This article was updated on June 18, 2018.

When it comes to business success, it's the little things your employees do every day that make the difference. But if they aren't engaged, they'll be less willing to make that extra effort for your organization. You can increase engagement through recognition programs to give your employees the incentive they need.

Employee recognition and reward programs can be a key element for creating a positive workplace culture. People thrive off of positive reinforcement, and these programs put an additional spotlight on the effort people put into their jobs. Employees who don't feel like they're recognized for their work are twice as likely to say they will quit their jobs in the next year, according to Gallup. Another Gallup study found that business units with engaged employees were 17 percent more productive and 21 percent more profitable than units with disengaged employees. And yet another study (the 2016 ADP Employee Engagement Study) found that three out of five employees are more likely to stay with a company that has different ways of recognizing employee performance.

Recognition programs aren't just a nice thing to do, they can be crucial for your bottom line.

Determine Your Desired Outcome

You should have a clear goal for how your recognition program will help your organization. Are you trying to improve employee morale? Are you trying to increase sales? Do you want to reduce turnover? Often businesses just set up a program with no plan on how to increase engagement through recognition programs. This means they have no way to tell whether their program was a success. By aiming for a clear outcome, you can measure your progress compared to where you are today.

Consider Different Awards for Different Generations

Different generations respond better to different types of workplace rewards, according to the Incentive Research Foundation. When it comes to verbal recognition, baby boomers prefer a more formal setting in-front of their peers, like receiving a plaque at a ceremony. Millennials do not need the same fanfare but they expect more immediate and frequent praise. This is further revealed in the 2016 ADP Employee Engagement study, which found that half of millennials expect to be recognized at least monthly for their accomplishments — significantly more frequently than their Gen Xers (41 percent) and boomer counterparts (36 percent).

For rewards, baby boomers appreciate cash the most, especially as they approach retirement. Millennials lean more towards experiences than cash, like the chance to go to a special industry conference or tickets to an NFL game. Gen Xers rated more time off as their preferred reward over cash, plaques and merchandise. While the surveys found employees appreciate any type of reward, fine tuning your program to generational preferences could make it more effective.

Use Data to Assess Your Program

Consider combining all recognition programs into one web-based system. This can help your business stay organized and on track. You should regularly check in on the results of your recognition program by using data analysis. Also, compare current performance to your original benchmarks.

For example, did productivity increase in the six months since you launched your recognition program? If not, this could be a sign that people aren't responding to the rewards. You can gauge employee morale and engagement through data and surveys. Pay attention to how frequently you give out rewards as well — if the number of employees being recognized starts falling, that's an early indicator of problems with morale.

Motivate Your Employees

One reason recognition programs fail to work is because organizations don't properly explain the program and its goals to their employees. Your employees need to be well aware of the possible rewards, what they need to do to achieve the rewards and how the program ties into your workplace culture. Beyond that, you should ask HR to schedule regular reminders about your recognition program so employees don't forget.

Overall, your goal should be to foster a culture of recognition, where employees know their hard work will get noticed. This can lead to more engaged, more loyal and more productive employees as a result.

To find out more about how employees feel about recognition and other key engagement factors, take a look at ADP's Engagement Meter.

Tags: People Management and Growth Incentive Programs Employee Engagement and Productivity