Putting Your Company Values to Work to Achieve Your Strategic Objectives

A few months ago, Jon Ingham wrote about the role of company values in his Strategic HCM blog. He makes the excellent point that company values should not try to define the company’s identity, but rather what the company needs from the employees in terms of behavior, attitudes and actions in order to achieve success.
“Most successful examples of values don't use 'attitudinal values' (as in 'I value...'). Instead, they simply clarify what the particular organisation believes is important, and the behaviours it requires from its employees to support this prioritisation.

“So what we should be doing, rather than trying to draw out something about the organisation's (and therefore its' employees) identity, is to specify what the organisation holds to be important, and which can support its competitive advantage.

“And I think what I'm saying here, is that organisation's need a clear idea of their own mojo, which can then be translated into employee behaviour.”

I agree that company values that only hang on a wall plaque have very little use. Another crucial element of this equation is how to bring those values to life -- how to get employees to understand precisely which behaviors exemplify those values and what those behaviors look like in their every day tasks.

I've written extensively about this and how strategic employee recognition can be the tool to bring those values to life in a meaningful way. With strategic recognition, anyone nominating someone for recognition must tie that behavior deserving of recognition to a company value with a defining reason. For example: “John really behaved with INTEGRITY when reporting that sticky situation with customer X.” or “Susan showed great DETERMINATION in meeting the project deadline in a very tough situation.”

In this manner, recognition recipients begin to truly internalize behaviors and attitudes that support company goals. With values-based strategic recognition, companies can reinforce precisely the employee behavior they need while doing so through a common language of the company’s values.

What are your values? Do they merely define your company’s (desired) identity? Or do they actually change employee actions positively? Be sure to take our weekly poll.

Setting the Company Vision and Strategy for the New Year

What’s your company vision? Many companies, appropriately, have the same vision year after year. However, the current economic state has company leaders modifying the vision to accommodate changing needs. Whether you’re sticking with your long-term vision or adding elements to address the new economic reality, how are you communicating that to your team? What is your strategy to drive the productivity and performance targets you need for success in this ailing economy?

Bnet blogger Stuart Cross recently posted an entry: “Is Your Company Vision Taking You Backwards.” Cross comments:
“Creating a vision creates expectations — which is precisely their point — and unless you are willing to live up to these expectations the vision will lead to organizational apathy, at best, and cynicism at worst.”

He cites three signs your vision is taking you backwards: it’s not specific, not communicated, and ignored.

Cross later posted another blog on “Does Your Strategy Have ‘Stickability’?” in which he asked essentially the same questions regarding employee knowledge of the company strategy, their ability to articulate it clearly and demonstrate actions to achieve it in their individual actions.

Effectively communicating the company vision and strategy so it can be easily understood and implemented in their daily jobs by every employee is equally important. This means making the vision and strategy real and meaningful on the manufacturing floor or in the office cubicle. One of the most effective -- and positive -- ways to do that is by using strategic employee recognition programs. These programs allow any employee to nominate any other for behaviors or actions that advance the strategy, but also require that each nominated behavior/action be tied specifically to a company value or strategic goal/element. This helps all employees begin to recognize not only what actions advance the company strategy, but also repeat those actions for the betterment of the company.

Share your communication strategies for your vision and strategy with our recognition community in comments.

Sharing Your Company Culture during Onboarding

C.C. Holland recently wrote in the Bnet blogs about “How to Upgrade Your Employee Onboarding.” Holland makes several excellent points in the article, starting with two aims of onboarding – making employees feel welcome and helping them ramp up quickly to maximum productivity.

I would argue there is a very important third aim of the onboarding process – introducing new hires to the company culture. Companies already do this, purposefully or not. Holland shares a story in the article about a woman who was not welcomed on her first day by anyone. She had to find someone to set up her computer and phone and even tell her where the restrooms were located. That lack of welcome or preparedness certainly communicates the company culture clearly to a new hire, but it is definitely not the message senior management wants communicated, I’m sure.

This is why it is critical – as we discussed in Wednesday's post – to include your strategic recognition program in your onboarding process. Introduce your employees to your culture of appreciation on their very first day. Show them how much you appreciate them joining your team and set the precedent for them on how their efforts will be recognized. This alone will accomplish the first two aims of onboarding described by Holland – a feeling of welcome and ramping up to maximum productivity quickly.

In today’s economic environment, there is no time for new hires to leisurely settle into their jobs. Show them clearly what their efforts will accomplish – for themselves personally and for the company as a whole – from the very first day. If you follow our best practices for values-based recognition, this also serves as an excellent means to introduce your company values and strategic objectives as you show the employee how your program works.

As Rob Schmitter, corporate programs owner for rewards and recognition at Nortel Networks, said in a recent Workforce Management magazine article:

"We expose new hires to the Excellence at Nortel recognition program (provided by Globoforce) during a two-day orientation workshop," says Robert Schmitter, corporate programs owner for rewards and recognition. "That includes an explanation of the program, how to use the tool and how to recognize colleagues."

What company culture are you introducing your new hires to on their fist days with your company? Is it what you really want them to see? Be sure to take our weekly poll and tell us about it in comments. (http://globoforce.blogspot.com)

Add Some Praise and Fun – Show Gratitude and Improve Your Mood

Last week a colleague and I were engaged in a project that delivered far better than expected results. Throughout the process, and especially after the fact, we praised each other for our efforts and reveled in the results. This entire experience was also fun.

All too often I think we forget the fun in our workplaces and our work. We forget to praise others for the fun they bring to us and our work. For many, today’s workplace is a fearful, angry and depressed place, largely due to the recession and its immediate impacts to the workforce.

Especially in these times – and in this season – take a moment to praise and to thank those who make your work and your workday a little more fun.

Research even shows doing so will improve your own mood over the long term. Psyblog reports:
Positive emotions are associated with greater creativity, increased problem-solving ability, and greater overall success in life. So here's one way to quickly and sustainably improve your mood: practice your gratitude.

The Evidence
* Emmons and McCullough (2003) were surprised to find that happiness could be increased by a simple gratitude exercise. Participants took the time to write down 5 things they were grateful for each week, for 10 weeks. At the end of the study this group were 25% happier than a comparison group who simply listed five events from the week.
* Seligman, Steen, Park and Peterson (2005) carried out a randomised, placebo-controlled study. They followed participants up 6 months after they had begun carrying out a simple gratitude exercise and found they were happier and less depressed than a control group. In this study, though, participants initially wrote about what they were grateful for every day for a week.

In this season of giving, give the gift of gratitude – and improve your own mood in the process. Happy holidays to everyone

Recognizing Employees from Day 1

In an article highlighting Globoforce client Nortel Networks, Workforce Management magazine recently discussed the importance of engaging employees very early in their tenure with the company to foster a longer relationship with company.

The article cites research showing recognition and appreciation, even during the onboarding process, is important to retention in the short-term, much less over the long haul.
“Half of U.S. employees ages 20 to 24 have been with their employer for a year or less, according to 2006 numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the latest available. That number looks great, though, compared with the mere 13 percent who stick around for up to 23 months and the 10 percent who stay for two years.”

To reduce turnover among their newest hires, Nortel and other companies are incorporating recognition early. For example, Nortel new hires are introduced to Excellence@Nortel, the company’s strategic recognition program run by Globoforce, immediately.
"We expose new hires to the Excellence at Nortel recognition program during a two-day orientation workshop," says Robert Schmitter, corporate programs owner for rewards and recognition at Nortel. "That includes an explanation of the program, how to use the tool and how to recognize colleagues."

