My New Year Resolutions

Thank you all for a terrific 2010. I hope you’ve enjoyed the dialogue of this blog as much as I have. In the spirit of hope that comes with the ringing in of a New Year, I share with you my top 5 resolutions as a manager:

1) Continue to make a top priority recognizing my colleagues for their efforts that make Globoforce a successful company and a fun place to work.

2) Always remember it’s just as important to stop, acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of others as it is to “get the work done.”

3) Notice the efforts of those not on my team or in my location and take the time to thank them for it.

4) Keep it real. Always be sincere in my appreciation.

5) Make the time to be specific. Always remember a quick thanks is valued, but a detailed description of why I appreciate someone’s efforts is even more so.

What are your workplace resolutions in the new year?

Keeping Employee Recognition Programs Current

Recognize This: If you build it, they will come. But you better update it, or they won’t stay.

Ann Bares on Compensation Force wrote a great post on a commonly ignored best practice of employee recognition and incentive program design – “a relentless commitment to continuous review and improvement.”

Ann wisely points out that too often people will invest time and energy in program design and deployment, then step back and “let the program run itself.” This is a sure path to recognition program failure.

Too often, people believe an incentive or recognition program is a "soft" initiative, throwing a program out there. They’ll “make it nice,” but they won’t worry too much about the details (like ensuring they aren’t incenting the wrong behaviors).

Truly strategic recognition programs require careful planning, consideration of details like metrics and measures of success, and well communicated launches.

But even more important are the tweaks and improvements made over time. A marathoner doesn't run at the same pace at the beginning of the race as they do in the middle or close to the finish line. The same is true with recognition programs. People change. Companies change. Objectives change. You need the ability to flex with that. A strategic recognition program will easily flex with you, helping you realign employees to changing priorities and messages.

Do you have a recognition or incentive program in your company? How long has it been since any changes were made to it? When was the last time you heard anything about it? Are you even really aware of it in your day to day work? What actions or events would attract your attention?

Say “Thank You” Unexpectedly to Motivate More Powerfully

Recognize This: Unexpected appreciation is a far more effective motivator than a predictable reward.

A friend, trying to explain to me the joys of parenting immediately after venting about the challenges, sent me this article in Slate. To be honest, the parenting stories didn’t stick with me as much as this observation:

“If you give animals a predictable reward—say, a shot of sugar every time they press a lever—you can get them to press that lever quite regularly. But if you want irrational and addictive behavior, you make the reward unpredictable. Pressing the lever produces sugar, but only once every 10 tries. Sometimes, the animal might have to go 20 or 30 tries without a reward. Sometimes it gets a big jolt of sugar three tries in a row. If you train an animal to work for an unexpected reward, you can get it to work harder and longer than if you train it to work for a predictable reward.”

And that is precisely the difference between incentives and recognition. Irregular, unpredictable, but highly desired praise for work well done, work demonstrative of company values, work that contributes to strategic objectives, work that keeps the team running smoothly – most certainly encourages and, dare I say, motivates employees to want to continue those behaviors.

It’s proven in the scientific literature, too. If you thank someone, they are 100% more likely to help you again in the future than if you don’t. It’s simple. But the meaning and power of true, sincere appreciation is limitless.

Would you (do you) work harder when you know there is a possibility of recognition for your efforts or when you know you’re working to a predetermined reward? Why?

Tell Me “Thank You” or I’ll Leave

Recognize This: People really do quit because of lack of recognition.

Yes, even in this economy, people really do look for other work (and 2/3 of employed Americans are looking right now) because of a lack of recognition.

2008 research at the start of the recession from Salary.com showed that 17% of employees list “insufficient recognition” as a top five reason to leave a job. Other, more recent, research shows 34% list “no recognition” as a reason to leave.

But is this really shocking? If you slogged away every day, giving it your best, and no one seemed to notice or care, would you want to keep going? Or would you want to find a workplace (where you spend the majority of the time you’re awake) where what you do matters. And you know it matters because people tell you so. Frequently. Repeatedly.

It’s no wonder 23% of companies are adding recognition programs, even in this slow recovery, according to Towers Watson.

Have you ever quit because of lack of recognition? Would you? Tell us the story of your breaking point. What finally pushed you over the edge?

Bonus ≠ Compensation. Stop Confusing the Two

Recognize This: Compensation and bonus are two different things, like oil and water. Stop trying to mix them together.

UK press reported last month that the banks find themselves between a rock and a hard place. On one side, the country is operating under deep austerity measures, banks are being accused of not lending to businesses enough, and London banks plan on paying out £7 billion in bonuses (or maybe they’ll reduce it to £4 billion). On the other side, if the banks agree with each other to cap bonuses (which are seen as a critical recruiting/retention tool), then they could be prosecuted for competitive collusion.

How’d the banks find themselves in this mess? Simple. Like on Wall Street in the US and elsewhere in the world, they confuse bonus with compensation. One banker is quoted in the article:

“There’s no chance that the big US investment banks will follow our example, which means that business and good people could leave London for New York or elsewhere if we’re seen to be paying less than the market rate.

Did you catch that? “Paying” less than the market rate. Bonuses are not pay. Bonuses are given for achieving stretch goals, going beyond what is expected. Bonuses are not base compensation. They should never be an expectation.

The only thing your employees should be expecting to receive is a paycheck for work rendered. Anything beyond that – bonus, incentive, recognition, reward – is never “paid.”

Does your organization confuse bonus and compensation? Would you rather receive less compensation and hope for a bonus or would you rather know your base compensation is fair and reasonably equitable for the role and anything on top of that is icing?

