Many managers know their companies have an employee engagement problem. They also understand that by recognizing staff members more often (and in the right way), they can mend damaged bridges. However, the difficult part comes when these professionals attempt to employ an engagement strategy that recognizes employees “the right way.” Unfortunately, many of these plans fall flat.

In previous articles we’ve published, How to put your engagement plan into action and How peers help peers feel happy & appreciated at work, we discussed detailed ways managers can implement a plan that involves both upper management and employees.

“Managers need to understand what they should keep out of their engagement plans.”

But in order to build a successful plan, managers need to understand what they should keep out of it. The best way to do this is by abandoning some widely accepted – but not necessarily true – theories about what makes employees happy, more engaged, and productive.

Here are three employee recognition myths managers need to immediately remove from their HR plans:

1. Employee recognition isn’t a big deal

There’s no better way to start than to debunk the biggest myth of all: that recognizing employees is overrated, and it’s OK to work them to the bone and move onto the next set of employees.

All too often (and trust us when we say it happens a lot) companies don’t take the time to value their workforce’s contributions. In fact, a survey commissioned by O Great One! found that just over 80 percent of Americans feel like their employers fail to recognize them enough. As well, 40 percent of these employees claimed they would work harder if their employers took the time to recognize them.

Companies that spend even a small portion of their time and budget recognizing employees will find that they’re rewarded handsomely in the form of more motivated employees who will ultimately help improve their bottom line.

2. Rely on cash rewards

People like being awarded money, but many employees actually prefer non-cash rewards if the award is substantial enough.

In an Incentive Research Foundation study of 452 people, 65 percent of respondents said they would choose a non-cash reward if “other experimental elements were optimal.”

For example, the reward people wanted most was a destination vacation to network with other people, but they wanted it to be presented by executives in a public setting.“How companies reward employees greatly factors into their overall satisfaction with that reward.”

3. Presentation doesn’t matter

The Incentive Research Foundation also found in its study that how companies reward employees greatly factors into their overall satisfaction with that reward.

Sure, the reward itself still matters, but presentation is just as important. That too applies for award programs, explained Melissa Van Dyke, the IRF president.

“The study findings point to employee award programs that should be as heavily vested in the presentation and professional development as they are on the award itself,” said Van Dyke. “These programs should also be moderated for the employee’s work environment, and sensitive to an employee’s individual preferences.”

In other words, a one-size-fits-all approach typically won’t work. And that also goes for the types of rewards (and even benefits!) given to employees.

You need to think outside of the box

As we’ve described, it’s critical that companies take the time to recognize employees who perform admirably. But to do so, employers need to think outside the box. They can’t rely on preconceived, old-fashioned models of thinking that may have never been accurate in the first place. Instead, they need to focus on the types of rewards given and how they’re awarded.