This early exposure to the recognition program also helps immediately assimilate employees into Nortel’s culture of appreciation.
Introduction to the program at orientation isn’t the only time new hires experience Excellence at Nortel. Schmitter says that this fall, new employees will receive e-cards two to four weeks after they start at the company "to enforce that they’ve made a good choice of employers. We send them a card to say, ‘Welcome, we know you’re here, we value you,’ and we want to give them exposure to the recognition tool and a recognition experience.”

Nortel hopes the new program will reduce attrition among its newest employees—those with no more than five years of service. These are the employees most apt to leave. "This is our attempt to engage those employees and keep them," Schmitter says.

A recent Merit Systems Protection Board study of 37,000 employees at 24 U.S. federal agencies found Nortel is on the right track, reporting: “Employees should also be shown that they are valued from the first day on the job.”

Do you include recognition and appreciation as part of your onboarding strategy? How are you introducing your employees to the company culture you want to create across your organization? Join the discussion in comments.

Helping Employees Understand Recognition Programs

Another recent Hay Group study found only 33% of companies communicate their philosophy and strategy for rewarding employees effectively, but 80% believe reward communication has a positive impact on performance, satisfaction, retention and engagement. Rich Sperling, a senior Hay Group consultant said:
“When times are tough economically, it is more important than ever for companies to clearly communicate their commitment to employees. Employers can leverage a variety of financial and non-financial rewards to engage employees during tough times when budgets are tight, but communicating and reinforcing those messages through a variety of channels is critical. Rewards programs are one of the largest controllable expenses for most companies, but most spend little time or resources evaluating program effectiveness or reinforcing its value with employees.”

Communicating your recognition philosophy so all employees – managers and staff – understand not only what is deserving of recognition but, critically, why and how recognition impacts the bottom line ensures both the success of the recognition program itself and also the increase in motivation and productivity you need to accomplish your strategic objectives.

Clearly communicating reward program objectives requires, as Hay Group puts it, “Simplifying the communications by limiting the number of key messages.”

Key messages of a recognition program should include:

1) Sincere appreciation for exceptional effort
2) Behaviors, actions and attitudes deserving of recognition based on your company values and strategic objectives (your recognition philosophy)
3) How and when to recognize fellow employees (the tactics of recognition)

By following these steps, you are creating a clear “language of recognition” that can be understood by all, giving every employee everywhere in the world and in all divisions the same simple guidelines for achieving at level you need that will also earn them rewards they care about through our Reward of Choice.

What are your tips for successful recognition program communication? Join the conversation in comments.

Meaningful Employee Rewards when Budgets Are Tight

How do you engage employees and motivate them to high levels of performance and productivity when budgets are tight in this strained economy?

Global consulting firm The Hay Group recently issued advice on things employers should avoid, including this nugget:
Reward only with cash: Many employees work in organizations for reasons other than money - and there are a number of ways to reward employees besides salary increases and bonuses. Recognizing and showing an appreciation for employee's efforts in ways other than monetary compensation can go a long way.”

We at Globoforce agree. We do not advocate cash-based recognition programs, which neither maintain program consistency on a global scale nor ensure local participants feel motivated and involved in the organization. Additionally, people become habituated to cash no matter how much you give them, viewing it as an entitlement. A study finalized in August 2008 and recently highlighted in the New York Times found that in eight of nine tasks, the promise of a bigger bonus actually significantly decreased people’s performance. I’ve blogged about these findings before.

Multiple studies have proven that simple recognition delivers better results than cash. A Japanese National Institute for Physiological Sciences study found “paying people a compliment appears to activate the same reward center in the brain as paying them cash.” White Water Strategies found acknowledging staff achievements – praising employees – had the same impact on job satisfaction as a 1% increase in pay, which would equal £5.2 billion for UK businesses alone. These 2008 studies reinforced research results from a 2004 University of Chicago study that found non-cash incentives were 24% more powerful at boosting performance than cash incentives.

Non-cash recognition programs save money by reducing manual intervention and eliminating the paper chase while also creating a positive work environment where employees see that best practices, strong ethics and exceptional performance are recognized and rewarded consistently, openly and fairly – an environment that encourages loyalty, commitment and honesty of effort. It is this kind of environment that drives greater morale and productivity when company leaders need it most.

To derive the most value from a strategic recognition program, offer employees the Reward of Choice - give them access to millions of options that are culturally relevant and personally meaningful. Don't fall into the trap of sending watches to a Chinese employees or steakhouse gift certificates to a vegetarian. Let them choose for themselves.

What meaningful rewards are you offering during this recessionary time to motivate and encourage high levels of productivity? Be sure to take our weekly poll.

The No-Bonus Year

It seems according to the headlines that we are in a no-bonus year. What do you do when you need to cut the annual bonuses for employees who are accustomed to seeing that annual check?

In rewarding employees traditionally, management relied on the classic combination of salary + bonus. In this structure, the bonus was intended to cater to esteem and recognition needs while also clearly being about performance pay. In Maslow’s classic hierarchy of needs, the bonus – typically given as cash – would cater to the two lower segments.

But, what does one do when the bonuses disappear?

The human needs illustrated in the upper segments of Maslow’s hierarchy cannot be met through cash compensation or bonuses. In the hierarchy, above bonuses sits recognition programs. If, because of the recession, you find you have a gap in your Total Rewards Package, now is the ideal time to examine how you are meeting your employees’ higher level needs through a strategic recognition program.

A strategic recognition program – sitting above bonuses in terms of catering to employees esteem and recognition needs can now be deployed to help overcome the gap created in this no-bonus year. During these recessionary times, employees are full of fear and uncertainty. Strategic recognition bridges the no-bonus gap by feeding your employees’ needs for psychic income – social acceptance, increased self-esteem and self realization that can never be met through compensation.

Are in the position of needing to cut or cut-back on bonuses? How are you demonstrating your appreciation for your employees instead? Do you already follow best practices by recognizing employees for their efforts frequently throughout the year? If not, what are you doing to show appreciation at this traditional annual recognition time? Share your thoughts in comments.

Retention in a Recession

Towers Perrin recently reported the results of a “pulse” survey showing that, unlike past downturns, companies are reducing the number of layoffs as a cost-savings measure and choosing to instead cut bonuses and salary increases. However, the report goes on to say: “While cuts to bonus and salary increase pools may be preferential to mass workforce reductions, organizations recognize the importance of rewarding key talent.”

Many companies are so focused on retention, even in this recession, because they cut their workforces to the bone during the past downturns. Competitors see the negative work environments often fostered by downturns as a premium opportunity to poach top talent. To counteract this effect, company leaders thinking strategically, work to change the tenor of the work atmosphere to one of encouragement, praise and appreciation through frequent and timely recognition of exceptional efforts.

Just look at the savings through retention of top talent, even in a recession. VIST Insurance recently conducted a survey reported in the International Business Times. David Lacey, vice president of human resource business development at VIST said:
"For example, over the course of a year, if a small company loses three long-time employees, each making $50,000 in cash compensation, it will cost the company a minimum of $75,000 to prepare the new hires to be effective and productive. Even if they are replaced at the same salary, it will take an estimated six months for the new employees to be up to speed and as productive as the prior employees. Also, the company will incur the additional expense of advertising the positions, recruiting fees, and training. Quite often these expenses are sizable and can equal the $75,000 referred to earlier. For a fraction of that amount, the company could've had an Employee Retention and Development Program in place and seen most of that $75,000 added to the bottom line as an increment to NOP (Net Operating Profit)."

Margins are currently cut to the bone. Protect your investment in your current employees. Show them you appreciate their efforts. Tell them how their specific efforts are helping the team and the company achieve strategic goals. Share those successes broadly and publicly. Globoforce’s strategic recognition solutions are designed to fulfill these needs.

