Work Worth Doing with Quintiles

If you enjoyed the DHL webinar, you may also want to view the webinar with Quintiles on their Work Worth Doing strategic employee recognition program.

IN 2004, new hire retention was a major priority for improvement for Quintiles. Leadership saw employee recognition as a away to achieve that objective. Even though 63% of employees in 2004 said managers gave adequate praise and recognition, Quintiles by no means felt this was a satisfactory level of achievement. Given the global footprint of Quintiles, leadership also realized recognition demanded a globally consistent solution and teams that spanned across many regions. Internal studies also showed more engaged groups had higher customer loyalty making engagement of strategic importance.

Recognizing exceptional behaviors that demonstrated company values to foster engagement led to the name of the recognition program: Work Worth Doing. And employees are responding with a four-fold increase in usage of the new recognition program over previous version. All employees are eligible to participate in all five award levels, which is effecting positive change and greater engagement across the company. The ease of use of the program and individual choice of reward experience is also highly valued with employees able to choose the experience they want – shopping, dining, playing – anywhere in the world.

In just 13 months, Quintiles has seen dramatic success with Work Worth Doing:
• New hire retention is up to 90%
• Managers providing recognition increased to 78%
• Employees in all countries have been touched
• Averaging over 2,300 awards per month – a five-fold increase from the previous program – while reducing cost per award by half

If you’d like to see the full webinar with Quintiles, please register to download the webinar.

First Choice Honors with DHL

DHL Global Forwarding’s Senior Director of Talent Management, Brent Biedermann, recently joined me for a webinar on how they’ve applied the five tenets of strategic recognition within their First Choice Honors program, which was designed to improve the overall experience of DHL customers and employees.

DHL wanted to create a consolidated employee recognition program based on a foundation of behavior, essentially getting people to understand what they can do and how they can behave to bring value to the organization. In creating this new structure, DHL wanted to move away from their old disparate structure in which not all employees were eligible to participate, detracting from the ability to create a culture of appreciation. DHL also wanted to eliminate the catalog approach to rewards as the selection was not connecting with employees on a meaningful level. A critical aspect to include, however, was a strategic, global approach that could translate easily across multiple geographic regions.

With Globoforce, DHL was able to foster a culture of recognition based on performance excellence. Very easy to use, the First Choice Honors program ties every employee recognition to a strategic and operational goal and the behaviors that bring results to the business. Employees are particularly excited they can nominate other employees for recognition.

The global reward choice available through Globoforce gave DHL’s employees the flexibility and choice they wanted. Brent shared the story of one employee who came to him to show a new camera accessory she had selected, saying: “Look what I got with my award. I wanted to show you because I’m thrilled I got to choose this for myself. I’m so glad we’ve opened the program to everyone.”

If you’d like to see the full webinar with DHL, please register to download the webinar.

Give the Gift of Sincere Thanks

In this holiday season of expressing our love and appreciation to family and friends through the giving of gifts, I’d like to express my thanks and appreciation for all of those who make my work life fun, enjoyable and truly meaningful. Without my colleagues – my friends – work would be a drudgery. Instead, it is an exciting challenge that I look forward to every day. Thank you, all. The opportunity to work with you is truly a gift.

Even though I take this moment to very publicly express my appreciation, I am consistent in my efforts to continually, frequently and personally recognize my colleagues for work they do. Frequency is a critical element of recognition that is meaningful to the recipient and impactful for achieving strategic objectives. It’s like Derik Mocke put it on his Sustainable Employee Motivation site:
“People often say that employee motivation doesn’t last. We’ll neither does bathing. That’s why I recommend both daily … especially employee motivation.”

Somewhat tongue in cheek, but very true. As is this statement Drew Stevens in Human Resources IQ:
“Management must constantly strive to provide feedback to employees. Feedback is not an annual performance review event. It is imperative that daily communication exists for good information and improvement. Coaching, counseling and mentoring are components of organizational morale. Many people attend church and hear the words, ‘It is right to give thanks and praise.’ Many watch professional sports and witness coaches cheering on their athletes. We can learn something here: Simple words of thanks and praise can improve employee morale and relationships.(emphasis mine)

Take a moment as we bring one year to a close and being another to thank those who have made work easier, more pleasant and more fun for you. And thank you, readers of this blog, for your thoughts and insightful comments that make this more fun and engaging for me as well.

Overcoming Common Global Recognition Fears

One of the most common concerns I hear when talking with large, global organizations about employee recognition is the cultural factor: “People are different ‘over there.’ I’m afraid of offending ‘them’ so we prefer to not implement formal recognition.”

People, that’s just laziness talking. And, as with all acts of laziness in the corporate world, it will cost you in terms of employee loyalty, customer service, productivity and you will ultimately see the negative impact on your bottom line. But I do understand the underlying fear as we’ve heard the horror stories of recognition gone wrong (public, individual recognition in an area where private, team recognition is more appropriate or sending a fleece sweatshirt with the company logo to an employee in Nairobi).

David Cohen expressed it more eloquently than I could in the Unbound Ideas blog:
“Leadership sets the example when it comes to core values and the competencies that stem from them. Despite differences in the local setting, within the walls of the organization, expectations for success are based on corporate culture. For big companies, trouble arises when local norms conflict with organizational values. In such a case, which “culture” gets the upper hand? Should the multinational organization be sensitive or to the local culture or should it run right over it? The answer, again, is to be true to core corporate values while being flexible to how those values are expressed.

“Take the issue of recognition, for example. How does a company recognize its key employees consistently around the world? Should the company definition of recognition dominate everywhere employees work? The important or core consideration is that recognition gets expressed. As to how it gets expressed, that should be up to the local cultural norms. Focus on the value like a laser. Let the behaviors express themselves naturally.(emphasis mine)

We’ve seen the truth and wisdom of this statement across several of our global customers. Traditions in China, for example, are often raised as a concern for a “new” or “different” approach to strategic recognition. Yet, across several customers with operations in China, it is Chinese-based divisions or teams who practice the most recognition of their colleagues.

As with all other strategic recognition advice, recognize any employee who demonstrates your company values as these behaviors are worthy of direct, sincere appreciation and reinforcement, but be judicious in how you do so to respect cultural and personal preferences.

Recognition by Half Measures Is Worse than No Recognition at All

If you’re going to offer an employee recognition program, don’t do it by half measures or you will actually create a worse situation. How can a some well-intentioned recognition be worse than no recognition at all, you ask? In two ways:

1) In those you recognize –
In offering only elitist recognition to your top performers, you are effectively saying the daily efforts of the majority of your employees are not worth appreciating and you lose the opportunity to frequently reinforce those behaviors you most want to see continued. Consider the scenario reported by the Charted Management Institute (CMI) in which two top British athletes were crowned world champions, but only Jenson Button (Formula 1) was acknowledged by Gordon Brown for his efforts. The other champion? Beth Tweddle (floor exercise, World Gymnastics Championships). As CMI notes, Formula 1 racing is far more publicized and watched televised sport globally than is gymnastics, but that certainly doesn’t lessen the achievements of Ms. Tweddle. The same is true across your organization. Don’t ignore those, for example, who perform exemplarily in support roles in favor of those in more public-facing positions.

2) In the rewards you offer
– Elad Sherf in his Comparative Advantage blog introduces an idea from Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational about the value in a $1,000 cash bonus or a Bahamas vacation, ultimately arriving at the conclusion that it would be better to not offer the recipient a choice, but to send them on the Bahamas vacation so they could enjoy the trip without the guilt of having not used the $1,000 cash “more wisely.”

