Anyone tracking the employee engagement crisis over the last five years has seen the problem go from bad to worse in record time. The question is what can be done about it; and I’ve run across a lot of good ideas that I think speak to a modern workforce.

Sure, employees still like to have a stable and well-paying job. But, for an employer, covering the basics is not enough anymore to keep people excited and productive. Gone are the days when free beer and foosball tables – along with the occasional bonus and raise, of course – were enough to keep people happy. The maintenance of employee engagement has shifted, and therein lies the problem: Too many companies view their workforce as an asset to maintain. That’s obsolete.

In a socially connected, easily poachable, constantly job-seeking workforce, HR departments must turn their attention to what employees really care about: career opportunities.

That message – presented recently in a nifty infographic by employee motivation firm Make Their Day and gamification platform Badgeville – can’t be clearer. Some highlights:

  • 71 percent of employees are not engaged. That’s almost three-quarters of the workforce!
  • Only 19 percent of employees are satisfied with their jobs, and only 10 percent look forward to going into the office every day. That means that, all things considered, even the 9 percent of employees who are “satisfied” with their jobs don’t even look forward to them.
  • 83 percent of employees say recognition for their contributions is more fulfilling than any reward or gift
  • 76 percent of employees say opportunities for growth were the top reason they stayed in an organization.

Digging into the effects of those numbers, the study found that highly engaged employees are 26 percent more productive, and their companies earn 13 percent greater revenues over a five-year period. Problem is, only 29 percent of employees are engaged. And the reason for that engagement – motivation – has shifted, opening a cost-effective opportunity for companies. Instead of free beer or lunches, try simple, instant recognition. Someone completes an assignment ahead of time and under budget? Send out a company-wide email praising their work. And it doesn’t just have to apply to work assignments.

Here at RiseSmart, every employee birthday is recognized with a photo with all in-office employees posing to a theme of interest to that birthday person. Company-wide emails are sent to wish team members a happy birthday and share a little bit about that person. In-office employees receive an office redecoration. An array of their favorite items (sports memorabilia, photos highlighting their favorite hobbies, streamers of their favorite colors, etc.), decorate their workspaces.

The infographic makes some great points, but the employee engagement problem is extremely complex. The motivations and needs of our workforce have evolved, changing the rules in the process. Career opportunities and recognition are the new motivators in this game.

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