Encouraging Employee Engagement in a Recession

In a recent article in the Journal Industrial and Organizational Psychology (recounted in e!Science News) researchers William H. Macey and Benjamin Schneider define employee engagement:
“Engagement is not synonymous with satisfaction. Engagement connotes energy and not satiation, while satisfaction connotes satiation and contentment but not energy. Employees come to work ready to be engaged, and the challenge for organizations is to create conditions that will release that energy.”

Do you agree? What about employees who may have reached a point of disengagement for a variety of reasons? Can they be re-engaged? How is the current recessionary economy and the attendant fears and anxieties impacting this latent energy? Are employees who may come to work “ready to be engaged” actually less so now? What are the potential impacts?

A few points from recent news to consider:

1) From the Merit Systems Protection Board study (reported in GovernmentExecutive.com ) of nearly 37,000 employees at 24 United States federal agencies: Agencies can succeed and thrive, even with fewer resources and increased pressure, if managers connect with their employees. Testing of engagement levels revealed higher levels of engagement correlated to higher scores on results and accountability and fewer sick days.

2) Gulfnews.com recently reported that actively disengaged workers cost the US economy alone up to $350 billion per year.

3) A recent US national study by Modern Survey (completed in August prior to the major world recession news and events) show employee engagement levels dropping in every category measured, including a 4% increase in employees who are actively disengaged (21% total). “All five components of the Engagement Index show erosion in favorability, and organizational pride shows the largest (and most statistically significant) decline over the last year, dropping from 78% favorable in 2007 to 71% in 2008.” Don MacPherson, president of Modern Survey, commented:
“These findings should serve as a wake-up call to leaders and managers in any type of organization. As economic conditions worsen, you’ll be counting more and more on your employees to put forth their best efforts and to pull your organization through. These results suggest that unless you pay special attention to the engagement of your workforce, and to maintaining the type of work environment in which employee engagement flourishes, fewer and fewer of your employees will be willing to ‘give their all’ to help your company succeed.”

What are you doing to build an “environment in which employee engagement flourishes?” Are you recognizing employees and thanking them for their hard work? Are you creating opportunities to publicly acknowledge them? Share your techniques in comments.

Creating a High Performance Culture

A recent article in the Financial Post suggested: “Create a culture of high performance. Recognize employees who exceed expectations.”

But how do you create a culture of high performance? High performance cannot be achieved on a cultural level unless expectations are understood by all and everyone is equally motivated to achieve them. By building a strategic recognition system on the following three guidelines, you can build a solid foundation for a high performance culture.

1) Establish clear expectations based on your company values and strategic objectives. Use these values and objectives as a means to encourage precisely behavior, actions and attitudes you need from every behavior to achieve your company’s mission and objectives

2) Recognize 80-90% of employees to bring these values to life across your organization. As Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, once said in Winning, “The middle 70% are enormously valuable to any company; you simply cannot function without their skills, energy, and commitment. And that’s the major challenge, and risk -- keeping the “middle 70” engaged and motivated. … But everyone in the middle 70 needs to be motivated, and made to feel as if they truly belong.” Of course, the top 10% need to be recognized for their efforts, but don’t neglect the middle 70.

3) To achieve 80-90% of annual recognition, open the recognition program to all through peer-to-peer recognition. This also encourages employees at every level to look around and notice the hard work and exceptional efforts of their coworkers, and then acknowledge that effort formally.

With clearly understood and frequently reinforced expectations that drive the company mission, you can build the high performance culture you need to achieve in this stressed economy while keeping employees focused on the task at hand.

What are your tips for building a high performance culture? Join the conversation in comments.

An Actionable Division Performance Review

Continuing on our theme of the annual review, Tim Wright wrote recently in his Culture to Engage blog on The 3 Feedbacks that (Can) Matter to Employee Engagement.

In addition to the annual performance review and 360 degree feedback I discussed on Monday, Tim also brings up the employee feedback mechanism – usually in the form of an employee satisfaction or opinion survey.

Tim makes excellent points in his post on the value of all three forms of feedback. By using and combining these elements, managers can begin to draw a clearer picture on the contributions, achievements and areas for improvement for each employee. But what about senior executives who are trying to draw a similar picture on the contributions and achievements of entire teams, departments, regions or the even the company as a whole?

Deployed globally, strategically with a target of 80-90% participation and with the proper metrics and means for measurement established from the outset, recognition programs can reveal trends across the organization and areas needing targeted adjustment. We call this values-driven recognition, which is individual recognition aligned with what is strategically significant to the company mission. Values-driven recognition helps align employees with that company mission, while also greatly enhancing their commitment in its delivery.

With the appropriate reporting mechanisms, executives can evaluate what areas of the company are not achieving needed levels of “innovation” or “customer service” or other critical company values. These lagging indicators allow leadership to target those groups for additional training or other intervention for improvement.

What about your organization? Are you offering your senior executives a measurable, effective and truly accurate view into employee performance in a way that will allow intervention for improvement? Share your techniques in comments.

Performance Reviews – What’s the Value?

For many companies, it’s that time of year again – annual performance reviews. What value do you see performance reviews providing to the employee? To the boss? To the company? What role do you think they should (or should not) play?

Do you agree with Samuel Culbert, who recently published the article Get Rid of the Performance Review! in the Wall Street Journal?
“Inevitably reviews are political and subjective, and create schisms in boss-employee relationships. The link between pay and performance is tenuous at best. And the notion of objectivity is absurd; people who switch jobs often get much different evaluations from their new bosses.”

Or do you align more closely with the viewpoint of Jim Holincheck of Gartner Research who wrote in his HCM Software Blog on Keep the Performance Reviews.
“There is certainly plenty of research that shows that the relationship between subordinate and boss is the important factor in employee engagement (and ultimately productivity and performance). There are plenty of bosses who do performance reviews and have good relationships with their employees. They are not mutually exclusive. If a subordinate does not trust the boss, regardless of whether or not there is a performance review, there are going to be issues.”

While we at Globoforce see the value of annual performance reviews and use them ourselves, but we also practice what we preach with the use of ongoing, frequent and timely recognition as the most effective means of performance management.

When deployed according to best practice so the strategic employee recognition program is available as a peer-to-peer option as well as manager-to-employee, recognition becomes a positive and ongoing form of 360 degree performance assessments in which anyone in the organization can comment on the contributions and effectiveness of their teammates. These “recognition assessments” and kudos can then be used during the annual performance review as an additional data point on the strengths (John has been recognized repeatedly for innovation) and even weaknesses (but John has been recognized only once for teamwork) as potential areas of improvement.

This presents a much more rounded view of an employee's contributions that managers may not even be directly aware of. What do you think? Tell us in comments.

Recogntion Overcoming Economic Panic in the Workplace

Diarist Anais Nin once said, “Anxiety makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds onto you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you in his panic.”

The same is true in the workplace. As employees become more fearful for their livelihoods, their performance and productivity begins to suffer. Such an attitude can quickly become infectious throughout an office or team. These fears are being fueled by reports such as Watson Wyatt predicting 30% of large corporations have reduced their pay budgets and Hewitt Associates finding that 42% of executives at large corporations plan to decrease pay raises by 1% (per Workforce Management).

Overcoming the effect of this reality is critical for current and future success. Gallup recently issued a report in which their leading analysts said:
“Great companies see tough economic times as an opportunity to double down on their investment in people.”