A Real Holiday Present: Serve the Public Good

Recognize This: Companies are sitting on record profits, but with no change in sight for their people practices.

How flush are you feeling right about now? If you celebrate Christmas, your wallet is likely feeling quite a bit lighter or you’re waiting in dread for the Christmas present bill to come due in the new year. The harsh reality of the last two years feels much the same for many of us, but not for the corporations.

CBS MoneyWatch reported companies have experienced seven consecutive quarters of profit growth and, in the third quarter of 2010, made more money than in the 60 years the Commerce Department has been tracking this data.

Are you feeling the benefit of any of that profit? I doubt. The article goes on to report companies are sitting on the cash, more concerned with “Increasing shareholder value than the public good.”

Many would argue companies are simply following the mandate of why they exist – to make money for shareholders. I disagree. I believe companies exist to do both. It’s only logical. You can’t make money without the brains and brawn behind what you’re selling. It follows that if you look out for the “public good” by doing right by your employees, by reinvesting in them, by restoring pay levels and staff cut during the recession, by showing your employees how much you appreciate them.

Give employees a real gift this holiday season. Return to reason in your people practices. Show your employees you know they can’t keep up this pace forever. Express your appreciation for their herculean efforts and reward them appropriately.

Image credit:
CNNMoney.

Hiring Cheap for the Short vs. the Long Term

Recognize This: Talented employees know what they’re worth and are ready to get it.

Did you snap up any good “deals” during the recession? You know – overqualified employees you were able to get cheap?

As the economy (slowly but surely) improves, what are you doing to retain those talented employees and keep them (and their knowledge) away from your competitors?

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that employers who hired on the cheap in the recession should start being concerned. According to a recruiter quoted in the article, 1 in 5 candidates who call him are trying to return to their previous salary levels after being in their current job for a year or less.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Talented people will always find a way to get what they’re worth. It’s up to you be sure you know the outcomes of hiring on the cheap:

• Hiring cheap for the long-term = poor hire. If you’re just looking for cheap labor and those people stay without complaint, you’ve likely gotten what you paid for.

• Hiring cheap for the short-term = quality hire at a good price, but with a catch.
Now you have to decide if you’re willing to pay the person what they’re worth, or let them go somewhere that will.

The difference is – are you cheap or are you proactive? A proactive strategy will snap up talent while it’s available then do the right thing as soon as feasible. A cheap strategy will let things fester and watch good talent walk out the door. Which are you?

Yes, Quitting Is Real, Even in This Economy

Recognize This: More people are quitting than being laid off – and it’s not a new trend.

Even after reading my posts from Monday and Tuesday this week, do you still, deep-down, think that your employees won’t quit (either out of loyalty to you or because of the lousy job market).

Give up that false hope. TLNT reported on Bureau of Labor Statistics results:

2 million people left their jobs voluntarily while only 1.8 million were laid off. That’s right, more people voluntarily left their jobs than quit and it has been trending that way for some time.”

TLNT reports this has been the trend for the last year. You can only push people so far before they leave to potentially join your competitor. Think of the double impact of that – you’re out a star employee and your competitor just got information and skills you’d rather they never had.

TLNT goes on to say:
“With the economy in doubt, employees have been hesitant to be the squeaky wheel and complain — and you can’t necessarily blame them. So when they find a competitive job and move on, the employer is surprised.”

“Surprised” seems a bit disingenuous to me. After rounds of layoffs, extra work, pay freezes, pay reductions, and a general atmosphere of fear, no one should be “surprised” when good employees decide to leave for a hopefully better environment.

The bigger question is, what are you doing about? Yes, they’re really looking for other work. Yes, they really will quit and leave you for your competitors. So what are you going to do right now to stem that tide?

Your CEO is "OUTTA HERE!" Too


Recognize This: Even senior executives need appreciation.

Picture the members of your C-Suite in your mind. How many of them do you think are in it for the long-haul? Can you imagine any of them leaving?

Apparently, they can. According to recent research from ExecuNet and Finnegan/MacKenzie:

“Executives’ collective satisfaction with their current leadership role and employer is demonstrably lower than their steady commitment to carry out the core and ever-evolving responsibilities of their job… Nearly any executive can be hired away at any time. If opportunity knocks, executives will take the risk to pursue it, even in an economic cycle like this.”

Just how many would consider leaving?

92% of CEOs and 94% of all other management respondents say a leader can be engaged in their work and with their employer but still open to considering new career opportunities with other organizations.”

Why would they consider leaving? The research delves into possibilities, but money isn’t a leading factor. I suggest another reason – even your senior executives need to be appreciated for the work they do. Even those in the ivory tower need to know that those who work for them appreciate their efforts and recognize how hard they are working.

Are you in a senior leadership position? When was the last time someone thanked you for what you do? When was the last time you felt you and your efforts were truly appreciated?

If you’re not in senior leadership, would it feel odd to you to recognize someone above you? Why? Have you ever done that? Share your story.

I'm OUTTA Here! (and there's nothing you can do about it)

Recognize This: 66% of your employees are actively seeking or open to a new job.

How wedded are you to the idea, “My employees have a job. That’s recognition enough for their work.”

If that’s your attitude, get ready to start recruiting to replace your top talent (and good luck trying to retain competitive advantage without them). TLNT reported on a recent Jobvite survey:

“Two-thirds of currently employed Americans, roughly 77.5 million people, are either actively seeking a job or open to taking a new opportunity. An additional 33 million American adults – unemployed job hunters or soon-to-be college graduates – are also looking for work, for a total of 110.5 million job seekers looking to make a move overall.”

