals to discover new learning opportunities.

Engaged and motivated employees are more productive in the workforce. That said, the question organizations should be asking is how do we train and develop a workforce where everyone can thrive and survive going forward.

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