I’d like to repeat my comments to Elad’s post here as I believe the point is important. While I certainly agree that cash bonuses are not a viable reward option, who are you (the boss) to say that you know what I (the employee) would find to be motivating and rewarding? A colleague’s husband uses a wheelchair. I’ve discussed with her about their favorite vacation destinations. A beach spot is not even in their top 25 because beaches are very inaccessible to someone who uses a wheelchair. When asked what she’d do with a Bahamas vacation “reward,” my colleague responded: “If I had the option, I’d re-gift the trip to family members. If that’s not an option, I wouldn’t go. I don’t like vacationing without my husband.”

So now that $1,000 investment is a complete waste. I realize this is just an example, but it extrapolates well to any number of situations. Perhaps someone who puts in long hours to get the critical job done on deadline would most enjoy a recognition and reward that allows him to spend extra time with family — how? Dinner and a movie with the wife? What restaurant? What theater? How about a vacation resort? Where? Ski? Beach? Disney? Or perhaps the employee has long dreamed of a home theater system. Plasma? LCD? Sony? RCA? The point is no small committee of people intending to do the right thing can give all employees the latest, greatest, most personal and most culturally relevant reward they want — unless you put that choice directly in the hands of the employee.

Are you carefully considering who you are recognizing and what rewards you are offering? If not, you could be doing more damage with your “recognition” than you realize.

Navigating Global Recognition Programs

Marc Wallace, a senior consultant with the Hay Group, recently published an excellent article in Workspan on the challenges of and best practices for “Designing and Implementing Global Recognition Programs.”

I was pleased to see so many of the best practices we strongly advocate reflected in this article. Marc is correct when he says:
“Few question the positive impact that recognition can provide, but many organizations struggle because recognition is so personal, and typically so public. These struggles are compounded when considering a global recognition program that covers the entire workforce because the perception, value and impact of recognition vary widely across countries and cultures.”

Not understanding, not catering to, and not offering solutions respectful of the various countries and cultures in your organization can do far more damage than one could believe possible when the intent is positive appreciation of effort. We’ve seen this happen time and again with companies who didn’t involve divisions outside the country of their headquarters, didn’t offer meaningful, culturally relevant (and plentiful) reward options for outlying countries and cultures, and just flat out didn’t consider that local perception of public recognition could be very different than the style the giver is accustomed to.

Marc is also correct when he says:
“The right recognition plan can help transform an organization. The right approach will surmount the inevitable challenges of a global approach. The result is a level of global awareness, engagement and impact that was not previously achieved and celebrated.”

If you plan to navigate the waters of a truly global, strategic recognition program, you will want the leader and expert in such programs at your side to guide you safely and successfully.

"Resume Tsunami” Coming * Are You Ready?

Multiple research reports cited in a recent Wall Street Journal article see the job market improving and as a result some top talent already exiting organizations looking for a better opportunity.

Right Management found the same in a survey of North American workers who, when asked “Do you plan to pursue new job opportunities as the economy improves in 2010?” answered:
• 60% - Yes, I intend to leave
• 21% - Maybe, so I’m networking
• 6% - Not likely, but I’ve updated my resume
• 13% - No, I intend to stay

That’s 87% actively engaging in activity to leave your organization. Take a look around your company today. Which employees do you think are the 13% most likely to stay? I guarantee it’s not your top performers. Various studies on employee engagement so it is the most disengaged that stay in their current role.

Look at it another way: that's 87% of employees distracted by thoughts, daydreams or plans to leave your organization; 87% not fully focused on the task at hand, not fully engaged in helping you achieve your strategic objectives.

Now look at the employees through the lens of generation. What generation does most of your workers fall into? If yours is like most companies, the answer is Generation X (ages 32-44 years). Deloitte research found it is people of this generation most likely to leave with the research showing “37 percent of Gen Xers said they planned to stay in their current jobs after the recession ends, compared with 44 percent of Gen Yers, 50 percent of baby boomers and 52 percent of senior citizen workers.”

The Deloitte research further warns of a "resume' tsunami" once economic recovery begins, especially among Gen Xers, and notes that many executives were largely unaware of employee complaints unrelated to money.”

That bears repeating – “employee complaints unrelated to money.” Your employees are smart. They understand the need to cut back on expenses (of various kinds) in a recession. What they don’t understand and will run from is a company culture that does not communicate truth, recognize and encourage effort, and appreciate staff for the extra load so many have taken on in these last many frightening and confusing months.

What are you doing to prevent a “resume tsunami” in your organization - or even help employees engage and not fantasize about leaving? Are you just battening down the hatches and hoping for the best or are you proactively stepping up, communicating clearly with employees, recognizing them and their efforts, ) and engaging and aligning them with your strategic direction and objectives?

5 Traits of a Recognition Grinch

‘Tis the season of the endless cycle of holiday movies on every channel. Flipping past the Dr. Seuss cartoon classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas (about a creature who so hates Christmas he attempts to steal every element of it from a local town) got me thinking about the classic traits of a recognition Grinch in the workplace.

Trait 1: Withholding recognition from all but your top performers:
Believing only top performers deserve praise and appreciation for their efforts ignores the solid work of the middle tier, without whom the top could not succeed at their current levels. Opening the opportunity for recognition to all is also one of the most powerful means for increasing employee engagement, per a recent Gallup study.

Trait 2: Reserving recognition for heroic recoveries only: As this post on Monster Customer Service Blunders highlights, “If foul-ups represent workers’ only chance to feel appreciated on the job, then in effect such foul-ups become almost precious to the workers.” Of course employees should be recognized for heroic recoveries, but they should also be recognized for every day efforts that contribute to your strategic objectives while reflecting your company values.

Trait 3: Using fear as a primary motivator:
Mindy Grossman, CEO of HSN Inc., explained why this is a true Grinch move: “Fear is not a motivating factor. You might be able to get a little bit more out of someone in the short term, but you will completely erode your business and your culture in the long term. You’re going to lose all your good people.”

Trait 4: Blaming employee attitude instead of fixing company culture: I had a comment to another blog post recently asking why managers shouldn’t just call out a less than fully engaged employee for his bad attitude and send him packing. After all, there are plenty of others that would love the opportunity. It’s this kind of attitude in which a culture of fear and intimidation flourishes. If you want to build a culture of innovation, excitement and appreciation in which employees want to engage, avoid this Grinch move.

Trait 5: Recognizing employees only at the holidays:
Too many company leaders think employee recognition means a holiday party, an end-of-year bonus or a box of donuts in the breakroom. Unfortunately, not only have many of these efforts been cut from the budget due to the recession, but a once-a-year “Hey, thanks!” does nothing to reinforce those behaviors in individual employees that you need to succeed.

What other recognition Grinch traits have you seen or experienced?

Tips for Creating a Corporate Culture

I write and speak often on the importance of fostering a culture of appreciation, creating a work environment in which employees want to engage. An excellent article in Kelly Service's Smart Manager recently offered “10 Ways to Create a Corporate Culture.” I’ll highlight just three key steps to creating that culture of appreciation:
Publicly focus on the people, not the technology. As much as innovative technology can help employees excel, many remain wary. They often become uncomfortable or even fearful that state-of-the-art technology will make their jobs and themselves expendable. By focusing on your staff and their contributions, emphasizing that technology is simply a tool to help them, most employees feel a much stronger “connection” to the company.

Publicly recognize employee performance, milestones, birthdays, etc. Don’t wait for major accomplishments to celebrate. Acknowledge all milestones, big and small. Your staff will not only appreciate these gestures personally, but they will tell their friends and potential future employees, too.

Install non-financial benefit items that improve corporate culture. Personal days, caring for a sick family member days, employee-of-the-week (month, quarter, and year) awards, more prestigious workplace conditions, etc. prove to generate a positive effect on corporate culture and employee loyalty.”

