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.