Why? The article goes on to report:
“Gallup’s most recent meta-analysis revealed that compared to the least engaged workgroups in a company, the most engaged workgroups have 62% fewer accidents, 51% less theft and breakage, 51% lower turnover (for low-turnover firms) and 27% lower absenteeism.”

Towers Perrin reiterated this need in their recent report: Managing Amid Market Turmoil. The report highlights the need for more effective leadership to overcome panic: “In times of stress, employees need and want a closer connection to their leaders, and need to see and hear from them more than ever.”

We are seeing this effect among our global clients using our strategic employee recognition programs. In the week before Thanksgiving, one of the worst weeks in the crisis to date, our Recognition Index showed when the Dow plummeted to all time lows and many economic indicators such as the Consumer Confidence index showed deep fear and retrenchment in the economy, we had a significant and unexpected spike in number of employees on our platforms being recognized for their efforts.

Our clients clearly understand the need to positively reinforce, encourage and motivate their employees in these uncertain times. They are slaying panic in their organizations. Are you?

Employee Recognition Soars as Dow Jones Plummets/Why Recognition Matters

Check out this very interesting result we're seeing as the economy deteriorates but recognition at our clients has increased.

Globoforce published this news today: Employee Recognition Soars as Dow Jones and Consumer Confidence Index Spiral Downward. Funds for bonuses are drying up, but strategic recognition continues strong!

As the release says, our Employee Recognition Index (a measurement of the number of employee awards given at leading FORTUNE 500 companies), employee recognition has been on a steady upward climb that began in the Sept. 7 timeframe – when the government seized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – and has continued through the most recent automotive industry collapse and Citigroup crisis that took place the week of Nov. 17.

In fact, during the week of Nov. 17, while panic was spreading and economic indicators were plummeting, there were record levels of peer-to-peer employee awards issued in FORTUNE 500 companies. These companies currently operate global strategic employee recognition programs built and powered by Globoforce and are collectively used by nearly 500,000 employees. It was the highest week ever for peer-to-peer recognition this year.

Why is this happening? Eric Mosley, our CEO, says it best: “While no one can control this highly volatile global economy, many found a way to reach out and support their fellow co-workers within their own smaller worlds. Caring and concerned people turned to their company’s peer-to-peer recognition program as a way to make a connection and appreciate someone around them for their efforts. It’s an example of human nature at its best – recognizing and rewarding the good in others and creating powerful and personally meaningful thank-you moments while the world around them seems to be caving in. In fact, it’s a pattern we’ve seen before: during times of crises and uncertainty, recognition, appreciation and support for friends and colleagues increases dramatically and unlocks something inside us that wants to give and be thankful for each other.”

Interestingly, this also corresponds to an ongoing conversation I am having with Bnet blogger CC Holland.

It all started with a simple comment I made to her post on 10 Ways to Make Office Slacker Pull His Weight. In brief, my point was many people are feeling this way due to the recession, so use positive reinforcement to get what you need instead.

CC liked that comment, so she posted another entry on How to Motivate Your Team in a Rotten Economy. While I appreciated the validation, I needed to reply again through comments to reiterate that Globoforce does not advocate cash-based incentives.

That led to yet another post by CC on What’s the Better Motivator: Cash or Kudos? I’m pleased to say that, as of the time I posted this entry, praise is beating cash by 61% out of 600 votes.

Are you seeing recognition increase in your organization? Tell me here in comments. Do you agree recognition is more important than cash? Comment here and join the conversation on Bnet.

Eliminate Saboteurs to Your Success

In today’s economic reality, you simply can no longer tolerate saboteurs to your success.

As Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, has been quoted as saying: “We live in a global economy. To have a fighting chance, companies need to get every employee, with every idea in their heads and every morsel of energy in their bodies, into the game.”

That advice has never been more true than today. Unfortunately, all too often senior leadership in a firm aren’t even on board with the CEO’s mission, much less the lower and middle rank employees they lead.

To achieve the company’s objectives, likely with fewer and more overworked employees thanks to recent rounds of layoffs, executives must get all employees willingly investing their full measure of effort. More importantly, employees need an understanding of how their efforts help to meet those objectives and then be reinforced in a positive way – such as through a simple thank you – so they want to repeat those efforts.

A second saboteur is the office bully. Every workplace has their share of bullies, some tolerated and overlooked, some very stealthy in their bullying tactics. Even superior managers can become bullies, however, under the pressure of rising expectations in a worsening economy. A recent survey by the American Management Association showed those that have unkind managers do not put forth maximum effort at work – 70% of those who worked for kind bosses gave maximum effort whereas only 54% of those who reported to bullies.

What are you doing to root out and eliminate saboteurs in your organization? Are you applying the basic principles of strategic recognition – saying thank you frequently while tying appreciation to desired outcomes? Tell us about it in comments.

The Role of Recognition in a Recession

As I’ve blogged before, motivating employees in this ailing economy may be more challenging, but it is certainly more important than ever. Erin White recently interviewed Jim Harter of Gallup in a Wall Street Journal article on motivating workers in tough times. Harter made a couple of key points on recognition:

1) Set clear expectations and a vision for the future: “Only a little over half the people in the workforce clearly know what’s expected of them in their jobs. That becomes more important in an economic crisis. Managers should also be helping people know how they’re a part of the future.”

2) The importance of recognition: “When times are tough… I would argue recognition is even more important. They’re going to hear more negatives naturally through the course of the day, and if you can’t get recognition at work, where are you going to get it?”

Ideally, you should provide a vision for the future and demonstrate how expectations are being met through a strategic recognition program. Frequent and timely recognition – saying thank you and well done – for actions or behaviors that achieve personal and company objectives ensure employees are focused on precisely the activities you need accomplished and, critically, on the behaviors that will help achieve the company’s overall goals.

As Elizabeth Blackwell recently commented in an article in TheStreet.com, “Employee recognition isn't just about feeling warm and fuzzy. It may be the key to surviving the current economy. Trim costs all you want, but customers will stay away if they see sagging morale and a staff that has mentally checked out. A thriving team environment can be what sets your company apart.”

The 2008/2009 Watson Wyatt Global Strategic Rewards Report The Power of Integrated Reward and Talent Management reinforced the cost-effective value of strategic recognition, citing spend at only 0.5-2% of base payroll for a program highly valued by employees. I couldn’t agree more with the report’s finding:
“Given the cost-effective nature of these plans, coupled with the opportunity to reinforce key behaviors, employers may want to revisit existing plans and/or consider implementation of a formal recognition plan as a priority.”

Are you setting a clear vision and expectations for employees and reinforcing their efforts through strategic recognition? How are you seeing this play out in your organization? Join the conversation in comments.

Globoforce Channel on Youtube

Globoforce has launched a video page on youtube.com! We invite you to view our collection of videos.

Just one of the available videos is below. Our CEO, Eric Mosley, appeared on Ireland’s TV station, RTE1, in a highlight of Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalists.

Be sure to check out our youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/GloboforceInc and let me know what you think!

Nortel Achieves Recognition Program Success to Drive High Performance

Nortel Networks recently joined Globoforce on a webinar discussing their global strategic recognition program, Excellence@Nortel. While Nortel had a recognition program, the company’s employee satisfaction scores reflected poor results regarding recognition.

In the webinar, several Nortel team members share their experience, including their recognition key principles, program structure and communications including their ongoing Recognition News Network global effort, and training and change management initiatives. Thanks to those efforts, 96% of Nortel managers report they understand Nortel’s philosophy on recognition and 100% believe that recognizing, acknowledging and celebrating employee’s contributions is important.