I plan in the new year to write a good deal more on managing company cultures, but for now, my additions to these thoughts would be to clarify that it’s important to publicly focus on the people, period. Your greatest competitive advantage is your people – their innovation, their effort, their attitude – not the latest technological enhancement. Be sure they know that. Also, acknowledge all stellar efforts, big and small. Sometimes it is the seemingly minor (but well done) contribution of a lower-level employee that makes the rest of the work a success.

What would you add to a list of how to create a positive, appreciative, engaging corporate culture?

Lack of Recognition = “Blow to the Head”

Some very interesting research has been coming out in multiple sources recently on the work of behavioral economists, results that Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup, summarizes as: “the discovery that human decision making is more emotional than rational. … In the world we’re competing in now, solving problems isn’t about spending money. It’s about understanding and managing ideas and talent – and states of mind. … Leaders who can quantify states of mind and make decisions about their constituencies based on that information are the ones who will lead the world.”

What does that mean in the workplace? Neuroscience research out of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found the following (reported in Strategy + Business):
“Although a job is often regarded as a purely economic transaction, in which people exchange their labor for financial compensation, the brain experiences the workplace first and foremost as a social system. … People who feel betrayed or unrecognized at work — for example, when they are reprimanded, given an assignment that seems unworthy, or told to take a pay cut — experience it as a neural impulse, as powerful and painful as a blow to the head. Most people who work in companies learn to rationalize or temper their reactions; they ‘suck it up,’ as the common parlance puts it. But they also limit their commitment and engagement. They become purely transactional employees, reluctant to give more of themselves to the company, because the social context stands in their way.

“Leaders who understand this dynamic can more effectively engage their employees’ best talents, support collaborative teams, and create an environment that fosters productive change. Indeed, the ability to intentionally address the social brain in the service of optimal performance will be a distinguishing leadership capability in the years ahead.”

The truth of this research is reflected in the findings of a new global study on employee engagement conducted by Right Management, which found the top five global engagement drivers to be:

1) I am committed to my organization’s core values
2) Our customers think highly of our products and services
3) My opinions count
4) I have a clear understanding of what is expected of me at work
5) I understand how I can contribute to meeting the needs of our customer

Notice that all five drivers reflect a state of mind. Do you experience these drivers of engagement in your organization or is your work life more like a “blow to the head?”

Hard Work + Long Hours ≠ Employee Engagement

A report out of the UK reveals how thinly stretched the employee/employer contract is becoming as the effects of the recession linger in organizations.

The study from the Hay Group highlights that a large majority of employees are choosing to work longer hours, often without pay, to get the job done after teams have been decimated by layoffs. Some would hail these examples of increased, unpaid effort as proof of increased employee engagement, but it is not. Remember that truly engaged employees give additional discretionary effort to achieve strategic goals because of a deeply held belief in the company, its mission and their ability to contribute meaningfully and purposefully.

Further results from the study bear this out: Half of employees warn the current level of effort is not sustainable. Hay Group data shows employee engagement levels have dropped in this population by 13% with 36% saying they are unhappy in their role.

The bottom line is this: employees are choosing to work harder for no additional pay during this time of crisis. Employers must realize they are building a debt to employees for this work. Employees understand there may be no opportunity now to increase pay or staffing levels, but they also know sincere, authentic appreciation is always a cost-effective option to encourage and recognize employee efforts.

What’s the solution? As I’ve said frequently, communicate clearly and honestly with employees on status, plans and strategy and recognize them for what they are doing with specifics on how their efforts truly matter to the organization in this time. These simple steps will foster an open and appreciative culture in which employees will want to engage for the long term, not just in times of crisis.

State of Engagement * Bringing Strategy to Concept

Ed Fraunheim wrote an excellent summation of many of the challenges, benefits and techniques for employee engagement in “Commitment Issues” in the November 16, 2009, issue of Workforce Management. Some highlights:

• “If businesses want fired-up, dedicated employees today, they must act boldly. And bold may not be cheap. Real progress on engagement all but requires more investment in people. What’s more, merely papering over the employer-employee disconnect with a few toke programs is unlikely to solve the problem. Instead, what’s needed is a fundamental renewal of the relationship between firm and worker – a connection currently marred by mistrust and anxiety at many companies.”

• “A Gallup study published in August involving about 32,400 business units found that those in the top quartile on engagement had 18% higher productivity, 16% higher profitability and 49% fewer safety incidents compared with those in the bottom quartile on engagement.”

• “A May survey by Watson Wyatt of 1,300 workers at large US employers found that engagement levels for top performers fell close to 25% year over year. Employees overall experienced a 9% drop in engagement year over year.”

• “Employee engagement is one of the top two priorities of human resource leaders for 2010, according to an October survey by research firm the Corporate Executive Board … [who] found that the percentage of employees who are highly disengaged climbed from 8% in the first half of 2007 to 21% in the second quarter of this year.”

• “By and large, though, companies don’t appear to be tackling the engagement issue in a comprehensive way that creates a more inspiring work climate and gives employees what they want.”

These are just a few of the many interesting and important points Ed makes in the article. Conclusions I draw from these points and my own observations with the large, globally distributed organizations we work with: Engagement is plummeting due to the recession and employer actions taken to counteract its effects. Leaders realize the powerful impact truly engaged employees have on the bottom line, they want to create environments that encourage engagement, but they don’t know how to do that comprehensively or strategically. Strategic recognition is a powerful tool for creating a culture of appreciation in which employee engagement flourishes.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Ignored: How Are You Recognized at Work?

I think we all generally agree that engaged employees are a powerful force for delivering company success. I think we all also agree that you cannot force employees to engage. You can, however, create work environments and cultures in which employees want to engage and give their best.

So what can you to create such an engaging culture or environment? Gallup research released earlier this month found one simple factor – direct manager style – can profoundly impact employee engagement. To summarize:

• Managers who focus on employee strengths have 61% engaged employees and 1% actively disengaged

• Managers who focus on employee weaknesses have 45% engaged employees and 22% actively disengaged

• Managers who ignore their employees have 2% engaged employees and 40% actively disengaged

What’s the moral of this story? Employees crave any feedback from managers – any indication that what they do matters – but too many managers prefer to simply ignore the most basic of managerial duties. How many? According to Gallup, 25% of employees place themselves in the “ignored” category – not surprising when considered along with results from an Adecco survey (reported in Human Resource Executive) in which 76% of employees say the boss is lacking in motivational skills.

Some managers think they’ve effectively recognized employees by throwing money at them. Another recent survey from McKinsey proves the lie in this belief:
“Nonfinancial motivators are more effective than cash in building long-term employee engagement in most sectors, job functions and business contexts. … Respondents view three non-cash motivators – praise from immediate managers, leadership attention (for example, one-on-one conversations), and a chance to lead projects or task forces – as no less or even more effective motivators than the three highest-rated financial incentives: cash bonuses, increased base pay, and stock or stock options.”

Once again, praise and leadership attention are cited as most desired by employees and most effective at fostering employee engagement. Are you one of ignored? Are you recognized for your strengths or called out for your weaknesses? How does this impact your attitude, effort and commitment at work?

Systems of Engagement

Last month the Hay Group issued guidelines for “Engaging and Enabling Employees for Company Success” in Workspan magazine, the publication of WorldatWork.
“Retaining top talent is a key concern in good times and bad, given the importance of these employees to a company’s success and competitive edge. Unfortunately, many organizations rely too heavily on compensation as the answer. … Instead of zeroing in on compensation, organizations should focus on two key areas to keep and motivate their talent: increasing employee engagement and developing systems that provide better support for employees’ success.”

The authors expand on these two key areas as follows:

“To foster high levels of engagement, companies must make greater use of nonmonetary rewards, such as career growth opportunities, meaningful job designs and recognition programs. …

“Organizations must ensure that employees understand what they are being asked to do … and that their individual goals are connected to what the organization needs to succeed in the future. Organizations that build better “line of sight” between business results and job accountabilities tend to have higher levels of organizational clarity and employee engagement.”

