SOME OF THE best principles of motivation come from sports legends. Tennis player Martina Navratilova famously said: 'Do what you love and love what you do and everything else is detail.' She is also credited with saying: 'The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs - the chicken is involved, the pig is committed.' But what is the secret to obtaining committed and motivated employees who love their work and are willing to go the extra mile? According to Ji-Ye Hwang, a consultant at global human resources outsourcing and consultancy firm Hewitt Associates, the solution does not have to cost any money and anyone can do it. 'All humans like to think that what they are doing is adding value and being recognised for that,' Ms Hwang said. 'Recognition is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to engage employees. It does not have to come in the form of a pay cheque or free cinema tickets. A sincere thank you can be equally, if not more, effective.' Recognition was something you deposited in the emotional bank account - points went up and so did commitment to the firm, she added. There is nothing complicated about recognition. You do not need a formal recognition system or programme. However, people do not always realise they are being recognised. You can address this by simply adding something to the effect that 'by the way, that was recognition' as part of a compliment or thanks. This is one way to reinforce recognition in the workplace. The benefits of consciously making an effort to recognise staff achievements are plentiful. According to Ms Hwang, there is a clear correlation between recognition and enjoyment. Happy employees were often advocates for the company, and firms with engaged staff tended to have a low staff turnover, she said. An employee who was committed to and passionate about his or her organisation's success or brand was likely to exceed customer expectations and provide exceptional service and value. The engaged worker speaks positively about the company or organisation, has a strong desire to be part of it and willingly puts in extra effort to improve business performance. Employee engagement implies three connected components: behavioural, emotional and cognitive. The cognitive element concerns an employee's belief in the organisation, its leaders and working conditions. The emotional aspect refers to employee attitude towards the organisation and its leaders. The behavioural element is the dedication, extra time, brainpower and energy that employees bring to their work. Employee engagement has a direct impact on a company's financial performance. Strategy, product, brand, culture, financial strength and execution of policy are all determined by people. An engaged workforce at every level can make the difference between a company making a loss and a profit. Companies looking to foster staff engagement must understand the employer-employee relationship, which differs between companies and individuals. According to Hewitt's Best Employers 2005 survey, for which 8,050 local workers were interviewed, career opportunities were the number one driver of engagement in Hong Kong. These opportunities covered personal and professional growth, learning and development, and promotion. Engagement levels were also defined by perceptions about policies and whether they created a positive work environment. Firms should also be aware of the reasons for employees disengaging from a company. 'The number one disengagement factor is when a firm fails to deliver to its employees what it has promised, causing huge disappointment, dissatisfaction and eventually disengagement. Companies must take care over the messages they give out,' Ms Hwang said. 'If a firm fails to deliver on promises made at the time of recruitment, it will have spent a lot of money recruiting the wrong people. What you promise, you have to deliver. It is the same for both internal employees and external clients. 'People may say they leave a company because they aren't being paid enough, but the reality is they knew what their pay was before they started working for the company. Often the real reason is that expectations weren't being met.' Ms Hwang said firms should be realistic in their job advertisements and avoid using advertising cliches that could be misleading. 'Many people are just looking for stability and security. If that is what a firm can offer, it should say so clearly in its recruitment advertising,' she said. 'Companies should try to avoid the well-worn standardised recruitment talk and be honest about what they can offer,' she said.