Proactive Management of Company Culture Is the Cure for What Ails the Workplace

Recognize This! – “Facestabbing” in the workplace is a symptom, not the disease.

What’s your opinion of managing “Facestabbing” incidents in the workplace? When it comes to your attention that an employee has posted a negative comment of some kind about your company, superiors or colleagues, how does your company respond? How do you think it should respond?

Is there a formal policy? What is it? If not, do you think there should be a formal policy or procedure for addressing such comments progressively up to and including termination? Do you believe in a more informal approach?

Or do you see it more like my friend Bob Selden, author of the Management-Issues issues blog, who sees such Facebook commenting as “the old ‘water cooler gossiping’ or ‘heard it at the pub’ that have been part and parcel of work life forever?”

I tend to fall in the camp of how medical professionals might address Facestabbing – treat the disease, not the symptoms.

For some companies, treating the disease may be a bit like treating cancer at first, requiring excising of cancerous growths in the form of backstabbing, unproductive, and incompatible people that simply don't fit with a culture of appreciation focused on teamwork, success and a commitment to living out the company values in the daily work. As Josh Bersin pointed out:

“Companies which understand their core culture can far outperform their peers by building a set of staffing and management programs to reinforce this culture. And what this research clearly shows is that employee engagement (or employee satisfaction) is directly related to leadership and culture: the company must understand the culture it wants to create, hire for that culture, and manage around that culture.”

Once you have that culture built, the symptoms simply melt away.

Don’t forget on Monday next week I’ll be writing on my new blog – Recognize This! Content will be what you’ve come to expect here on the Globoforce blog, but with an expanded focus across the entire Talent Management spectrum. Current subscribers will move with me. If you want to subscribe to the corporate Globoforce Blog for new multi-author content on Globoforce news, events, customers and products, please subscribe here.

This Month on Compensation Café * Merit Increases Are Dead & 2 More

Today on Compensation Café I wrote about the possible death of merit increases as a feasible means of managing (and hopefully improving) employee performance. This year’s average merit increase is 3% -- barely a cost of living increase and not enough of a differentiation between employees who at the top of performance will receive a 4% salary increase as compared to those who meet expectations receiving 2.5% increases.

Where’s the differentiation in that? As inflation rises will those merit increases even be noticed? And even those increases for top performers are reliant on a largely failed annual performance review process. How many of you have dealt with the manager who says:

So what’s an alternative? I propose year-round rewards commiserate with year-round recognition of employee efforts. Those who perform at a higher level are naturally more frequently recognized and rewarded for those efforts.

Also this month in the café I wrote about Communicating Compensation, Total Rewards & Meaning in which I ask how well we communicate total rewards and the value of benefits packages to employees. More importantly, do we fully understand what it is about their total rewards package that most matters to employees?

In my third post of the month, I also spoke to the importance of communicating “dinner” vs. “dessert” to employees – ensuring the base compensation is fair and accurate before laying on recognition and rewards.

Pop over to Compensation Café and join the conversation or share your thoughts on this concept here. I’m really interested in what you think communicating total rewards and undifferentiated differentiation reward practices.

Also, don’t forget I’m moving to my own Recognize This! blog on Monday, May 2. Subscribers will move with me. If you want to subscribe to the corporate Globoforce Blog for new multi-author content on Globoforce news, events, customers and products, please subscribe here.

What’s a Leader Supposed to Do?

Recognize This! – A leader’s sole responsibility is to focus employee energy on achieving target objectives.

Leaders in an organization – especially people with the responsibility for managing others – are often overwhelmed with the many responsibilities, objectives and tasks on their own plates, much less those on their employees’. That’s why I enjoyed Chris Edmonds’ piece that focused expectations of leaders to one clear thing:


Isn’t that the essence of what we expect our leaders/managers to do? Set their employees on the path to delivering strategic objectives and doing so in a positive, helpful way that reflects the company’s core values?

That’s precisely what strategic employee recognition is designed to help leaders accomplish:

1) Clearly communicate expectations through frequent, in-the-moment praise and recognition of employee efforts that help meet company goals

2) But not offer that praise unless such employee efforts are in line with company values and a culture of positive appreciation and recognition.