Why are non-monetary rewards critical for successful recognition? Because cash compensates, it doesn’t motivate. When rewards are given as cash (bonuses or incentives), it quickly gets lost in the recipient’s paycheck. The actual recognition for effort that encourages engagement is lost.

As for “developing systems to support employee success”, strategic recognition is a powerful system that, when deployed properly, gives employees that necessary “line of sight.” By following strategic recognition best practice of linking every recognition to a company value or strategic objective, you are strongly and positively reinforcing precisely those behaviors or actions that demonstrate the company values in achievement of those objectives.

What systems do you recommend for encouraging employee engagement? (Note, I'm not suggesting a system OF engagement, but a system for ENCOURAGING engagement.)

Employee Engagement Call to Action (courtesy of David Zinger)

In my last post, I mentioned what I think of as David Zinger’s call to action on employee engagement:

“Employee engagement is an experience to be lived not a problem to be solved.”

So what does living employee engagement look like from David’s point of view? He has outlined that vision well in his 14 Keys of Employee Engagement.

This link includes David’s definition of engagement (quoted below), an image of his model of engagement for results, and a short description of each of his 14 elements of engagement.
Employee engagement is the art and science of engaging people in authentic and recognized connections to strategy, roles, performance, organization, community, relationship, customers, development, energy, and happiness to leverage, sustain, and transform work into results.”

I encourage you to read David’s treatise on employee engagement and also this link on his 22 Awful Employee Engagement Mistakes. My favorite is number 20:
Drop that carrot. Don’t use the image or word carrot in reference to employees. We are not horses and even horses probably aren’t too fond of the carrot and stick. So stick your carrot and find a better more respectful metaphor for motivation and employees.”

I would add to this point: Break that Stick! Using manipulation and fear as a means of “motivation” is a sign of cowardice and poor management, especially when a simple, heartfelt “thank you” is so much more meaningful, personal and yes, motivating!

I liked the way Harry Levinson put it in The Jackass Fallacy:
“When the first image that comes to mind when one thinks ‘carrot-and-stick’ is a jackass, obviously the unconscious assumption behind the reward-punishment model is that one is dealing with jackasses, that people are jackasses to be manipulated and controlled. Thus, unconsciously, the boss is the manipulator and controller, and the subordinate is the jackass.”

Tell me your one sentence employee engagement call to action. What would you add to David’s list of awful engagement mistakes?

100+ Years of Employee Engagement

In the last few months, employee engagement has been derided by some as nothing more than the latest industry buzzword or HR bandwagon that everyone is rushing to jump on as the savior of employee loyalty and productivity from the recession. What these pundits miss is two truisms about employee engagement summarized well in this Personnel Today article:

1) Employee engagement is not new and hasn’t been for more than 100 years. Beginning with an example in 1864 and continuing through the 1920s, the article highlights several companies that implemented what we would now define as employee engagement with the aim of “making employees feel secure, loyal and engaged.”

2) The benefits of engagement are real, but the motivation behind working toward an engaging culture must be sincere. As the article says:
“Employee engagement is such a hot topic because after ruthless cost-cutting, knee-jerk decisions and general short-term panic during a difficult economic downturn, company leaders want to sweeten up their staff so they don't run away to other employers once the recession has ended. If you are thinking about launching an employee engagement programme to make up for the pain and suffering staff have been through during the downturn, you are already too late.”

David Zinger, a widely respected guru of employee engagement, made this statement the first of his 15 Employee Engagement Beliefs:
“Employee engagement is an experience to be lived, not a problem to be solved.”

If you are sincerely interested in employee engagement, then your primary concern should be to create culture in which employees want to engage. Be sure to catch my next post on Wednesday when I will discuss David’s latest vision of an employee engagement model.

Retention vs. Loyalty * What’s Your Goal?

I recently read an intriguing post on Bnet on the difference between customer loyalty and customer retention:

“In this economy, customer retention is a great objective. But customer loyalty is even better. Why? Retention programs are often built on a financial transaction. Problem is, your value add to the customer is now about lower prices. Competitors can start to pick away your clientele simply by offering a better deal. Much better is the day when you have loyal customers. These folks have formed an emotional bond with your business that is not going to be broken when the store down the street offers a bigger discount on canned peas.”

The same logic applies to employee retention and loyalty as well. Are you simply trying to retain employees (relying on pay and benefits as your key factors)? Or are you working to foster employee loyalty among those who are “emotionally bonded” to your organization?

Am I just splitting hairs? Why does this matter? Look to a recent article in the Economist citing this research:

“A survey by the Centre for Work-Life Policy, an American consultancy, found that between June 2007 and December 2008 the proportion of employees who professed loyalty to their employers slumped from 95% to 39%; the number voicing trust in them fell from 79% to 22%. A more recent survey by DDI, another American consultancy, found that more than half of respondents described their job as ‘stagnant’, meaning that they had nothing interesting to do and little hope of promotion. Half of these ‘stagnators’ planned to look for another job as soon as the economy improved. People are both clinging on to their current jobs, however much they dislike them, and dreaming of moving when the economy improves. This is taking a toll on both short-term productivity and long-term competitiveness: the people most likely to move when things look up are high-flyers who feel that their talents are being ignored.”

If you’re not working to create loyal employees, then you might as well kiss your best competitive advantage goodbye. How do you help foster loyalty? Give employees a stake in the outcome – ask their opinions, really listen to them, implement what you can. In their daily jobs, take the time to specifically, authentically appreciate what they do that helps make your organization a success.

What are your suggestions for making loyal employees, not just retaining them?

Overcoming Effects of the Recession Disconnect

As we emerge from the recession, Aberdeen Group’s findings in its 2009 State of the Market Mid-Year Insights report have me scratching my head.

On the one hand, execution of strategy and shortage of labor/talent dropped from first and second place, respectively, to third and fourth on the “Top Three Challenges of 2009” query. This is not very surprising, as economic conditions and market volatility moved into first and second place, respectively, for 2009. The importance of execution of strategy dropped by only 7% (52% to 45%) from 2008 to 2009 – especially in a recession, executing strategy is critical, and management seems to recognize this by keeping shortage of talent as its next most important challenge.

However, and this is what leaves me a bit perplexed, when asked to list their top three strategies for 2009, respondents list “improve business execution” as first at 57%, with “staff development/expansion” dead last at 24%. While I understand that expansion is not in the cards for many right now, development should always be. After all, how do you expect to improve business execution if you are not developing your staff to deliver precisely that needed improvement?

If you’re going to improve your business results, then you must get all of your employees aligned with your changing/changed business strategies. This is a job for the CEO and his/her immediate team, not HR. As I’ve said before, one of the most effective and positive methods for creating alignment is through strategic recognition. These highly structured programs encourage employees to notice, acknowledge and praise the exceptional efforts and behaviors of colleagues that reflect the company values in achievement of the strategic objectives.

What do you think of the Aberdeen findings? What are your top priorities for 2009 and how do you plan to achieve them?

Master Change, Master Engagement

What are the key factors for employee engagement? I and others have written at length on this topic. I believe one key factor for employee engagement is creating an environment in which employees want to engage through strategic appreciation of employee efforts. But there are many factors that feed a truly engaging environment.

Recent research completed by Right Management shows how well change is managed in an organization is also a significant contributing factor. In fact 94% of employees who say change is not handled well in their organizations also report being disengaged. On the other hand, of those who believe leadership manage change well, only 40% are disengaged.

Among other key findings in the report, best performing organizations were reported to manage change nearly four times more effectively, while organizations that do not manage change well are four times more likely to lose talent.

Clearly, change is a powerful force within any organization. Lack of or unclear communication of objectives and expectations is one major reason for change to fail within in organizations. Employees need to know where you’re headed and how they contribute. Such simple messages are often lost in all the other talking points around any change initiative.