Nortel also discusses the success they achieved including in just the first eight weeks, nearly 10% of employees have been recognized through Excellence@Nortel, a dramatic improvement. Under their original recognition program awards took an average of six weeks for delivery. Globoforce delivers 70% of awards for Nortel on the same day (the remaining 30% are delivered within days), which ensures the reason for recognition is at top of mind for the recipient. Moreover, 83% said that receiving an award motivated them to sustain high performance – a critical measure during a tough economy when individual high performance is more important than ever.

And most important – Nortel accomplished all of this on the same small budget investment they had in place for their previous program of few, infrequent awards to a small percentage of employees.

Learn more by requesting to download the webinar.

Be Creative with Your Motivation

In its Motivation Theory and Leadership section, Money-zine.com recently discussed seven methods of intrinsic motivation:

• Motivation through Challenges
• Motivation through Curiosity
• Motivation through Control
• Motivation through Fantasy
• Motivation through Competition
• Motivation through Cooperation
• Motivation through Recognition

While I certainly agree with these ideas as effective methods of motivation based on the unique needs of the person being motivated, “motivating through recognition” should actually be woven throughout the other six. By effectively recognizing the behaviors and actions you need for the company or project or team to succeed -- regardless of the type of "motivation approach" used -- you are reinforcing in the most positive way the value the individual's effort has to you, the manager, the team, and even the company. Recognizing the person’s ability to meet challenges, achieve through curiosity, control their environments, dream big, compete healthily with others, and cooperate for ultimate success all deserve recognition.

What’s your favorite means of self-motivation? How do you most often tend to motivate others? Join the discussion in comments.

Bad Gifts Negatively Affect Relationships

Psyblog recently published research on the affect poorly chosen gifts have on interpersonal relationships.

Between gift givers and recipients in established relationships, men who received poorly chosen gifts that did not reflect their personal preferences determined their future relationship with their partner to be much shorter. Women who received a poor gift, however, perceived a longer future with their partner. Researchers ascribe this dichotomous result to women’s desire to protect against a potential “threat” to the relationship. Men simply stated they didn’t like their partner’s gift choice and, by extension, their partner.

The report concludes:
“Over the long-term, the story is likely to be the same for both sexes: bad gifts damage relationships by chipping away at their heart - the feeling that in this big, bad world you've found someone who really understands you, and knows what you like.”

I believe the same holds true in work relationships. At work, just as at home, people need to believe they are valued, understood and appreciated. Bad “gifts” in the form of inappropriate recognition damage employees’ relationships with their managers and the company, just as bad gifts damage interpersonal relationships between couples. We have heard countless stories from employees of our clients who have been put off and even insulted by pre-selected rewards sent to them. The examples are countless – a gift certificate to a steakhouse restaurant for a vegetarian employee, a clock for a Chinese employee where such an item signifies death, a fleece coat for an employee in Nairobi.

A far better solution is to give the employees the recognition they deserve through a heartfelt message commending them for their effort along with the opportunity to choose a personally meaningful and culturally relevant gift from our more than 25 million options available in our Gift of Choice network.

How about you? Have you seen this gifting phenomenon play out in your personal relationships? How about your work relationships? What’s the worst gift you received from a significant other? How about from your company? Share your stories in comments.

The Gift of Choice * Thank Your Employees with Substance AND Style

Incentive magazine came out this summer with their latest report on gift card/gift certificate use in recognition programs. More than 80% of companies surveyed used gift cards in their programs, with nearly 80% of those companies using them to recognize performance, more than 30% for non-sales recognition awards, and more than 30% for spot rewards.

An October article in the same magazine cited gift cards as “the most desired gift among women, and the third-most desired gift among men” according to Tower Group.

Rich Killan, a past president of the Incentive Gift Card Council, commented: “"We're not suggesting using gift cards to ever [supply] diapers, cigarettes or gas," he says. "But also look at their income. You don't want to give a minimum-wage worker a twenty-five-dollar Tiffany gift card, because they won't be able to get anything worthwhile with that. Often it's better to give them two or three cards to choose from."

How about 2,000 gift cards for the recognition recipient to choose from – from shopping, entertainment, dining and adventure outlets in more than 100 countries around the world? That’s the unique offering of the Globoforce platform, giving recognition recipients more than 25 million reward options in their own backyard or anywhere in the world.

And these rewards beat cash for their “trophy value.” As I’ve said many times before and Killan reiterates in this article, cash has no trophy value because you can’t brag to your friends about a cash bonus. But you can invite them over to watch TV on your new flat-screen TV, or enjoy dinner out at your favorite restaurant, or play with your kids on your new backyard play set.

Recognize your employees for their hard work and efforts to achieve your company goals and reward them with the Gift of Choice – let them enjoy the experience of limitless choice alone or with their family and friends.

What was the worst recognition you ever received? How about the best? Did you share it with others? Share your story with us in comments.

Cash-Based Bonuses the Cause of the Recession?

People Management recently asked: “Are Bonuses to Blame for Banking’s Downward Spiral?”

The article quotes the CIPD advisor Charles Cotton: “Bonuses have become a recruitment and retention tool rather than a reward for good performance. There are so many corporate governance issues around permanent salaries that the only ‘wriggle room’ has been bonuses. That’s why in recent times there have been sums that have been seen as excessive, and the phenomenon of people asking for guaranteed bonuses – degrading the principle of paying for performance.”

The International Financing Review recently published a report, “Strategic Risk and Reward,” which was also cited in the article: “Goldman Sachs has gone further than other investment banks in developing a multi-dimensional reward strategy and in emphasising loyalty through its culture, which might explain its relative resilience compared with rivals Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch.” (emphasis mine)

Cash bonuses and rewards have been the downfall of many recognition programs, and yet many companies continue to rely on them. In fact, Bnet author Joanna Higgins recently wrote an article: “Cash Is Still the Best Comfort in a Crisis.”

Why? Because employees say so? Surely HR professionals don't take employees at their word on other matters: “We don’t want more training, just save the money and spend it on a bonus”…yet we do invest in training and development. “We don’t want any benefits, just save the money and spend it on a bonus”…yet we do invest in benefits.

Not only has research shown that a “thank you” has more impact in driving results, but the promise of a bigger bonus in eight of nine tasks actually significantly decreased performance.

What does work? As the Strategic Risk and Reward report found: emphasise loyalty through culture. Use recognition tools that thank the employee for his or her efforts while also explaining why that exceptional effort was of importance to the company achieving a strategic goal -- especially when times are challenging.

What do you think about cash vs. non-cash bonuses? Tell me in comments. My next post will discuss in more detail the proper rewards.

Tips for Managing "Economic Mayhem"

David Zinger in his Employee Engagement Zingers blog recently made several excellent suggestions for “Managing Economic Mayhem: When Life Throws You a Lemon…Duck!”

His points were:
• Expect disengagement
• Include yourself in the points made above.
• Look for loss and give it voice.
• Engage fully in your work as a powerful antidote to fear.
• Eliminate Pollyanna positive thinking now.
• Practice authentic optimism.
• Upturn your resilience to balance the economic downturn.
• Laugh to last.

I encourage you to read his post for the details. Our clients, in general, are handling this downturn well. We’re seeing our customers and other thoughtfully led companies increasing their investment in their strategic employee recognition programs right now because they truly understand the need for people to get some good news — to know they and their efforts are still appreciated in a frightening time. Some are also using the programs as an additional means to communicate modified company goals and how each person’s behaviors and actions can help the company achieve those goals during that time.

Now is the time to rise to a true position of leadership and engage your employees through positive recognition and reinforcement of company goals, objectives and values. What are you doing to make them feel appreciated?

Kick Cash Rewards to the Curb and Generate Higher Performance & Engagement

Phred Dvorak in the Wall Street Journal recently reported on company efforts to shore up employee reward and incentive pay plans in the face of plummeting stocks.