As we learned in Monday’s post of highlights from an HBR podcast:

"If managers just increased their praise and recognition of one employee once a day for 21 business days in a row, six months later, those teams as opposed to control group, had a 31% higher level of productivity." 

Do you agree? Is this list of 1 sufficient for what we need leaders to do? What would you add?

I’m launching my own blog – Recognize This! – on Monday, May 2. Content will be what you’ve come to expect here on the Globoforce blog, but with an expanded focus across the entire Talent Management spectrum. Current subscribers will move with me. If you want to subscribe to the corporate Globoforce Blog for new multi-author content on Globoforce news, events, customers and products, please subscribe here.

3 Steps to Help Employees Find the Meaning in Their Work

Recognize This! – It really is as simple as Listen, Tell, Praise.

Psychometrics Canada came out last month with a study on employee engagement. One of the findings buried in the report was more interesting to me, though:
“Those working in government (80.3%) and business (74.4%) sectors are more likely to identify engagement as a problem than are people in education (64.2%) and not-for-profit (54.2%) organizations.”

Why is this? I tend to think it’s because those who choose to work in education and non-profit organizations are naturally much more connected with the “meaningfulness” of their work. I’ve written before about employees ranking “doing something meaningful” as more important to them even than recognition and cash rewards.

The challenge becomes, then, how do you help those in government and business “find the meaning.” Psychometrics own research lends some insight:
“When asked what leaders could do more of to improve engagement, respondents endorse these actions:
• Listen to employees’ opinions (71%)
• Communicate clear expectations (68%)
• Give recognition and praise (58%)”

That’s a pretty straightforward path for managers:
1) Listen – really listen – to me.
2) Clearly tell me what it is you need me to do and why.
3) Let me know when I’ve delivered what you needed. Recognize me!

How well do your managers follow those three steps with you? Do you believe you’re listened to? Do you know what is expected of you? Are you told – in an appreciative way – when you meet those expectations?

Also, don’t forget I’m moving to my own Recognize This! blog on Monday, May 2. Subscribers will move with me. If you want to subscribe to the corporate Globoforce Blog for new multi-author content on Globoforce news, events, customers and products, please subscribe here.

Increase Productivity by 31% Just by Saying “Thank You”

Recognize This! – “If managers just increased their praise and recognition of one employee once a day for 21 business days in a row, six months later, those teams as opposed to control group had a 31% higher level of productivity.”

Please, if you do nothing else with anything you read in my blog, take 15 minutes to listen to this podcast on HBR by Shawn Achor, CEO of Aspirant and author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.

If you can’t listen in, the post below is quoted highlights from the podcast:

This is research about how you affect the bottom line. And that requires changing the formula for success. People used to think if you worked harder right now, you’ll be more successful. If you’re more successful, you’ll be happier. This is wrong for two reasons:

1) If we follow that formula, we never get to happiness, because every time we get to success, we move the goal posts of what success looks like. If happiness is always on the opposite side of success, we push happiness over the cognitive horizon.

2) More importantly, your brain works in the opposite order. When your brain is positive, it outperforms your brain when it is negative, neutral or stressed.

When we’re at work, our brain is usually negative neutral or stressed, which hamstrings our brains ability to deal with all we could if our brain were positive.

You can change your brain and rewire it much more quickly than we thought was possible. If managers just increased their praise and recognition of one employee once a day for 21 business days in a row, six months later, those teams as opposed to control group, had a 31% higher level of productivity.

Think about what a 31% change in productivity would look like and what a small change in recognition practices would require.

One thing we suggest is when you open your inbox every day, write a 2 minute email praising and recognizing someone. You just activated 21 people in your environment making it easier to have a feedback loop with your people in your circle. Your brain also begins to recognize that you also have a lot more social support in your network. The greatest predictor of your success and happiness during a time of stress is your social support network. If you create social cohesion at work and home, you start finding more meaning at work, connect to more people, and your job satisfaction and life satisfaction skyrocket.