Strategic recognition is a powerful communication mechanism in a change management process, serving as a tool to positively and clearly communicate what is expected and desired from employees and then encouraging them to repeat those behaviors. Recognition of effort also conveys to employees how much they are valued and appreciated, especially during a potentially confusing and frightening change.

What are other key factors you see contributing to employee engagement? Do you agree with the findings of this research (of nearly 30,000 employees in 10 industries in 15 countries) that failure to implement change well is a significant contributing factor to disengagement? Have you recently gone through a major change in your organization? What was your experience?

Specific, Actionable and Authentic Praise

Continuing on the theme of my last post, giving praise is not only necessary and critical to employee performance and company success, it is also truly an art as Steven DeMaio discussed in a post to his Harvard Business Blog.

Steven offers solid advice in his post, particularly around what I call specific, actionable and authentic praise.

Specific praise goes far beyond a generic “great job” to make recognition truly meaningful. With specific praise, you tell the recipient what they did, how that behavior/effort reflected the company values, and why it was important to the team/department/company or contributed to achieving strategic objectives. Such specific praise makes it…

Actionable and repeatable. By giving employees such specific recognition, you clearly communicate what is important and encourage them to repeat those actions in the future. For employees to want to repeat such desired behaviors, however, your praise and recognition must be …

Authentic. Don’t fall into the compliment sandwich trap – “Great job on that task, but you forgot this one critical step. I know you you’ll get it next time as you are so conscientious!” This is a confusing message to employees. Did they really do a good job if an important step was missed? Offer constructive criticism, which is itself desired by employees, separate from praise for work well done.

What other tips do you have for effective and powerful praise or recognition?

Tenet of Strategic Recognition * Opportunity for All

Do you want to make your employee recognition efforts strategic? Then you need to be sure all employees have the opportunity to participate. I’ve written frequently before on this topic, but largely in the sense of performance levels. Instead of catering in elitist programs to the top 10% of performers, also open up the opportunity for recognition to the large middle tier of employees who are a large reason for the top tier being successful.

But when thinking of “opportunity for all to participate,” we must also talk about people at all levels of the organization being allowed to participate as well. Applied Materials CEO Mike Splinter says it best: “If I think someone has really done a good job, I’ll send a personal note to say it’s appreciated. It doesn’t matter to me what layer in the company they are.”

It’s not shocking, however, to hear of those at the top recognizing those in the lower ranks. Too often, the lower ranks are discouraged (intentionally or just by cultural reaction) from recognizing those above them out of fear of being viewed as currying favor. But those in leadership need recognition, too. In his KnowHr blog (and reprinted in Fall 2009 issue of the Conference Board Review), Frank Roche spoke succinctly and brilliantly on this point:

“I don’t remember what age I was when I noticed that people no longer told me that I was doing a great job. It’s not like I stopped doing good work — it’s that people think that once you get to a certain age or certain place in life that you don’t need praise anymore. … But what I do realize is that people need praise throughout their careers. Senior managers like to hear that they’re doing well as much as they did when they were junior functionaries. It applies to everyone — the price of praise is free. Tell someone today.”

An even better reason for ensuring all employees, at all ranks and levels, are included in a strategic recognition program that is based on your company values? Research shows it’s critical to employee engagement:

“The factor that has the strongest correlation with engagement is Leadership. There is a 51% difference between engaged and disengaged employees for the statement ‘senior managers truly live the values of this organisation.’”

If you want your leaders to live the values of the organization and be sure your rank and file employees notice that these values are being lived and demonstrated, then you’d better involve everyone – at every rank – in a strategic recognition program that links every recognition to a company value.

Governance over Global Recognition

Do you know where your recognition budget is going? Most multinational companies have multiple disparate recognition programs operating in different departments, plants and countries, contributing to increased risk, costs and confusion among the workforce. The full level of investment in these programs is often not fully understood as the funds are buried in dozens of different line items not visible at the corporate level, not compliant with corporate governance standards or local taxation laws, and not man-aged consistently everywhere.

Governing recognition programs is an exercise is getting the most out of your investment. In a recent article in The Conference Board Review (read the entire article as it is truly excellent), Carol Pletcher describes the problem well:

“No one, presumably, needs convincing that showing appreciation and thanks to employees is a good thing. But few top executives have taken the time to really think about recognition and make it a priority, and it shows. Studies demonstrate a strong link between recognition and enhanced financial performance, yet companies often delegate these programs to an HR staff person to run with little executive oversight. Some 90 percent of large U.S. organizations have recognition programs, but in surveys, relatively few employees say they feel recognized. The problem isn’t lack of funding, since companies spend more than you might realize on these programs—4 to 6 percent of salary per employee.

“So most likely, your recognition program is simply ineffective in its stated purpose. Worse, it’s a wasted opportunity to gather key information and ideas, and to drive home strategic thinking in the organization. For most companies, recognition is an underutilized asset, one that you can—and should—set on the right track. Your recognition programs telegraph what you value and what you want to happen; recognition is how your employees perceive what they are supposed to do. So if you’re unsure of whether your message—or strategic plan, or shift in culture—is getting through, a well-run recognition program can tell you.”

A recent article in Human Resources Executive on “A Global Response” addresses the same problem of governance on a global scale as a fundamental challenge of “gaining a clear picture of what what’s actually going on in their far flung overseas subsidiaries.” Cisco Systems’ global benefits design manager, Jeremy Hollister, put it this way: “Understanding who’s responsible for what, and how things get done, setup up that governance structure and putting in place accountability.”

Keying off just one point in Pletcher’s article – companies are already spending 4-6% of salary per employee, but they don’t always know where it’s going or if it’s being used to its full effectiveness. Globoforce’s In*form service guides companies through the process of uncovering all recognition initiatives and investments, from corporate sponsored loyalty programs to local manager efforts usually reimbursed through expense accounts.

Do you know where your recognition budget is going? What more could you do if you could consolidate globally scattered and ungoverned programs into a single, compliant platform?

Soul-Crushing Bonus Structure * What Would You Do?

A recent question in the “Dear Lucy” column of the Financial Times nearly made me fall out of my chair in shock, but it highlights perfectly the way most cash bonus programs are structured.

The letter writer, a female vice president, tells of a very low bonus she received after a very high evaluation from her boss, which the boss justified by saying she had gotten as much as possible and more than people senior to her. The letter writer then found out “others with worse performance got far more money.” The writer was very upset by this and wrote to Dear Lucy to find out if she had any recourse.

Lucy’s response, in part:
“You think a bonus is a reward for doing a good job. In fact, it is a prize you get for playing a game that is complicated, skilful and highly political. The boss controls the money and information, and the players lobby to get the biggest slice.

“The winners are the people who get the biggest bonuses, but neither the winners nor the losers will know for certain whether they have won or lost because the boss will tell everyone they have won, even if they haven’t. The result is mass dissatisfaction and paranoia. Secrecy and disinformation abound.”

I know many people reading this post have experienced such soul-crushing bonus programs themselves. And this answer is why I advocate so strongly against cash-based bonuses. Recognition and appreciation of excellent work is not a competitive game in which a prize can be won. Recognition and appreciation should never be political. Recognition and appreciation should never be secret. Structuring bonus programs in the manner as the one described only serves to breed dissatisfaction, disengagement and an extreme lack of trust.

True, successful recognition, rather, is transparent, public or at least published (to account for those who may not enjoy being called out in front of colleagues, even for praise), and above all else, sincere. In this way, everyone knows the score – appreciation and recognition is shown to those who live the values and achieve the strategic objectives. Nothing is hidden and a culture of appreciation can begin to grow in a company – instead of a culture of in which your top performers, like this letter writer, are advised to go find another job.