That’s not much better than the results reported by Right Management in a December 2009 survey:

• 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

Workplace trust is in its death throes. Employee loyalty seems to have become a quaint 20th century emotion. What does all this mean to you?

Which employees do you think are the most likely to stay? I guarantee it’s not those with the most options – your top performers. Look at it another way. The majority of your employees are distracted by thoughts, plans and actions to leave. (When do you think they’re interviewing? On the weekend?)

Think about the impact of that. It’s not just the POTENTIAL loss of those employees someday, it’s also their attitude on the job right now.

Are you ready to rethink your stance on “a job is recognition enough?” Or are you one of those 77.5 million who will leave as soon as you get a chance? Why? What could your company have done differently to keep you on board, productive, happy and engaged?

"Phased" Rollouts of Global Employee Recognition Programs Fail

Recognize This: ALL employees matter, regardless of geographic location.

What’s your general opinion of the employees in your company? If you have multiple locations, do you feel the same respect and appreciation for those in another office, another county, another country? If you’re in HR, do you work to make sure all employees, regardless of location, are treated equally?

I cannot wrap up a series of posts on the second critical tactic for creating a strategic recognition program – Involve Program Participants and Invite Their Input – without discussing the makeup of such a team.

You must consider the widely divergent needs, expectations, and cultural differences that are natural in a multi-location organization. This is compounded a thousand-fold in global organizations. Including representatives from each location in the design phase is critical.

But it’s no less critical in roll-out. If you do a “phased” roll-out of a global program, many will be left feeling like second-class citizens.

It doesn’t matter if you included representatives from the Australian, Chinese and Indian office in the design phase if you plan to roll out the program first to the country of your headquarters, and then eventually to outlying offices or divisions. Truly global programs demand truly global, synchronous deployments.

Have you ever been promised a new “global solution” only to receive it months to years after the initial deployment group? What was your reaction?

Living the Values Should Not Equal Prostitution


Recognize This: Don’t prostitute your staff by paying them to work against their values.


Bnet recently ran an article on “10 Bad Ideas That Can Destroy Your Company.” No. 7: Incentivize people to boost performance struck home with me, making the point that traditional “do x, get more y” incentives often incent the wrong behavior.

“Build jobs around their core commitments, and pay them so that its fair, and you’ll get good performance. Ask them to work against their values for lots of extra cash, and you’ll make them feel like prostitutes.”

Know your own company values. Make your values a prominent part of your hiring process so employee personal values align with your corporate values. Then make the company values real for employees by recognizing them when they demonstrate those values in their daily work.

It’s not about rewarding them for “going above and beyond.” It’s all about recognizing them for living the values and promoting company success every day.

What are your key personal values? What are your company’s values? Are they in alignment? Better yet, tell me if your company has one set of stated values, but the way they work every day is in opposition to them. How do you handle that?

Employee Recognition ROI at KPMG


Recognize This: The emotional impact of recognition is huge compared to the low monetary investment.

Last month I had the pleasure of participating in a webinar, Recognition the KPMG Way: Driving Employee Engagement and Success, with Sara Turner, UK head of employee benefits and wellbeing, KPMG. Sara made quite clear the same point I’ve been making this week about the need to Involve Program Participants and Invite Their Input  when creating a strategic recognition program:

“The key is not to do this in isolation. Look how recognition links to other areas of engagement in the organization and consult with stakeholders – decision makers and users— to make sure what you’re designing will really resonate. You need to take in account how other people feel.”

The ROI of Recognition

The results experienced at KPMG have been phenomenal. They increased the number of award recipients year over year by 25% without any additional spend. But the emotional impact is even more powerful. Again, quoting Sara:

“What you get with recognition is a really emotional response. This is quite different from any other area of reward. What really sets recognition apart – and this comes through the feedback from the people – is that it’s unexpected. Though the monetary value is low, the impact is really huge.

“In monetary terms, recognition is so much less expensive [than other reward systems], but what you get is this emotional gut response from people who are overwhelmed, happy and excited when they get an award. People are so engaged because someone has appreciated the extra effort they’ve gone to and taken the time to make sure they acknowledge it and that others acknowledge it as well.”

Did you miss the webinar? Listen in here.

Have you ever been “overwhelmed, happy and excited” by being recognized in your workplace? Tell me the story. Better yet, how often have you felt that way?

Balancing Input and Progress in Employee Recognition Program Design

Recognize This: Be sure to communicate to program development participants why and how final decisions are made if you want any hope of ultimate program success.

As I discussed in yesterday’s post on Involving Program Participants and Inviting Their Input when creating a strategic recognition program, notice the delicate balance between input and progress. At some point, every initiative must move from the planning to the execution stage. And not all participants in the planning will be happy with the execution decisions – unless you clearly communicate why final decisions have been made throughout the process.

Or, as Ann Bares recently pointed out in her Compensation Force blog:

“Nothing wrong with fun, fulfillment or perks – but maybe our priority should be on creating work environments of truth, integrity and mutual respect then ensuring that employees are rewarded well for the results they work to deliver.”

Communicating why decisions are made – especially to stakeholders (at all levels) who helped in the process leading to those decisions – contributes considerably to ultimate program success. Why? Because those stakeholders will gladly carry the banner of why the program (and the decisions behind it) are good, valid and worthwhile.

Have you been in a position (officially or not) where people looked to you to validate the worth of a new program? What was your response? What was the program? Did you support it to your peers?

Blog Changes * Involve Program Participants & Invite Their Input

I’ve learned a lot in my nearly two years of blogging on strategic employee recognition, including how to offer posts that are useful, interesting, thought provoking. Now I’d like to try something new.