The article cites Deloitte Consulting research showing survey respondents were “worried about keeping key workers and boosting morale in the turbulent economy.” As Mike Kesner, head of Deloitte’s executive compensation group, said, “The last thing [companies] need now is for employees to throw in the towel and say, ‘I’m not going to work so hard.’”

The Deloitte survey, which covered companies of all sizes and industries, found that more than two-thirds said earnings declined or were flat over the past year, and 58% predicted their bonus plans would pay out less than their targeted amount; 10% were expecting no bonus payouts at all. Bonus plans generally pay eligible employees if companies meet preset targets such as earnings per share.

Perhaps these companies should consider a more proven alternative than cash rewards, which do not deliver the anticipated return and only come to be expected as part of compensation.

A Japanese National Institute for Physiological Sciences study found “paying people a compliment appears to activate the same reward center in the brain as paying them cash.” White Water Strategies found acknowledging staff achievements – praising employees – had the same impact on job satisfaction as a 1% increase in pay, which would equal £5.2 billion for UK businesses alone. These 2008 studies reinforced research results from a 2004 University of Chicago study that found non-cash incentives were 24% more powerful at boosting performance than cash incentives.

Are you making changes in your rewards structure due to the recession? Are you still relying on cash rewards as part of your recognition package? Have you turned the page to non-cash for greater engagement results? Tell us what works – and what doesn’t – in your environment.

Communicate and Invest to Ride Out the Downturn Successfully

Mark Royal and Will Werhane of research firm Hay Group Insight recently discussed the importance of employee engagement in an ailing economy in a recent Talent Management article.

Royal and Werhane note, importantly, “Savvy talent managers recognize key contributors are the greatest flight risks, as they are likely to have opportunities elsewhere, even in a strained labor market.” So what do you do to kill the rumor mill and motivate employees in this ailing economy? A couple of Royal and Werhane’s suggestions are particularly pertinent:
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate – Talent managers need to help employees understand the company has a coherent strategy that will allow it to succeed in the current business environment, that both the company as a whole and its individual divisions are making progress relative to strategic objectives and that all employees have a role to play in helping the organization carry out its plans.”

Individuals need to know their individual contributions contribute to organizational success. Help them understand that by recognizing their efforts to meet and exceed company goals by specifically calling out their actions that support these goals. Then share their success with others to clearly demonstrate what the company needs individuals to do.
Sweat the Small Stuff, which represents not only financial outlays but also important opportunities to reinforce that the organization values employee contributions. In an environment in which leaders are asking their teams to do more with fewer resources, maintaining high levels of employee engagement is critical. A little discretionary spending may be a wise investment if it promotes greater discretionary effort from employees.”

For just a very small investment of percentage of payroll in strategic recognition, companies can reap dramatic rewards in increased employee engagement, performance and motivation. Often companies don’t even need to spend more, just uncover funds already being spent that are not being tracked or measured. Almost every company will admit managers have a goodie drawer for over-achieving employees, or pay for a gift card or a dinner out from their own pocket, only to seek reimbursement on an expense report. Uncover that budget, consolidate it and repurpose it into a far more strategic and universally meaningful investment in strategic recognition to impact the success of the entire company.

What steps are you taking to encourage employees to higher performance in today’s economic environment? Share your tips in comments.

Motivating Employees for Operational Excellence

Workforce Management recently addressed a question on motivation and empowerment of employees in its “Dear Workforce” column. The writer asks, “What type of tool could we use as a process to measure our personnel’s awareness of the relevance and importance of their activities and how they contribute to the achievement of the quality objectives?”

The answer is no different than in a strategic recognition program – structure the program so that the quality objectives are included as specific reasons for recognition, then require one of these objectives be selected as the primary reason for recognition. Be sure to then recognize “personnel activities” that achieve these objectives. The recognition recipient will then have a very clear understanding of what activities or actions the company wants repeated. This positive performance management method strongly supports program success – in any kind of program.

The respondent also included other critical elements to success:
1) Secure a champion, preferably the CEO or close to that level.
2) Allow all employees to participate
3) Measure program progress and success

Do you have any additional suggestions on how to address a similar situation? Share them in comments.

Building a Culture of Appreciation for Increased Productivity

Human Resources Executive and The Financial Post both recently reported on new research by the Kenexa Research Institute that surveyed more than 20,000 employees from 14 countries on their level of engagement.

Critical findings include:
* Engaged employees are aligned with company goals and are personally vested in the outcomes.
* Engaged employees are inspired by their leaders with confidence in the future.
* An engaged workforce delivers superior business results.

In today’s economic climate, no company will say they do not need superior business results – especially if achieving those results is as simple as gaining greater productivity out of their current workforce by inspiring them through the current company goals.

But many ask, “How do we do that?”

The problem lies in the fact that most employees couldn’t tell you what their company’s goals or values are, much less how their every day actions on the job demonstrate those values or help the company achieve those goals. Sure, a plaque or poster may hang in the hallway or breakroom, but that is often meaningless and certainly forgettable for the average employee.

To make the values come alive and give each employee vested interest in accomplishing the goals, it’s as simple as recognizing employees for those actions that demonstrate the values or achieve the goals. Did an employee demonstrate “Teamwork” to deliver a project ahead of schedule? Recognize them for that effort and specifically call out the teamwork aspect. Did someone’s effort on a potentially small task lead to the entire organization delivering a key project? Thank them and help them see their role in the big picture.

Be sure to take our weekly poll and tell us your thoughts on engagement.

Increasing Employee Engagement One “Thank You” at a Time

Robin Stuart-Kotze recently discussed the cost of employee disengagement in the UK in her Bnet article “Whatever…Why Employees Stop Caring about Work.”

Stuart-Kotze reports on recent UK civil service engagement results:
* 12 per cent of UK public sector workers are highly engaged; 22 per cent are disengaged
* 84 per cent of highly engaged public sector workers in the UK believe they can have an impact on the quality of the organisation’s work — compared to about one-quarter of disengaged workers.
* Engaged employees generate 43 per cent more revenue than disengaged ones.

I particularly appreciate her comment:
“We know what most people want: they want to feel valued. They want their contribution to be recognized. One of the consequences of not feeling valued or not being recognized is that people withdraw and do less and less.

“This has a major impact on an organization, lowering morale and productivity, draining resources, and blocking performance. It is also infectious — negative behaviour has a multiplier effect on the behaviour of others.”

This parallels exactly with our findings working with our clients. It really is as simple as showing appreciation – saying “thank you.” Just as negative behaviour is infectious, so is positive behaviour, but it requires effort to change company culture to one of appreciation. Tying manager goals (MBOs/KPIs) to regular recognition targets can help to change habits.

But not just managers are responsible for recognition. All employees should be empowered to not only thank their peers, superiors and subordinates, but to do so in an easy to use system that tracks those recognitions and communicates them to all constituents.

So who is ultimately responsible for engagement at work? Both the company leadership and the employees themselves. All play a role in their own and their colleagues' engagement levels.

What are you personally doing to show appreciation for your colleagues’ efforts? What have your colleagues or managers done to show appreciation for your efforts? Share your stories in comments.

Motivating and Communicating from the C-Suite

Careerbuilder.com recently conducted a survey of 8,700 workers on the ability of their managers and c-level executives to inspire them and communicate with them.

More than half of those surveyed don’t feel motivated within their organizations and need more personal attention and development. 58% specifically said senior management does not motivate them, citing a need for greater companywide communication and motivation from C-level executives.

