According to a new report by Quantum Workplace, smaller organizations have increased their levels of engagement, while larger organizations have struggled to do just that. In fact, the study points out two things; that engagement levels actually decrease as company size increases and that the engagement gap between the smallest and largest companies has become “more pronounced” over the last two years.
That separation doesn’t surprise me one bit. About 6 months ago, I wrote a Performance Perspective on the challenges of Maintaining Engagement at Larger Companies. In it, I advised bigger businesses to emulate some of the more positive workplace attributes that smaller firms offer.
I’m not alone in my observation. Gallup has noted for some time now that bigger companies need the most improvement when it comes to building engaging environments. Through their research they have observed that companies with 1,000 workers or less tend to have higher engagement scores than those with more. Dale Carnegie noticed the same thing. They reported that 36% of small company employees report being "fully engaged" with their jobs, compared with only 29% at larger companies.
Why is that? What’s the fundamental difference between the two settings? The reality is that size matters. Bigger companies are just not set-up to operate like smaller, more intimate settings. That is unless their leaders take proactive steps to replicate the social relationships and role clarity employees enjoy at smaller firms.
So where do you start? In Maintaining Engagement at Larger Companies, I offered three suggestions on how bigger companies can create a more intimate feel. I talked about the importance of building stronger interpersonal relationships. I outlined how to create a more participative culture and I also discussed how to foster a more self-accountable mindset across all employees. I suggest you revisit that paper. In the meantime, here are two more ways social recognition can help bigger companies feel smaller.
1. Help nurture individual networks
In smaller firms employees tend to know one another, but in bigger settings relationships need to be nourished. Social recognition helps here. It allows employees to connect with (and then go on to build relationships with) one another, even those employees they may not have much ongoing contact with.
You see, in bigger companies employees do not intersect with one another every day. Maybe they have worked together on a virtual project or gone through training together and now they have gone on their own ways. Even though they may work in separate offices (or even in separate countries) they can use social recognition to stay in touch and track each other’s accomplishments. They can see what others have been recognized for and offer their own encouragement as good work is being done. That type of positive interaction rebuilds relationships and it does so even across the most expansive enterprises.
2. Show employees how they are making a difference
While relationships are indeed critical, smaller companies also do a better job of connecting their employees’ efforts to results that serve the firm. For workers within smaller companies, understanding their role and how it impacts the greater good is a natural byproduct of the setting. The owner (or at least the boss) is actively involved and the feedback an employee receives tends to be more regular and more relevant.
Bigger companies need to work harder at that. They need to reinforce the value of each and every employee’s contributions and be more specific when they do. With social recognition “specificity” enters the conversation naturally. With it any employee—from senior manager to project teammate—can reinforce how any one person’s particular efforts made a big difference.