Starting today, I’m changing the structure of the blog a bit to focus my posts on a weekly topic or theme. The Monday post will dive in more deeply into the topic, setting up the posts for the rest of the week, which will be shorter and easier to digest in our time-strapped schedules. I’ll lead each post with the key take-away – the “Recognize This” idea that resonates the most with me.

Let me know what you think. Does the new format meet your informational needs? Would you prefer the old approach or a different approach entirely?

Recognize This: Successfully implementing any new program requires involvement and input from those who will be using it.

In the spirit of these changes to the blog and my hope that you’ll share your input on them, this week I’ll be discussing the second tactic in implementing strategic employee recognition programs: Involve Program Participants and Invite Their Input.

As we discuss in our new book, Winning with a Culture of Recognition:

“A program that improves employee alignment and commitment needs input from a cross-section of employee leaders, from high-ranking executives to hourly workers. Individuals ultimately implement culture change, so gathering input from all levels early is helpful. … As you clarify your vision for recognition, balance the need for broad input against the need for a process that moves forward. … The common theme in successful program design is that the program owners ultimately have authority to move ahead. If everyone you survey has a vote (or veto) you’ll never get out of the visioning phase.”

Think about a new program or initiative you recently implemented (or were part of). Was it created in a vacuum of “people who know what’s best” making all the decisions and then delivering it as a complete package? Or was it a truly collaborative design/development experience before moving into execution?

Tell me your story. With either option above, the outcome could be good or bad. What happened to you?

Knowing the Path to Your Destination * How to Communicate Your Strategic Plan

How’s your 2011 planning going? What changes do you see on the horizon for your organization’s strategic plan?

There’s been a great deal of fluctuation in strategic plans during the last three years as companies have reacted to economic pressures in numerous ways, from drastic cutting of employees (how do we get the work done without them?) to evaluating relevance in a rapidly changing market (do people even want to buy my product any more?)

The more critical questions, however, are:

1. Do your employees know how the strategic objectives have changed?
2. Do they know how to adjust their work to align with the new objectives?



A recent SmartBrief on Leadership poll found that, for 40% of employees, the answer to both questions is “No.”

These findings are worse than the results of an earlier Mercer study I wrote about before that found:
“Simply put, almost two-thirds of all employees are 33% as productive as they can be because they don't understand what they are now asked to do.”

The comments of Mike Figliuolo, managing director of ThoughtLeaders, in reaction to the SmartBrief poll explain the hazards of not getting everyone focused on the same plan:

“Without a defined destination, you’re simply making widgets, and you may wake up one day to find the widget is obsolete because the strategic landscape around you changed while you were hunched over the widget machine.”

So how do you solve this? Don’t forget these two critical steps:

1) Inform people of the destination. Make sure all employees know what the end goal is.

2) Inform people of the path. Knowing the destination is useless unless you know how to get there.

One of the most effective methods for repeatedly communicating both the destination and the path to all employees is through strategic employee recognition. In this kind of employee recognition program, you frequently and in a timely way acknowledge and express appreciation to employees when they contribute to achieving the strategic objective while demonstrating the company values. If you do this consistently, employees come to understand how they, personally, are contributing to the strategic plan, and desire to continue to do so.

Do you understand both the destination and the path? Are you helping those who work for you to understand as well? How?

“The Power of Post-Recession Recognition”

I’m honored to have an article I wrote included in last month’s issue of Workspan magazine: "The Power of Post-Recession Recognition." Here’s a key excerpt:

“The survey showed 45% of respondents from organizations that had a recognition program before the recession said investment in recognition had decreased since the start of the downturn. Organizations that decreased spending on their programs saw significant negative impacts from their actions, including decreased employee engagement (59%). After experiencing such impacts, 42% of organizations that cut spending during the downturn now say they plan to increase spending in 2010. …

“Looking ahead, the respondents who did not have a recognition program before the start of the recession are considering starting one within the next year, most notably focused on employee engagement, making the case that ignoring employee recognition in a downturn is a hard lesson learned. Furthermore, perhaps keeping in mind some of the questionable business practices that hurt companies at the beginning of the recession, many respondents indicated values-based recognition will be a clear priority. The idea behind values-based recognition is ensuring that employees display the right behaviors in achieving company goals. Reinforcing an organization’s beliefs will also help businesses reinforce their employer brand, which will benefit them as they work to retain employees and attract new talent.”


Click through
for a full analysis of the results of our survey and the six recommendations to properly calibrate strategic employee recognition programs for the economic realities of today.

Whale Song, White Teeth & Willing Employees * On Compensation Cafe Today

What do these three things have to do with each other? More to the point, what do they have to do with employee motivation and engagement?

I reveal the connection in my post on Compensation Cafe today.

Individual Contributors Are Ready to Walk * Can You Afford to Let Them?

It’s no surprise that employees, for the most part, continue to be disheartened in their workplaces. Why? They at least have a job, don’t they?

That’s precisely the argument lending to employee disengagement. The “survivors” of the actions taken during the recession – layoffs, cuts in pay, pay freezes – also took on much more work, likely in tasks or roles they’re not particularly good at or fond of. But they did it to help the company make it through the recession.

And what kind of thanks do they get? Very little. Talent Management magazine recently examined the current state among an oft ignored but vital group of employees – individual contributors. Here’s the story in a nutshell”

The Problem – No growth opportunities mean a desire to change jobs.
“The study found a high number of individual contributors feel their roles are stagnant. What's more, they reported they will leave their organizations as soon as they feel the time is right. … When DDI asked respondents if they would move to another company if given the opportunity, 55 percent of the sample said yes. Among stagnant workers, that number jumped to 77 percent.”