Problems with Debit Cards in Recognition

I’m often asked why debit cards aren’t a good option as part of a reward mix when planning a strategic employee recognition program. The primary reason is debit cards are essentially equivalent to cash. As I’ve said before, cash doesn’t motivate. It compensates. Each element of a total rewards package must have its own “currency.” Cash is the currency of compensation, not motivation or recognition. Sincere appreciation of effort will motivate far better than cash that only becomes an expectation and entitlement.

Aside from the cash aspect, debit cards just don’t work in global recognition programs for three key reasons:

1) Don’t translate globally – complicated usage requirements, intentional breakage and little to no global availability in all local currencies

2) Exorbitant and often hidden fees – currency conversion, overseas redemption, taxes, and usage fees (as discussed in this New York Times article) make debit cards actually worse than cash

3) Lack of transparency – difficult for recipients to track balance, actual balance in local currency, and places where the card can actually be used

By pre-selecting gift cards in the local currency from local merchants, recipients are guaranteed to have a hassle free, enjoyable shopping, dining, entertainment or adventure experience of their choosing with no hidden fees, extra taxes or intentional breakage. Employers are assured of a predictable, explicit budget line item to plan for taxation gross-up and program budgeting. Debit cards simply offer too many opportunities to confuse, distort and mismanage the recognition experience.

Blinded by Science * Can Recognition Really Be Tested in the Lab?

In the last month, two reports hit the news on intrinsic vs. extrinsic rewards and why non-cash incentives are preferable to cash. While both research reports ultimately support our position of the value non-cash, intrinsic rewards, I couldn’t help but find fault with the research.

In the first case, Psyblog reported research on How Rewards Can Backfire and Reduce Motivation. Using children between ages three and four who all enjoyed drawing, the research proved that those children who did not expect a reward for drawing but received a surprise reward for their efforts actually spent more time drawing and enjoyed it more. “Those who had previously liked drawing were less motivated once they expected to be rewarded for the activity. In fact the expected reward reduced the amount of spontaneous drawing the children did by half.”

In the second case, Incentive magazine reported research due out next year that examined people’s propensity to say they prefer cash awards but then in fact actually want non-cash incentives more. The reason lies justifiability – with non-cash rewards people can choose a guilt-free luxury experience that they cannot justify when given cash. In the study, “those imagining receiving non-cash awards reported that they would be significantly more satisfied than those folks who had to imagine receiving a cash bonus. But when asked to choose explicitly, those with a choice overwhelming chose cash.”

So what’s wrong with the research? The same two aspects that are often the problem when recognition is tested in the lab:

1) Limited – In the Psyblog example, the subjects are very young children – not exactly the sophisticated individuals we work with everyday. While the research does show that intrinsic desires are better motivators, which is supported by a great deal of other research, I prefer to look to our many customers and their experiences as proof of the value of unexpected recognition of desired behaviors as more powerful motivators.

2) Limiting – In the Incentive example, a major fallacy of some portions of the research was dramatically limiting the choices presented to research participants. In a lab setting for control purposes, these limits are necessary but are certainly not realistic in the real world. Once again, our customers tell us one of the primary benefits of our program structure is the ability for their globally scattered employees to be able to choose a culturally relevant and personally meaningful reward, from thousands of options, without that burden of selection being on the administrator’s shoulders.

How do you read and filter the numerous research reports in this area? What’s your “lens” you read through?

Are You Rewarding Bad Behavior?

Paul Hebert recently wrote an excellent post on the Incentive Intelligence Blog about a very poorly designed incentive program. That got me thinking about the many poorly designed recognition initiatives I’ve seen over the years as well.

Scott Adams summarized my thinking well in this Dilbert strip from 2006.

Just to give one example of poor program structure, call centers will often set up reward structures based on call time or number of calls handled within a set amount of time. Yet such practices merely encourage representatives to get callers off the phone as quickly as possible, and not necessarily give the customer the level of service or help they truly require. So the representative is rewarded on essentially poor customer service and potentially a destroyed customer relationship.

Steve Kerr, the Chief Learning Officer at Goldman Sachs and former CLO at General Electric under Jack Welch, highlight similar poor program design in his excellent book Reward Systems: Does Yours Measure Up and in his oft-reference article “The Folly of Rewarding A while Hoping for B.”

Take a moment and think about your reward or incentive programs. Are you rewarding poor actions and outcomes and patting yourself on the back for high employee satisfaction scores? Or are you digging deeper to uncover true employee engagement and recognizing behaviors that reflect your company values while contributing your strategic objectives?

Recognizing What Millennials Value in the Workplace

Millennials (also known as Gen Y) are a frequent topic as organizations are learning how to manage them most effectively given largely different values and approach to work. But what are these differences? Consolidating what I’ve read and experienced in numerous places, there are three key take-aways for managing Millennials effectively:

1) Forget work/life balance – Millennials are not concerned about balancing their work life and their personal life as they often do not clearly differentiate between the two. Work and personal time are so blended for them that relationships at work and the ability to work anytime, anywhere are important aspects of their day. This leads directly into the next main point to understand about Millennials.

2) Show the meaning in the work – Millennials especially are seeking purpose in their work. A powerfully positive way to accomplish this is to incorporate your company values into a strategic recognition program in which employees are told clearly and specifically how a behavior or action reflected a company value and contributed to achieving a greater end such as a strategic priority. This gives Millennials a sense of purpose and accomplishment within the bigger picture while also emphasizing the importance of living the company values in your daily work.

3) Coach as well as manage – Millennials are use to constant feedback and encouragement. Such an approach has been proven to be more effective for employees of all generations, but it seems to have taken the mass influx of the Millennials for companies to begin to adopt practices that give this feedback everyone needs to know what to do more of and also perhaps what do de-emphasize or improve.

Are you a Millennial? What else would you add? What motivates you at work? What do you need your colleagues and superiors to recognize in your efforts? Do you manage Millennials? What other advice would you offer?

The Puppy Approach to Performance Reviews

It’s that time of year as HR professionals are gearing up for the annual performance review, a process I’ve written about before. I’ve read numerous perspectives on performance management in the last few weeks – for and against 360° reviews and how to do them right, what process to follow, how to get to real feedback, do you criticize or not – it’s endless.

Cutting through all that clutter in recent weeks, however, are two leaders I respect, Ann Bares of the Compensation Force and Compensation Café blog and Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz.

In a recent post on the importance of getting performance feedback right, Ann had this to say about a recent study:

“Only 11% of the organizations surveyed subscribe to the practice of providing ongoing performance feedback. 68% of them report that performance management in their organizations equates to a function that occurs only once or twice a year. … But evidence suggests that employees want -- even crave -- more feedback from their bosses, even if it is negative. … 67% say that they get too little positive feedback and 51% say that they get too little constructive criticism from their bosses.”

Carol Bartz, when asked in a New York Times interview about she gives feedback, responded:
“I have the puppy theory. When the puppy pees on the carpet, you say something right then because you don’t say six months later, ‘Remember that day, January 12th, when you peed on the carpet?’ That doesn’t make any sense. ‘This is what’s on my mind. This is quick feedback.’ And then I’m on to the next thing. If I had my way I wouldn’t do annual reviews, if I felt that everybody would be more honest about positive and negative feedback along the way. I think the annual review process is so antiquated. I almost would rather ask each employee to tell us if they’ve had a meaningful conversation with their manager this quarter. Yes or no. And if they say no, they ought to have one. I don’t even need to know what it is. But if you viewed it as meaningful, then that’s all that counts.”

Both highlight powerfully employee desire for more frequent and more timely feedback on how they are doing. Employees crave success in the workplace, but so often we fail them by not telling them when they are successful, what they did to achieve that success or how much that effort is appreciated. Equally important, we also often fail to tell them when they have not achieved success and what they could or should do differently in the future. As with Carol’s “puppy theory”, such feedback – positive and negative – is far more effective in the moment. What’s the most effective feedback you’ve ever received or given? How did it occur? In a formal review process or in the moment? What’s your preferred method of receiving this feedback?