Most senior executives would agree it is difficult to communicate effectively and sincerely to all employees in a meaningful way that also motivates them to higher performance. Our global strategic employee recognition programs are designed to specifically overcome these challenges by providing a forum for C-level executives to communicate company values and strategic objectives to all employees in a positive and encouraging platform.

Of course, communicating to all employees in this way is only possible when best practices for frequent recognition for the majority of employees are followed.

How about you? Are you motivated by your C-level executives? Do you wish they communicated more? What are your suggestions?

Motivating and Engaging without the Tricks

David Zinger, author of the Employee Engagement Zingers blog and host of the Employee Engagement Network, recently blogged on his Employee Engagement Rants. Two in particular “engaged” me:

“Let’s stop calling it employee engagement.” – David’s point is the label “employee engagement” tends to blame the employee if they are not engaged, neglecting to consider the necessary contributions of leaders and managers. He suggests calling it “work engagement” instead. While I understand the spirit of David’s message, others in the engagement blogosphere argue that employees must be active participants and driving forces in increasing their own engagement as well. As I’ve seen in practice at our many client sites and has been proven through various research studies, engagement can only be achieved when both the employee takes responsibility for their own effort and managers encourage, support and acknowledge the value of that effort.

“No more carrots, no more sticks, no more motivational tricks.” – David’s point here is that we should “appreciate the complexity and diversity of work while engaging in personal and interpersonal action to foster authentic, real, and robust engagement.” As we at Globoforce have said for years, a simple and sincere “thank you” can go so much farther in helping colleagues realize their own value and feel fulfilled in their roles/efforts at work. More often than not, this also helps motivate them to greater performance.

How do you help your colleagues realize their value in their work? Do you contribute positively to this? Does anyone contribute positively to you in this way? Be sure to take our weekly poll.

Motivating Those Who Have It All

In his Business of Management blog, Workforce Management magazine editor John Hollon recently discussed management lessons from the US Olympics basketball team. One topic in particular resonated with me. Hollon recalled a seminar he once attended led by Pat Riley, then coach of the Los Angeles Lakers team in the late 1980s. An audience member asked Riley, “How do you motivate those who can’t be motivated by money?”

Since multiple research studies and our own experiences the Global 2000 organizations have shown that cash is not king when it comes to motivation and recognition, I was intrigued with Riley’s answer: “You motivate superstars by appealing to their pride, to a greater purpose. A champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning.”

This is equally true in the workforce. So why do many companies who are advanced in so many other ways still insist on throwing more money at employees to encourage them to perform better or reward them for exceptional performance? Not only has research shown that a “thank you” has more impact in driving results, but the promise of a bigger bonus in eight of nine tasks actually significantly decreased performance.

What does work? Recognition that not only thanks the employee for his or her efforts, but also explains why that exceptional effort was of importance to the company achieving a strategic goal. We call this linking recognition to the company values. Sure direct rewards are important, too, but give them a choice of reward that cannot be easily spent on the forgettable necessities like groceries, rent or gas.

What motivation techniques work best for you or your organization? Share your expertise in comments.

The Ineffectiveness of Layoffs in the Short- and Long-Term

The month of September in the U.S. saw the greatest number of jobs lost in one month in the ninth straight month of job losses. That companies are cutting back on staff is not truly surprising given the news of global markets falling and companies struggling under the credit crunch. But a recent news brief from Workforce Management offers sobering research from the Academy of Management Journal. Per the study:
“Even moderate layoffs can trigger an exodus of key employees that wipes out any cost savings. After analyzing “quitting rates” at about 200 companies, researchers say firing even less than 1% of their workers causes companies to experience sustained turnover averaging 13%, or 2.6% higher than the average turnover rate of firms that aren’t downsizing.

Also noteworthy: a long-held belief that providing employees with professional development doesn’t guarantee a boost in retention, as many employees use the tools and newfound knowledge to seek employment elsewhere.”

This research is noteworthy for two reasons:

1) Layoffs aren’t the answer - Today’s savvy employee knows no job is guaranteed, especially when the economy turns sour. After cutting resources deeply during the last downturn, human resources leaders are now positioning themselves more strategically to ensure the company has the right people in the right jobs when the market turns. This strategy will help the company rebound more quickly than those that did a less considered layoff.

2) Professional development won’t increase retention – What does influence retention is strategic recognition by engaging employees in a culture where they are continually appreciated through a system that ties their efforts to company goals and values. In this way, employees see how their efforts directly impact company performance.

What policy has your company adopted during this downturn – layoffs or retention? What has the impact been? Be sure to take our weekly poll.

Transforming a Miserable Job

In his latest book The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Patrick Lencioni dissects what takes a job beyond bad or a poor fit to downright miserable. In an interview with Amazon, Lencioni explained the three signs:

1. Anonymity: the feeling employees get when they realize their manager has little interest in them as a human being and they know little about their lives, their aspirations and their interests.

2.Irrelevance: when employees cannot see how their job makes a difference in the lives of others. Every employee needs to know that the work they do impacts someone’s life--a customer, a co-worker, even a supervisor--in one way or another.

the inability of employees to assess for themselves their contribution or success. Employees who have no means of measuring how well they are doing on a given day or in a given week must rely on the subjective opinions of others, usually their managers, to gauge their progress or contribution.

These three signs are exactly what our strategic employee recognition systems are designed to counter by providing an easy way for anyone, at any level, to deliberately and frequently show gratitude to fellow employees or subordinates for their efforts in a way that links those efforts to overall company goals. Think about it. By saying "thanks,” you raise that employee out of anonymity, you make their tasks relevant to the success of everyone, and you give them the ability to assess what is valuable effort in the eyes of others.

Have you experienced a miserable job based on any or all of these criteria? What was your solution – leave or try to change the environment? Share your approach in comments.

Motivating Employees in this Ailing Economy

The declining state of the global economy, layoffs, unemployment, the credit crunch – all have been dominating the headlines in the last several weeks. Companies across industries and around the world are dealing with similar complex challenges due to the ailing economy. Strategically applying employee recognition across an organization can address these three common issues:

1. Survivor’s guilt
– Those remaining on the payroll after a round of layoffs often feel guilty about surviving the ax. They typically need additional reinforcement of the value of their work to help them justify their status in the group.

2. More work, less motivation – The survivors are also paying close attention to how management handles the layoff and subsequent redistribution of the work. With more tasks on each employee’s desk, managers need a way to encourage strong individual performance.

3. Rampant rumor mill
– The inevitable rumors of additional layoffs or restructuring further contributes to productivity and motivation challenges. Teams often suffer the most with rumors fueling backstabbing and protection of individual tasks over team goals.

Strategic recognition targets each of these challenges with mechanisms to acknowledge and reward performance, personal achievement, and team successes. The recognition program should also be used to reiterate core company messages such as key goals and the mission to keep staff focused on achievable targets. By using the tool to encourage team members in a stressful time, company leaders communicate clearly their commitment to the wellbeing and future of the employees.

What effects are you feeling from the downturn in the global markets? What steps are you taking to counteract potential performance shortfalls due to fear and uncertainty among your employees? Share your experiences in comments.

Employee Engagement, Recognition and Performance Management

IBM and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) recently released new research proving the ROI of talent management.

One particularly interesting finding of the “Integrated Talent Management” study was:

“Organizations that apply talent management practices demonstrate higher financial performance compared to their industry peers. Those specific talent management practices that most distinguished financial outperformers from other organizations are understanding and acting upon employee engagement and aligning recognition and performance management systems.”

This finding is not surprising to me, however, because of the strong correlation we have repeatedly seen and that has been proven through numerous research studies showing the dramatic influence strategic recognition can have on employee engagement. And our customer Intuit recently shared through a webinar how integrating recognition into their performance management process has been a secret of their success.