The Impact – Customers will notice.
“In most organizations, this would lead to massive, costly and disruptive turnover. Individual contributors far outnumber leaders, and these workers usually comprise the majority of any organization's population. When individual contributors begin to leave, it's likely that customers will notice.”

The Contributing Factors – Managers skipping the “soft skills.”

“Additionally, individual contributors are disappointed in their bosses and managers, furthering dissatisfaction with their own roles. Stagnant workers were twice as likely to cite their boss as the one thing they'd change about their workplaces. And when asked about the inferior skills of their managers, individual contributors overwhelmingly chose soft skills, with communication and listening next in line.”

A Solution – Empower managers to recognize their teams.
“One final option to optimize the engagement of individual contributors and to ensure they stay is to evaluate leaders. Do leaders have the skills to develop their teams and provide recognition? Are they focusing too much on problems while ignoring their people? Do leaders have the authority to act?”

Are you acknowledging the disengagement of the largest body of your workforce – your individual contributors? Are you taking even the basic steps to alleviate that disengagement – teaching and encouraging managers to recognize employee contributions and behaviors, showing the employees how much they are valued?

The Best Tool for Employee Behavior Change: Strategic Recognition

In my posts this  week, I’ve written about the critical necessity of the CEO’s personal values reflecting the company’s values and living up to both consistently. At the individual level, that’s the entire point of strategic employee recognition – bringing your company’s values to life in the day-to-day work of employees.

Let’s be perfectly clear. The point of implementing a strategic employee recognition program is not the “stuff” – the rewards employees choose. Sure the “stuff” is great as a reminder to the employee of the company’s appreciation of their efforts, extending the good feeling of the recognition moment endlessly. But that’s not the point.

The main point of a truly strategic recognition program lies in changing employee behavior – in proactively managing your company culture. As we explain in our book, Winning with a Culture of Recognition:

“Social architecture is to culture what a foundation, beams, and joists are to a building. Social architecture is the scaffolding of a company: communication, traditions, authority, privileges, and “ways of doing things.” It includes behavior cues like how people dress and how they talk to one another. It includes how excellence is recognized and rewarded because it’s a way of talking about the implementation of culture. …

“Three components of social architecture deserve special mention here. They are shared values, engaged employees, and united execution. Shared values, employee engagement, and united execution create a high-performance culture. Strategic recognition is the link connecting all three. …

“Strategic recognition adds the ultimate layer of value, which is culture management. Strategic recognition is linked to strategic goals such as engagement, employee satisfaction, or culture change. But also, because you have those tools, you get to then use strategic recognition to manage the culture. In other words, you can emphasize a single value that you feel doesn’t have the traction you need to meet your strategic objectives.”

It all comes back to your values. Are your company values just a plaque on the wall, or are they something your employees truly understand, living and demonstrating them in their daily work? If you want your values to come alive – if you want your employees to actually demonstrate those values in their everyday tasks – then you must recognize your employees, regularly and frequently, when they demonstrate those values. “Joe, great job dealing with Customer X yesterday. You were put into a tough situation with elements, like the product launch timing, out of your control. But you helped the customer understand our timelines and how we could help him in the meantime. The customer left happy and you fully demonstrated what we mean by Respect for Customer.’ Well done.”

If you can do this successfully – if you can bring your values to life – you will fundamentally change the behavior of your employees so they are in alignment with your company values, allowing you to manipulate your social architecture.

Leveraging Internal Social Networks * Thanks HR Ringleader!

Our CEO, Eric Mosley, had the privilege earlier this week of speaking at The Conference Board's 2010 Senior HR Executive Conference on "Leveraging Social Media."

We were honored that Trish McFarlane, author of the outstanding HR Ringleader blog, live-tweeted from the session and then wrote a post on "The How and Why of Leveraging Internal Social Networks."

The power of social in the workplace isn't just finding ways to use Facebook or LinkedIn to your advantage with your employees. Rather, the power lies in learning from these (and other) networks and applying the best strategies and tactics to uncover your internal social networks, tracking those relationships and, critically, feeding and building them through recognition.

A couple of quick excerpts from Trish's post, but I encourage you to click over, read the full post, and join the discussion there.

Eric Mosley, Chief Executive Officer of Globoforce presented one of the finest sessions I’ve seen all year.  I’d like to share some of the items he covered regarding the internal social networks in organizations and the impact of tracking the relationships.

Globoforce sees the benefit of tracking and identifying the internal social network and are doing so through social graphing.  It allows the leaders to see who the influencers are and which employees are breaking down the silo barriers. 

Eric talked about how the size of the organization can impact these relationships.  Imagine you have 3,000 employees or even 30,000.  It is not possible to share information easily among this number of employees in an efficient manner.

If you believe like I do that influence does not come from holding a specific title and that organizations need to do a better job of identifying their influencers, I encourage you to connect with Globoforce.  They are also doing amazing things with regard to identifying recognition via social graphing.

How are you using (or wish you could use) social to your advantage in the workplace.

CEO Sponsorship of Recognition Necessary for Success

In my last post, I discussed the critical importance of the CEO living and demonstrating the same values he or she is encouraging for the company. The Conference Board took this a step further in an article on “Leadership as Performance Art.”

“At some point, leaders of growing midsize companies realize that they are shapers of a corporate culture in which their every decision, every word and gesture are carefully scrutinized for meaning – and consistency with corporate values. Darden Restaurants’ [CEO Clarence] Otis told The New York Times that what surprised him most about his rise through a series of leadership posts was ‘how amplified everything you say or do is.’ You have to be very intentional about what you say and do, he added. Otherwise, it becomes a ‘directive,’ even when you don’t mean it to be.”