Cultural Wisdom and Recognition

A key point when planning or structuring an employee recognition program is keeping in mind what employees want – both through their work and in their rewards for a job well done. For a bit of a fun post this Friday, I’m sharing this funny video that highlights the employee need for meaningful, interesting work.

(Email subscribers, click through for video.)

Of course, doing something that interests you automatically engages you in that work. People who find their work interesting are far more likely to want to spend discretionary effort on the tasks and ensure the work is done well – the very definition of engagement.

Similar principles apply when considering what rewards to offer employees. Seth Godin recently tackled this topic when discussing the importance of sophistication and cultural wisdom in building your company brand through interactions:
“We place a high value on sophistication, because we've been trained to seek it out as a cue for what lies ahead. We figure that if someone is too clueless to understand our norms, they probably don't understand how to make us a product or service that we'll like. This is even more interesting because different cultures have different norms, so there isn't one right answer. It's an ever changing, complex task. Cultural wisdom is important precisely because it's difficult.”

The same is true when planning reward offerings for employees across various countries and cultures. “Cultural wisdom is important precisely because it’s difficult.” Giving an employee in China a clock (signifying death) is beyond insulting to the recipient, whereas the giver was merely trying to be nice. Or sending a company logo fleece jacket to employees in Nairobi would just show lack of consideration for that employee’s situation or desires.

Rather, offering a broad range of choice for all employees to choose the item, adventure or experience that would be most meaningful to them – in their own backyard or anywhere in the world – far more powerfully conveys your desire to show true appreciation for well executed effort as well as your cultural wisdom.

The Negative Power of Recognition Done Wrong

On Monday I shared a Bnet video that gave excellent tips and insight for recognition done right. In a recent article, Bnet’s Kevin Gray highlighted HP’s failure with incentive pay, an equally excellent example of recognition done wrong.

In the early 1990s, HP added a bonus system, with was “highly experimental” for the HP culture of the time. The plan tied 10-20% of worker pay to team performance. The results?
“The experience of Hewlett’s San Diego production unit was typical. Management set a series of production goals for several teams, and based their workers’ pay on three levels of rewards. … Achieving Level 3 status meant each worker on the team would receive a bonus from $150 to $200 for that month. For the first six months, nearly every team hit the two highest levels. Good for employees, who were suddenly — if briefly — flush, but bad for the bottom line. Management found itself paying out more than it had expected, so it adjusted the target numbers upwards, essentially moving the goal posts during the game. A bad mood began to set in.

“High-performing teams refused to allow workers they saw as less experienced join them. Less movement between teams meant that less knowledge was shared or transferred among employees. Workers who bought cars and new homes had trouble paying loans when they could not achieve their numbers. The whole experiment grew increasingly messy, and workers became irritated. It became a sort of vicious cycle: Employees focused on doing what they need to do to gain rewards — and that just feeds their self-interest even more. In short, people chase the money — often, Beer says, “at the expense of doing other things that would help the organization.”

As I’ve said before, that’s a key problem of incentives -- you are pre-directing effort in a way that eliminates the need for creativity and can actually discourage innovation and the desire to give additional discretionary effort - often with unintended consequences. Incentives are all about the prize – the reward.

Recognition is all about the praise – the after-the-fact acknowledgment and appreciation of exceptional effort. Strategic recognition goes a step further to tie this appreciation to a company value or strategic objective, ensuring employees are demonstrating those values in line with your company mission and goals.

Globoforce & Quintiles Webinar: “Work Worth Doing—Global Strategic Recognition”

Join me at 11:30 (EST) on Thursday, October 22, as I host a webinar with Quintiles’ compensation experts Lisa Marie Taylor and Nosaira Gelabert as they discuss how they have used strategic recognition to encourage, recognize and reward outstanding Quintiles employees who deliver on the company’s core values. With 23,000 employees in 59 countries, Quintiles is using their "Work Worth Doing" strategic recognition to recognize individuals and teams across all geographies and locations in timely and effective way. Doing so fosters an environment of shared success and engagement.

Specifically, Lisa Marie and Nosaira will speak to:

• Securing executive level support
• Designing a program highlighting company values
• Improving new hire retention rates
• Improving overall employee engagement

Register here and join us at 4:30 GMT/11:30 EDT/8:30 PDT this Thursday, October 22, and gain the tools necessary to stress the importance of employee engagement with leadership in these challenging times!

Getting Recognition Right

Bnet’s Leila Bulling-Towne regularly offers instructive videos on a range of human resources, sales and marketing topics. A recent “House of Corrections” video on The Power of Recognition offered excellent insights into why recognition is important. Leila’s five main points were:

1) Recognize not only what the employee did that was deserving of recognition, but how it helped the company.
2) Recognition is good for the bottom line. Leila cited a Gallup statistic that companies with managers who give employees balanced, regular feedback are 10-20% more productive than companies that don’t.
3) Employees want recognition – positive words trigger a chemical reaction in brain, generating a “high”
4) Recognition reinforces what’s working and what you want more of, thereby reinforcing a continuation of effective behaviors and tasks
5) Payoff: engaged employees are 50% more likely to retain customers and 44% more likely to achieve above average profitability.

My only addition to this advice is to be sure to tie every recognition to a company value demonstrated or strategic objective contributed to. This makes your values and objectives come to life in the everyday actions of all employees while also telling them how their efforts are helping the company to achieve your objectives. Employees desperately want meaning – to know that what they do really matters. Give them that meaning wrapped in positive recognition and reinforcement of their actions.

A Global Look at 2010 Planning and Engagement

Continuing on the theme of preparing for the recovery, Mercer’s global look at Human Capital Planning 2010: Resetting the Talent and Awards Agenda covers much the same ground as Watson Wyatt/WorldatWork for alignment concerns and recommendations:
“A significantly changed employment deal. It’s been a tough year for employees. Trust in and connection to the organization have diminished. Attitudes toward success, rewards and work have shifted. Employers must find ways – within the current cost-constrained environment – to reconnect and reengage their workforces for the challenges ahead. … Employers today have a daunting task: focusing their limited resources toward reengaging key talent in ways that will drive performance and profits.”

But Mercer then goes on to look at a global compounding factor:
“In certain countries, pay equity practices, executive remuneration and unionization are among the areas undergoing significant change. Looking ahead, many economic and political observers foresee more direct government involvement in shaping the business decisions that affect a company’s workforce.”

This potential leaves many companies at risk in their recognition and rewards practices. Too many have no true concept of the myriad of recognition efforts that happen all over the company. Whether it’s a local manager trying to do the right thing by giving a hard-working employee a gift card to a local restaurant and then paying for it via the company expense form, or more formal but distributed recognition practices that vary by department, country or business yet, companies are at a tremendous governance disadvantage.

A key tenant of strategic recognition is a clear, global strategy to encourage consolidation of these many recognition initiatives into a single platform that can be tracked, measured and governed to ensure compliance with new and changing global requirements around compensation and rewards.

What level of insight do you have into your distributed recognition efforts today? How confident are you that you are in compliance with all local laws regarding recognition and rewards?

Building Alignment and Engagement into 2010 Planning

Watson Wyatt Worldwide and WorldatWork recently issued their 2009/2010 US Strategic Rewards Report: Looking toward Recovery – Realigning Rewards and Re-Engaging Employees. The report evaluates the impact of the workforce-based actions of the recession on companies’ ability to emerge in a competitive position and able to retain top-performers in the recovery. Three key findings were:

1) Organizational restructuring has been pervasive and deep
2) There has been significant negative impact on employee engagement (an alarming 25% for top-performing employees as compared to 9% across the board)
3) Employees believe the changes made by their companies are affecting work quality and delivery to customers

The extreme disconnect between management and line employees the report highlights in these last two points are particularly unsettling:
“Top-performing employees are 20% less likely to agree that they understand the link between their own goals and the company’s goals in 2008.”