“When companies decide to invest in their employees to make sure they have a positive and engaged workforce, they’re reaping back a long term return on their investment that’s much higher than what they put in initially.”

I challenge you – take the 21 day experiment. Take 2 minutes every day for 21 days to recognize and praise one person. See how that changes your own positive perception of the workplace as well as those around you.

A Task Force for Employee Engagement?

Recognize This! – Is another “initiative” the way to go to help employees overcome lingering recession fears and re-engage in the workplace?

The press in the UK has been buzzing these last couple of weeks with news of the reinvigoration of the Employee Engagement Task Force initially launched after the publication of the Engaging for Success report, more commonly known as the MacLeod Employee Engagement Report, issued in 2009.

The goal of the task force seems to be to offer practical opportunities, guidance and methods for increasing employee engagement, including a forum for the sharing of best practices.

Timing couldn’t be better as another survey of 4,400 UK companies found 45% of employees are keeping their heads down to avoid layoff in an environment in which 1 in 4 companies are ignoring the need to engage top performers. Why does this matter? Shouldn’t companies be happy employees are “buckling down?” Not in this case. Risk averse employees are also producing less and innovating less out of a desire to “just get the job done and don’t rock the boat.”

Overcoming this fear holdover from the recession is a key goal of employee engagement initiatives to be addressed by the task force, though Les Allen made an excellent observation about this in his Business Performance blog:

“The Government will need to be mindful that raising levels of employee motivation and engagement is not simply a matter of pushing out another multi-million dollar initiative or two. Employee enthusiasm must be built into the fabric of an organization. Employee engagement can’t be just another “bolt on” or flavor of the month.”
Helping employees build that enthusiasm requires giving them a reason to be enthusiastic. How do you that? By recognizing employees frequently and on-the-spot for achievements and demonstrations of your company values that contributed to those achievements. Doing so links them more closely with their colleagues and your firm, encouraging them to repeat those success-driving behaviors.

Do you think this task force is the way to go? If you were a part of it, what would you recommend or contribute?

The Failure of the Annual Performance Review

Recognize This! – Annual feedback (if that) does little to motivate, inspire or keep employees on track.

Our semi-annual survey of U.S employees, the Globoforce® Workforce Mood Tracker™, found an overall dissatisfaction and disconnect among U.S. employees regarding both the frequency and effectiveness of performance reviews. (Read the news.)

• 53% received a performance review annually
• An alarming 22 percent reported never having a review at all.
• 24% dread the annual review more than anything else

A measly 7% receive monthly reviews of their work. When you look at all of that, it’s clear that companies have substantial motivational issues on their hands at performance review time. And who can blame the employees or the managers who have to review them? As our CEO, Eric Mosley, said in a press release last week on this topic:

“Providing employees with feedback and recognition only once a year is not only unfair, it minimizes the importance of each and every one of those people to the organization. An ongoing, 365-day review process that accurately measures employees’ year-round performance not only displays achievements, it uncovers the true leaders and influencers across the organization. This type of approach, driven by a strategic recognition program, provides employees with the feedback, appreciation, and direction they need to approach their peak performance level.”

What can you do instead?

Provide true meaning and value: Map all types of reviews (recognition and feedback) to specific company goals or values so you can provide employees with better understanding about the value they deliver to an organization.

Give feedback regularly and in the moment:
Reviewing and recognizing employees on-the-spot gives employees the information they need to align their performance to desired goals and values on a daily – not yearly – basis

Be honest with yourself and your employees:
Supplement old annual review processes with new recognition strategies to give employees a year-round feedback programs and managers greater workforce knowledge for employee performance optimization throughout the year.

Here's a news clip about the findings:

What else would you do to make the performance review process more timely, realistic and appropriate to employee and employer needs?

Free Webinar TOMORROW, April 21: Impacting Engagement in 2011

Recognize This! – It’s our responsibility – every one of us – to create a work environment in which our peers, colleagues, superiors and subordinates want to engage.

I’m co-hosting a complimentary webinar tomorrow with BlessingWhite Employee Engagement Practice Leader, Mary Ann Masarech, on the key drivers for increasing employee engagement and creating high performance cultures in 2011.