Of course employees, at all levels, look to the CEO for guidance, even if in just what kinds of behavior are acceptable. One would hope the CEO in question is more like Warren Buffet and less like Dennis Kozlowski. It’s incumbent on the CEO to set the tone of expectation throughout the organization.

That’s why one of our tenets of strategic recognition is to ensure executive sponsorship of the program. If you’re goal is to create a culture of recognition through which you can actively manage the social architecture of your organization, then the CEO must be fully on board with the effort – to the point where he or she is also actively and frequently recognizing employees for demonstrating company values in their daily work.

What example is your CEO setting in your organization? Do you see employees across the company emulating the CEO, for better or for worse?

CEO Values Critical to Employee Loyalty and Motivation

Let me ask you a question. How well do your senior leaders model the behaviors they request of their teams?

SmartBrief on Leadership recently asked just that question in a poll on their site (results at right). Sadly, less than 10% answered, “all the time.” The greatest percentage, 40%, said, “most of the time, but have their moments when they don’t.” And the next greatest answer at 32% said, “sometimes, when it’s easy to walk the talk.”

It’s that slippage – those “moments when they don’t,” those “when it’s easy” efforts – that’s killing employee loyalty and motivation according to research reported in Knowledge@W.P.Carey (the School of Business at Arizona State University):

“Mid-level managers are likely to rally around their company only if their CEO truly values the interests of the organization and is not motivated primarily by self-interest, according to the study by W. P. Carey School of Business Management Professor Anne S. Tsui, Ping Ping Fu of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Jun Liu of Renmin University of China, and Lan Li of Chinese Entrepreneur Survey System. …

“In companies in which chief executives with transformational leadership behaviors valued above all the interests of the company and people -- both inside and outside -- middle managers demonstrated strong commitment to the companies and said they were unlikely to look for jobs elsewhere. But where transformational CEOs placed the highest values on personal fulfillment, the middle managers below them were less committed to the firm and more likely to seek positions outside the company.”

I’ve written before about the need to help employees align their personal values with the company values, and this never more true or necessary than in the CEO spot. A CEO who leads the company from a place of transparency, directed by his or her own personal values to the extent that those values permeate the organization to guide and direct its success as well, is the CEO whose team will remain the most loyal, most motivated and most productive in delivering what the CEO expects and needs for company success.

I’m lucky enough to have spent the last 10 years of my career working for such a CEO, Eric Mosley, who is also the co-author of our recent book, Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Eric built Globoforce on the same principles and best practices we share with our clients – frequently, timely, specific and meaningful recognition and appreciation of people when they demonstrate our company values and contribute to our success.

What about you? Does your CEO lead from a place of honest, consistent alignment of personal values with the values of your organization? How does that affect your loyalty to the organization?

Free Webinar: Recognition the KPMG Way: Driving Employee Engagement and Success

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Do you need to unify your culture? If you want to hear tips and strategies for doing just that from a peer, join me and Sara Turner, the head of employee benefits and wellbeing for KPMG UK, Tuesday next week, November 30, 8:00am PT/11:00am ET/4:00pm GMT.

During this live, interactive webinar, Sara will be sharing how she led the implementation of a strategic recognition program that helped KPMG reduce costs while providing employees with a proven tool to recognize the positive work around the company.

Key topics we'll be sure to cover include:
• How KPMG increased recognition without increasing their recognition budget
• Why KPMG selected strategic recognition to help foster stronger employee engagement and performance
• How KPMG generated internal excitement and increased employee participation

Register for the webinar today! Feel free to send me your questions early, if you like.

A Culture of Recognition and Loyalty

In my last post I wrote about the different kind of cultures that can arise in an organization.

So, what kind of culture works best? That depends on your goal. If all you care about is cranking out widgets and aren’t particularly concerned about the high-turnover of employees who perhaps are not passionate about widgets, need some challenge in their work, or can’t abide another day of “meaningless” work, then worrying about your corporate culture is probably not high on your priority list.

But if you’re concerned about employee loyalty – keeping those employees who are committed to the success of your organization and that of your customers – then your best cultural option is recognition. In fact, recent research by Monster (as reported in WorldatWork) found that “being recognized for good work” consistently ranked high as a reason why employees would remain loyal to an employer.

"Globally, having a great boss and co-workers, challenging/interesting work and gaining recognition all recorded results at 20% or above, demonstrating that, for many workers, there is more to their loyalty than financial rewards.

"Respondents in India (31%), Italy (27%) and Ireland (24%) rated gaining recognition as the foremost reason for them being loyal to their employers."

Clearly, employees need and want recognition for their efforts. It’s easy and cheap to give and can save you millions in turnover expense.

I would also like to take this opportunity, in honor of tomorrow’s American Thanksgiving holiday, to give thanks and express gratitude to my colleagues and team members who make my work more fun, more interesting, and certainly more exciting every day of the year. And to you, the readers of this blog, thank you for your insights that have continued to educate me and contributed to my growth as an employee, a manager, and most importantly, a person.

What’s Your Company Culture?

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to any of my readers that I care quite deeply about company cultures. Indeed, I just co-wrote a book about it with culture right in the title – Winning with a Culture of Recognition.