“Forty-one percent of employees indicate that changes have had an adverse impact on quality and customer service, while only 17 percent of employers believe this is the case.”

Looking at those two findings together, I can only conclude that employees don’t know what they should be working on and how it contributes to company success (alignment problem again) and that quality and customer service is suffering as a result.

It is heartening to see that companies are finally beginning to understand the ineffectiveness of cash-based bonuses (anticipated to drop 24% from 2007 levels) while 23% of companies are increasing their use of recognition programs, defined by the report authors as “offering a cost-efficient opportunity to recognize the contributions of top-performing employees at a time when the average company has reduced core forms of compensation and benefits.” Why is this good news? Bonuses target a small cadre of elites and rules for achieving the bonus often seems to be a moving target. Recognition, on the other hand, is available to all as an after-the-fact show of acknowledgment and appreciation for a job well done.

How are you building alignment and engagement into your 2010 process? Share your approach in comments.

Realign, Reengage for Success in the Recovery

An interesting factoid from Challenger, Gray and Christmas that appeared on the back of a recent issue HR Executive: “54% of HR executives consider employee engagement the biggest challenge that companies face after job-cut announcements.”

Makes sense to me that HR professionals would be most concerned with layoff announcements, followed immediately by the impact those announcements will have on engagement. Now that 2010 planning has begun in earnest, leadership beyond the HR suite should have engagement top of mind as they prepare for economic recovery.

I’m a fan of John Hollon’s columns in Workforce Management. He spoke with wisdom on this topic recently:
“So what will it take for us to get out of this economic morass we’re in? Here’s a simple answer that is frighteningly obvious: Invest in your workforce and make it a point to help them to feel more hopeful and confident that things are going to get better next year. … What I’m talking about is a concerted effort by managers to boost the sagging spirits of workers and help pull them out of the funk they’re in.

“Yes, all those who have managed to avoid becoming another unemployment statistic should be happy that they’re still working. But that’s not exactly a rallying cry for improving engagement in 2010. … Businesses everywhere need to truly engage workers and help them get past the bad feelings that so many have about their organizations and their jobs.”

A focus of 2010 planning for many will be getting employees back in alignment with new strategic priorities, new organizational structures, and new personal goals – all designed to position the company for success when the economy turns. But alignment is only one piece of the puzzle. You also need your employees willingly working hard and giving discretionary effort to help achieve those strategic priorities – that’s engagement. And that’s where the bottom-line value lies. No company can afford to leave on the table the millions in profits possible through a more highly engaged workforce.

My posts this week will look more deeply at new research on these topics of 2010 planning for the recovery.

What Motivates? Survey Says: Meaning and Recognition

What motivates you at work? Bnet recently ran a poll asking just that. While some are still surprised, “cash” ranked third – behind “doing something meaningful” and “recognition.”

Not surprisingly, praise won out over cash in a similar survey done nearly a year ago, also on Bnet.

So why are people still surprised by this (as evidenced in the comments)? A common comment theme was that you can’t do something meaningful at work. You must look for meaning outside of the workplace and work is only a means to enable you to find that fulfillment elsewhere.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. In many ways GenY is leading the charge on changing this narrow attitude and more power to them. As I said in my comment to the first survey referenced, to many, “doing something meaningful” at work means knowing what your daily tasks are contributing to in the grand scheme of things – how they fit in the big picture and what value they bring to the table.

That’s the goal and primary benefit of strategic recognition, which ties every employee recognition to a company value demonstrated in achievement of a strategic objective. This process automatically shows meaning by telling employees clearly (and in the most positive way) how their valued efforts also deliver value.

Be sure to take our own weekly survey and see if readers of this blog align with those of Bnet.

Putting a Value on Engagement

Not as comprehensive or definitive as The Value and ROI in Employee Recognition research, The Economics of Engagement out of the Human Capital Institute and the Enterprise Engagement Alliance offers several interesting points on engagement, if not the practical steps for successful employee engagement so many are seeking.

Three points of interest in particular leapt out at me.

1) The observation that the Gallup Q12 survey asks about recognition received in the last seven days, indicating the importance of frequency of recognition. 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.

2) A statistic from Towers Perrin showing workers in organizations with higher business value were significantly more likely (68% versus 49% for underachieving organizations) to agree that their “immediate manager recognizes and appreciates good work. Line managers are a critical factor in creating an environment in which employees want to engage and therefore must be held accountable for recognition practices.

3) Charts that clearly illustrate the bottom-line value of improving employee engagement by eliminating the disengaged and increasing the number of fully engaged and engaged employees. The charts are available in the research.

What’s the attitude towards employee engagement in your organization?

ROI of Employee Recognition

Have you ever been asked, “Yes, I see why recognition may be helpful in boosting employee morale, but what’s the value of the program? Where’s the ROI?”

An interesting report on The Value and ROI in Employee Recognition, recently issued by The Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement, the Incentive Research Foundation, and the Human Capital Institute, offers interesting insight.

In a concise format, the report offers clear definitions for recognition, incentive, engagement, total rewards and other often misused terms. These definitions are derived from summaries of the research in this space in the last two decades from Watson Wyatt, WorldatWork, Towers Perrin, Gallup and others, offering a nice overview of the relevant research and findings in this space.

The report also positions the role of recognition in a total rewards program, how to measure the ROI of recognition and suggests the need for a VALUE on Investment (VOI) metric for recognition programs. VOI considers both the financial and the intangible benefits of recognition. Employee Lifetime Value would be one example of a VOI metric.

I was particularly pleased to see how completely the researcher’s “best principles” for implementing recognition align with our own best practices:

• Build a culture of recognition
• Provide a wide variety of recognition rewards to appeal to individual preferences
Recognize workers regularly – sporadic recognition may be worse than no recognition
• Link reward activities to business objectives and/or cultural values
Measure the cost of the recognition reward system and the benefits gained

Take a read through the research and let me know what you think.

Engagement Is…

In response to a post I wrote about engagement on the Employee Engagement Network, Jennifer Schulte, global engagement director for Mars, Inc., gave details about a communication campaign they have called “Engagement Is…” In Jennifer’s words from her comment to my post:
“This is an invitation for our associates to complete the statement with what engagement means to them, instead of pre-describing a definition for them. Of course it's about commitment, connection, line of sight, passion, emotional & rational connectivity. For us it's all about "how" we deliver results.

“The Engagement Is campaign has produced really interesting responses from around the world. Some of the best statements include:
• "when associates try to make a change every day" (Germany)
• "having the opportunity to succeed and develop in a positive, fulfilling work environment" (UK)
• "being fully involved within your team and taking responsibility for your actions" (US)
• "being part of something and doing your part to make it live and breathe with energy and a passion to achieve" (Australia)
• "give yourself generously, from the heart, to the common vision and you will engage others along the way" (Dominican Republic)
• and many more!”

All excellent definitions of engagement and an important reminder that while engagement may be hard to get a handle on (see my recent series of posts from August on the MacLeod report definition, Aberdeen’s definition and Blessing White’s definition, it’s not so confusing to employees who are engaged.

Here’s another excellent definition of engagement. I watch this video and I see talented people engaging their whole mind and body – all of their talents – in tasks they so clearly enjoy. And some are doing it in a perfectly choreographed dance with equally talented colleagues they trust. Would that it were so in every workplace.

What are your personal definitions of engagement? Forget the analysts and pundits for a moment and tell me how you feel/how you are behaving when you are engaged at work.