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.