I’m always interested when other write about company cultures, especially writers I respect. One such person is Chris Ferdinandi of the Renegade HR blog. He recently wrote on Pockets of Culture, saying:

“I’ve noticed that every organization has at least two (often three) levels of culture:
1) Organizational Culture. This is what most people think of when you talk about workplace culture. What’s it like to work at Acme Corporation?
2) Locational Culture. If your organization has more than one location, each one will often have it’s own culture. It fits into the bigger organizational culture (usually), but has it’s own unique quirks and idiosyncrasies.
3) Team Culture. Within each building or location, culture varies even further still by the team you’re on. The HR culture is different from the marketing culture, which is different from sales, and so on. It still falls under the cultural umbrellas of the organization and location, but the team culture is unique.”

Chris and I engaged in a comments discussion in which I explained my position that the trick is doing everything possible to keep all three cultures in alignment with the overall desired company culture. Sure, there’s good reason for sales (more risk taking) to develop a different culture from finance (more risk averse), but still remain in the bounds of the greater culture of, say, high integrity/ethics.

We believe the best way to encourage the necessary latitude but apply the equally necessary constraints is through your company’s values — but by bringing them to life in the everyday work of employees through strategic recognition. You do this by recognizing employees — regardless of team or location — when they demonstrate the behaviors that reflect the values the organization has deemed important company success.

What’s your take on the various cultures that can arise in an organization? Does your local or team culture align with your organizational culture? If it doesn’t, is that a good or a bad thing?

The Four “Anys” of Recognition

There are a lot of good people writing very well on the topic of how, when and why you should express your appreciation to colleagues, peers and subordinates. I occasionally like to feature them here, like these two writers whose recent work I admire.

Reba Spencer in the Toronto Globe and Mail offered sound advice and practical steps to “Rally the Troops in an Age of Austerity”:
“Without at least periodic positive feedback, employees may easily become unhappy, unmotivated and unproductive, because it's difficult to know the value of your contribution without feedback. And what goes for managers is also true of co-workers. While praise is often thought of as a “top down” activity, it shouldn’t be: Everyone should feel free to praise their colleagues – and their managers, too.”

And Scott Eblin offered excellent instruction in his Next Level Blog in “Why and How Leaders Need to Say Thank You”:
“Make it fresh: While revenge may be a dish best served cold, a thank you isn’t. When someone helps you out, thank them in the moment or as soon as you can.

“Make it personal: Acknowledge the time and effort your colleague spent to help you out. Just like you, they’ve got 24 hours in a day and no more. They made a choice to put off something that was important to them to give you assistance. Let them know that you appreciate that.

“Make it clear: The research shows that a thank you means more when the person being thanked understands the value of what they did. Make it clear in your thanks how what they did helped you.”

Reading their insights prompted this simple “Any” approach to recognition and appreciation:

1) Anyone Gives – Anyone, at any level, has the ability to notice, appreciate and formally recognize anyone else – both up and down the chain of command.

2) Anyone Receives – Anyone, at any level, with any performance history has the ability to receive recognition if they’ve done something worthy of it.

3) Anytime – There is no “schedule” for recognition, such as the annual Employee Appreciation Day. People deserve to be appreciated for their efforts in the moment – or as close to it as feasibly possible.

4) For Anything Deserving Recognition – Any behavior, action or result that you’ve pre-established as worthy of recognition (especially tied to your company values and strategic objectives) should be recognized and honored.

Did I miss “any”thing?

Can We Stop with the Carrots Already?

One blogger I enjoy in the incentives, recognition and rewards space is Paul Hebert, the author of the Incentive Intelligence blog. A couple weeks ago, Paul looked back at old posts of his to see how well he predicted the future. I most enjoyed his post in which he came out “steadfastly against” the use of carrots as a symbol for motivation. As he said in the original post:

"I purposely don't link to these books or the site because I don't want to continue to promote carrots as a motivational metaphor. I don't know about you, but the titles listed above reduce a complex set of principles and activities down to a much too simple instinctual metaphor - and insult the audience.

“I'm sure that some of the sidelong glances the motivation industry gets from its own clients are driven by the continued use of this metaphor. The concept of carrot and stick creates and aura of duplicity and manipulation - when in reality we're talking about alignment of values and goals. I don't believe incentive and recognition programs manipulate as much as "guide." I'm sure someone will make the point that those words may have distinction but no difference. Let them - I respect my audience and in my mind there are big differences."

I couldn’t agree more. Many months ago, I also wrote on this topic, expanding on Harry Levinson's Jackass Fallacy: Think about the carrot and stick metaphor for motivation. When you picture that in your mind, what’s between the carrot and stick? A jackass. I don’t think about my team members as jackasses. Do you?

Paul suggests a couple of different metaphors: progress bar or a heart – tying into the need to belong and the need to see progress as real drivers of engagement and motivation.

What metaphor would you suggest? I find it hard to summarize in a simple visual. How to do you boil down an act of one person seeing, acknowledging, appreciating, recognizing and actively valuing the efforts and behaviors of another? Any ideas?

“Paying Bonuses” * When Will We Ever Learn?

It’s nearly that time of year so many in compensation and benefits have come to dread – end of year bonuses and the resulting litany of: “How come she got the same bonus I did? Clearly I worked harder.” Or “This isn’t as much bonus as last year and I did so much more.”

Bonuses, when used appropriately, can play an important role in a Total Rewards package. The challenge with them tends to arise when bonuses become an entitlement. For example, one article (requires membership) I read this week outlined how to structure a “money pool” approach to ensure your top performers get more of bonus budget. Another article argued the benefits of “paying bonuses” to those who would be hard-to-replace and not just top performers.

What’s wrong with these scenarios? Let me count the ways:

1) You’re adding so much complexity to what should be – and can be - so simple. If you create a strategic recognition program, that allows anyone to recognize anyone else at any time for actions or behaviors you’ve pre-established as deserving of recognition, then naturally your top performers are going to receive a larger share of the “recognition” pie.