Join us tomorrow, Thursday, April 21, from 1:00-2:00 (Eastern) as we discuss findings from our own separate studies showing only 1/3 of employees are engaged in their work and another 1/3 are looking for a new job this year.

In our 60-minute webinar, Mary Ann and I will be laying out a practical approach to employee engagement that evaluates the role of leaders in creating an engaging work environment through a culture of recognition tied to corporate values. Focusing on these key drivers of engagement can help prevent this mass exodus while also increasing productivity and overall business performance.

You can register for the webinar now and send in any questions you would like us to address via comments to this post.

What other elements of engagement would you like us to address?

Generations vs. Life Stage * What’s More Important in the Workplace?

Career Advisory Board
Recognize This! – Forcing an “understanding” of a group of people based on an arbitrary designation will lead to incorrect assumptions and disengagement.

When you think of your workforce as a whole, how do you categorize them in your mind? By generation or by life stage?

A good deal of press and research seem to be devoted to “generations in the workplace” – GenY/Millennials expect ABC whereas Boomers prefer XYZ. I tend to fall in the other camp, though. As I wrote about a few months ago on Compensation Café:

Whether 26 or 46 years old, people with children tend to have more in common than singles of 26, and singles of 46. Comments I’ve received from readers are nearly universal in tone to this one:

I want recognition, not some fussy bonus thing once every year or two but simple, frequent ‘Thanks, that was great and it really mattered!’ I want to see some understanding that I have a life outside work that is more important to me than some new fancy title. I want to work where I'm not expected to check my personality at the door and be a cog. I want to get out of this silly face-time model and, as I did in a previous job, use social media for virtual presence so I can work from anywhere. I want to be treated like the trustworthy, professional, hard-working grownup that I am. I'm a 56 year old gen Y and agree with you that generations aren't so different. We're all changing together while leadership models aren't keeping up.

Relying too strongly on “generational expectations” simply leads to a disconnect in expectations as illustrated in the chart at right (from Career Advisory Board, full infographic available here).

“Millennials” want meaningful work, high pay, and a sense of accomplishment for what they do. Is that very much different from what you want? It’s not for me.

Tell me – do you identify more with those of the same “generation” as you or those in the same “life-stage?” What are the most important factors to you at work?

Launching “Recognize This!” Blog in 2 Weeks!

Recognize This! – Always make room for your people to grow their individual talents while making room for others to join in the fun!

I’m excited the time has come for me to expand this blog and launch it separately from the Globoforce corporate website. I’m taking this approach now for two key reasons:

1) Expand range of discussion to include the talent management spectrum
In the last three years of blogging, I’ve tended to focus on strategic employee recognition and rewards and how those programs influence employee engagement and performance management. But the power of recognition extends beyond those topics across the entire talent management spectrum from recruiting and on-boarding through to succession planning and exiting. I’m excited to dive more deeply into those areas in my new blog, Recognize This!, starting Monday, May 2.

2) Broaden the scope of the Globoforce blog to many more voices of insight and expertise
I’ve had the honor and the privilege of being the “voice of Globoforce” in the blogging community for the last three years. But we have many more experts in employee recognition and strategy who deserve a platform. On May 2nd this blog, the Globoforce Blog, will become a multi-author corporate blog discussing the latest Globoforce news, events, products, strategies and other insights into strategic employee recognition.

What This Means for You/Logistics

For my current blog subscribers, I’ll be moving the email and RSS subscription lists directly over to my new Recognize This! blog since the content and format will be largely the same. You will not need to do anything to continue to receive these posts and updates.

For my Twitter followers, I’ll be launching my own Twitter handle - @DerekIrvine. You can follow me there as well as @Globoforce.

For future Globoforce Blog subscribers, you will need to subscribe to the new multi-author GloboBlog, even if you are already an email or RSS subscriber here. It would be unethical for me to duplicate the subscription information onto a new blog that subscribers did not originally sign up for. You can go ahead and subscribe now if you like, though active posting is not scheduled to begin until May 2.