Even in today’s tough economic market, we are seeing forward-thinking companies adopting strategic recognition as key means to drive employee engagement and increase the financial performance of their organizations. What is your organization doing in this space? Tell us about your experiences in comments.

Measuring Engagement * Simple Tools Work Best

I’ve blogged repeatedly about the need to establish a baseline of engagement levels and then measure success against that baseline repeatedly over time. Many companies already have employee satisfaction surveys in place. One of the best is the Gallup Q12 survey, a simple 12 question survey to measure employee engagement, six of which can also help evaluate the success of your strategic recognition tool.

The 12 questions are below with my comments on how some of the questions should be used to gauge recognition program success as well.

1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?
Work/role expectations can be reinforced through a strategic recognition program that intentionally ties every recognition to a behavior displayed and/or a goal achieved. Such recognition reinforces desired expectations in the most positive of performance management methods.

2. Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?

3. At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

4. In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?

The question most obviously tied to recognition, this shows the importance of frequency in a recognition program. Up to 65% of Americans say they do not receive enough recognition on the job. A negative answer to this question will quickly tell you if your recognition program is being used to its full capability.

5. Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?

A strategic recognition program that records and tracks every acknowledgment of achievement provides not only a written reinforcement in the moment, but also allows for an official record at time of review. Direct and personal reinforcement through such a program shows caring and awareness from a manager or peer.

6. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?

7. At work, do your opinions seem to count?

8. Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?

By tying your company values and strategic goals or objectives to every recognition, you are reinforcing those values and objectives with every recognition. This brings the company values to life for every employee, showing them how their job and personal effort matter to the organization as a whole.

9. Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
This becomes easier for employees to notice about their colleagues when they make saying “thank you” a habit and part of their work culture.

10. Do you have a best friend at work?

11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?

Six months is far too infrequent to have a meaningful or lasting impact on performance and engagement. With a successful recognition program operating under best practices, the desired answer should be, “Many times.”

12. In the last year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

Do you currently have an employee satisfaction or engagement survey in place? How often do you administer it? What is your rate of return? Do you already incorporate the Q12 in your survey? Tell us what works and what doesn’t in your organization.

Government Review of Employee Engagement

Because of the dramatic impact it can have on the bottom line, employee engagement is revolutionizing HR practice across industries around the world. Just last week, a headline in HR Review stated: “The government has launched a review into employee engagement, which will examine ways to boost productivity levels among the UK workforce.” Based on study results, the team will make recommendations to employers on how to improve employee motivation and performance.

Why is the British government concerning themselves directly in the matter of employee engagement? Just look at these numbers:

According to Towers Perrin, a 15% improvement in levels of employee engagement correlates with a 2% improvement in operating margin. What would a two per cent increase in operating margin mean for your company?

Increasing employee engagement also improves performance by as much as 20 per cent, per the Corporate Leadership Council. In today’s tight economic climate and fearful work environment, deriving higher performance levels – willing given – from current staffing levels is more critical than ever.

But Towers Perrin also recently reported, “Only one out of every five workers today is giving full discretionary effort on the job, and this ‘engagement gap’ poses serious risks for employers because of the strong connection between employee engagement and company financial performance.”

So, how do you increase employee engagement to get that additional discretionary effort from your employees? White Water Strategies found that praising staff had the same impact on job satisfaction as a 1% pay rise. And HR Zone found that regular informal feedback has been linked to a 40% rise in employee performance and a 20% increase in discretionary effort.

Strategic recognition programs not only give you the mechanism to give staff the praise they need that is proven to increase their discretionary effort, but also gives you the means to track performance, behavior, and alignment with company values against recognition moments. This allows you to change your company’s social architecture, driving a culture of appreciation that is now even gaining government interest.

Do you see an “engagement gap” in your organization? Have you taken steps to close it and are you seeing the results? Join the conversation in comments.

Breaking Down Workplace Silos

Wrapping up my week-long blog series on generations in the workplace, recent research shows the generations aren’t talking to each other in the workplace – which isn’t very different than in the greater culture, either. But the cost to the company can be very significant.

Mark Larson of Workforce Management recently wrote about this research by Randstad. Interestingly, Randstad found that Generation Y, the youngest group, actually outnumbers Boomers in the workforce, laying to rest the fear of a worker shortage as Boomers retire. Alarmingly, however, Randstad’s findings also show there is little to no knowledge transfer in organizations between those who hold most institutional knowledge – the boomers – to their heirs in Generations X and Y.

As reported in Bnet, a Harvard Business School research team also recently found very little interaction across three major organizational boundaries: business unit, function, and geography.

Neither finding is particularly surprising. We've seen these informational and relational silos in place for decades. The most effective way to break them down is with a simple thank you through strategic employee recognition programs that allow anyone in the organization to thank anyone else for their help, insights, above-and-beyond efforts, etc.

To foster sharing of institutional knowledge between the generations also requires giving people of the various generations opportunities to collaborate together on projects and learn from each other through the work. Then using strategic recognition programs as the mechanism to both acknowledge efforts and then, critically, communicate those contributions and capabilities to members of all generations, overcomes these barriers of distrust and misunderstanding.

Did a subject matter expert help with your project, but he's based in another country? Thank him anyway! Did you work on a team drawing from multiple offices to achieve a strategic goal? Thank everyone equitably. Recognize people when they go above and beyond and see them want to repeat the tasks. Our clients have done this successfully across multiple generations, regions, divisions and even continents.

Tell us about your frustrations or successes in these areas.

Study Supports Generation Y Needs for More Recognition

In her latest research, Cindy Ventrice found that Generation Y expects more feedback and encouragement than younger workers. The survey of more than 800 respondents also found that employees 25 years old and younger also “have a more pronounced need for praise (3.6) than other newer workers (3.3) and even more so than the overall workforce (3.0).” (based on a five point scale, with five most preferred)

Based on these findings, Ventrice’s recommendations to managers is: “Don’t keep young employees guessing. Let them know they are on track, and they will reward you with increased enthusiasm.”

Our strategic employee recognition programs support this recommendation with a tool that not only makes frequent recognition easy, but also provides a way to track recognitions over time, enabling managers and employees from any generation more fully understand their value and contribution to the organization and their colleagues. Read more in our latest white paper on strategic recognition in a multigenerational, multicultural workforce.

Generation Y, Recognition and Performance Management

Wolfgang Seidl of Personnel Today recently wrote about the demands and different working styles Generation Y brings to the workforce. I was particularly intrigued by his comments about the “high-maintenance” nature of Gen Y. Seidl calls Gen Y members “somewhat spoiled by intense levels of attention from parents keen to develop them,” which will require managers to learn to “‘parent’ younger staff in ways that will inspire them to play to their strengths but also reign in weaknesses and set boundaries.”

While this vastly generalizes all members of Generation Y, multiple research reports have come to the same or similar conclusions on managing Gen Y members. All of this speaks to the need to more frequently recognize desired and preferred behaviors, attitudes and actions displayed while on the job. This is a major tenet of strategic recognition in the 21st century and just one of several points I elaborate on in our latest white paper: “The New Era of Strategic Recognition: Engaging Multi-Generational and Multicultural Teams in the 21st Century Global Workforce.”

Annual or even bi-annual performance reviews will not provide the feedback and reinforcement this younger generation of high-performing workers needs. Strategic recognition, appropriately used, meets the need for positive performance management, frequently delivered.

Are you managing Gen Y? Do you see this need for constant feedback? What are your tips for success? Join the conversation in comments.