2) You’re separating the moment/action/performance deserving of recognition from the recognition itself. People need to be recognized soon after the action or behavior deserving of recognition or they will lose any connection to the moment. Think of this as the puppy approach. Annual or quarterly bonuses can then reinforce trends in performance or achievement of long-term goals as they are intended to do as incentives.

3) You’re possibly “rewarding” people who don’t deserve a reward. Especially with the idea that people should receive a bonus just because they might be “hard to replace.” If they’d be hard to replace because they’re a consistently high performer who does great work, then they will receive frequent recognition in a strategic program. If they’d just be “hard to replace” because of their degree or credentials, then giving them a bonus only encourages them to rest on their laurels.

4) You’re cutting people off from recognition for good work who may deserve it even though they’re not in the top 10 percent. Focusing so intently on top performers negates the excellent work another 70% of your workforce does that is also deserving of recognition, if not as frequently as the top performers. Adding recognition to the total rewards mix ensures a much higher percentage of employees can enjoy the appreciation they deserve.

The solution is to keep bonuses to a reasonable mix within the Total Rewards package and balanced with true after-the-fact strategic recognition. What’s the right balance? The answer depends on the company and culture, but consider reducing bonus levels by 30-40% within the ill-performing programs and reinvest that in a strategic recognition program. Our clients have proven strategic recognition tends to out-perform cash bonuses in improvements to employee attitudes and engagement by a factor of 10!

Are You Recognizing or Valuing Your Employees?


Do you have an employee recognition program in place? If you do, what’s the purpose of that program?

The obvious answer: “Recognizing employees.” Now for the trick question – is recognizing your employees enough?

That sounds odd, indeed, coming from a person committed to helping companies implement truly strategic employee recognition programs. But this difference in “recognizing” and “valuing” is one of the things that sets strategic recognition apart from the much more common tactical programs.

Based on recent research conducted by Kenexa, they explain the difference this way:
“One of the more common inquiries on employee engagement surveys is some variation of, ‘I receive recognition when I do good work.’ The norm score across industries and countries for this question is about 55 percent favorable. Meaning, on average, about half of all employees feel they are appropriately recognized. At the best companies—the top 10 percent—the score is about 66 percent favorable. …

“Compare this to the inquiry, ‘I feel valued as an employee of this company,’ which is much less frequently asked (indicating that many organizations don't even see the value in asking about employees feeling valued). The average score here is 41 percent favorable, with 32 percent marking an unfavorable response. In other words, on average, less than half of the employees in a typical organization feel valued as an employee and one-third actively believe they aren't valued. …

“Recognizing an individual means successfully completing a project. Valuing someone is letting him or her know that you are glad he or she is on the team and that things wouldn't be as good without them.”

Adding the element of “valuing” to every recognition you give to an employee – indeed, requiring that “value statement” in every recognition – is what can make your program strategic. Getting this right at the very beginning of program planning and design is critical. That’s why we make it part of our first tactic: “Establish Program Goals and Objectives.” As we wrote in Winning with a Culture of Recognition:
“Your goals must be specific to your organization’s ambitions, market position, and challenges. Take time to define these goals clearly, for without them, recognition will not be taken seriously as a strategic initiative. … We often say they don’t teach recognition in management school, so most managers are ill-equipped to make use of it and must be trained. … Naming your program ambitions in detail also informs program design.”

The average employee doesn’t know how to properly recognize their colleagues, much less value them. Correcting this as a program goal will set you on the path to strategic recognition.

The Golden/Platinum Rule of Business


Given unlimited resources (and unlimited understanding from the powers that be), what would you want to change in your organization?

Knowing what’s broken, what’s not delivering desired results, what’s simply not registering high enough in employee surveys is the first step in fixing a problem. It’s also a key question in the first tactic of creating a strategic recognition program – “Establish Program Goals and Objectives.” As we discuss in our new book, Winning with a Culture of Recognition:
“Often the goals of a recognition program begin with the question, ‘What do you want to change?’”

If you fail to establish clear goals for a program before you begin designing it, then you’ll always lack direction for what you’re trying to accomplish and you’ll never be able to measure success. To figure out those goals, it’s often helpful to look at what you’d want to change, whether it be problems or deficiencies in an existing incentive, recognition or employee rewards initiative or in the overall culture of the company.

A post I wrote on “Employee Trust in Its Death Throes” sparked a good deal of conversation in the HR blogosphere. Charlie Green of the excellent “Trust Matters” blog took my post and dove into the issue much more deeply. I encourage readers to click through and read the comment stream to Charlie’s post. In my comment, I focus on something I’d like to see change in organizations:
“[Create] the new golden rule of business: Look out for each other’s best interests.”

Think about it. If we’re all looking out for each other’s best interests, then that means I’d have tens to dozens of people looking out for mine. And if we’re consistently doing that, it’s natural that we begin to care more about those we work with.

Skip Weisman, blogging on an entirely separate topic, introduced the Platinum rule:
“Do unto others as they would like to be done unto.”

This is much more difficult than the traditional golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” because the golden rule presumes everyone wants the same things you do. The platinum rule requires you to step outside that comfort zone and actually come to know and care about what the other person wants, likes and needs.

But you can’t achieve the platinum rule unless you first adopt the new golden rule of business. Regardless, both are critical to goal setting in strategic employee recognition programs – look out for the interests of others, notice them, appreciate their efforts, and recognize them in the way they want to be recognized.

What about you? Did we get these new rules correct? Did I miss a “silver rule?”