Let me know if you have any questions about the new blog structures. I’m very excited about the new approach!

Recognition & Reward Program Best Practices

Recognize This! – Reinforcing behaviors in a timely way will always be at the top of my recognition best practices list.

Ascent Group recently came out with their annual Reward & Recognition Program Profiles & Best Practices. The report is well worth the investment. Highlighting just a few of the key findings:

Reinforce behaviors and reward results. Recognize the right behaviors and communicate such that the employee’s behavior becomes a model within the work group.”

When you define the behaviors that reflect your values, your employees begin to see the values come alive in their daily work.

Be timely, specific, and communicate! Make sure you recognize behavior and reward results in a timely manner so employees know exactly why they are being recognized.”

Recognition given at the annual banquet or performance review does nothing to reinforce in the moment precisely what it is you need them to repeat. Make sure messages of recognition are specific and reference the value demonstrated.

“Match the reward to the person and the achievement.”

Every person is different. A BBQ isn’t motivating for a person who lives in a high-rise apartment building. A gift-card to a steakhouse isn’t rewarding for a vegetarian. Let your employees choose what’s personally memorable and culturally relevant for them – from 2,500 brands and 25 million options around the world.

“Involve employees in the design and refinement of your reward and recognition programs.”

One of our 10 tactics discussed in Winning with a Culture of Recognition, involving employees – from every division, region and level – turns employees into program evangelists, ensuring rapid program adoption.

Don’t just offer rewards and recognition for front line employees – extend the program to cover all employees in the department so the entire group is working towards the same goals.”

One of our 5 tenets of strategic recognition also discussed in our book, giving the opportunity to all to participate not only reinforces the needed behaviors and values across your entire workforce, but makes it possible to measure the understanding and demonstration of those values by employee, division, region and company as a whole.

“Look to technology to facilitate program administration and tracking.”

Doing any of this strategically – especially on a global scale – is far beyond the capabilities of an Excel spreadsheet. Take advantage of our Global Strategic Recognition solution to eliminate the administrative overhead, hassle and risk associated with old-school tactical approaches to recognition and reward.

“Measure the effectiveness and impact of your reward and recognition programs.”

Without a strong technology solution, it’s impossible to measure results. Our real-time In*telligence reports let you customize dashboards and reporting elements to deliver the status updates and success metrics your executives demand.

I encourage you to download the full report. Tell me, what other best practices would you highlight for recognition and reward programs?

Five Steps to Change Your Company Culture

Recognize This! – Behaviors drive values drive culture. You cannot change the culture unless you address the underlying behaviors.

As the employee engagement discussion has grown, so has the discussion about the importance of company culture. After all, what is it you’re hoping employees engage with? As the importance of culture has surged, so has the resurgence of Edgar H. Shein (recently profiled in a Q&A in Strategy+Business).

For example, Schein explains the why well-intentioned efforts at culture change fail:
“They think that to change culture, you simply introduce a new culture and tell people to follow it. That will never work. Instead, you have to conduct a business analysis around whatever is triggering your perceived need to change the culture. You solve that business problem by introducing new behaviors. Once you’ve solved your business problems this way, people will say to themselves, “Hey, this new way of doing things, which originally we were coerced to do, seems to be working better, so it must be right.”

Using that as a starting point, here are five steps to changing your culture.

1) Do the business analysis to identify the culture you need to succeed
– Is that culture innovative (Apple) or iterative? Low-cost (Wal*mart) or high-end (Lord & Taylor’s)? This is a critical definition as it will guide all future decisions.

2) List the values you believe are inherent in such a culture
– If you want an innovative culture, you would likely include values such as “questioning."

3) Define the behaviors underlying each of those values – Under the value of “questioning,” you might include behaviors like “looks for a better way to do things,” “offers critical feedback in a desire to improve,” and “accepts feedback willingly.”

4) Communicate those behaviors to employees so they are understood in their daily work – Unless you communicate the behaviors underlying the values to the employees, they won’t understand what it is you need them to do.

5) Positively reinforce demonstration of those behaviors with frequent recognition – Such reinforcement, given to anyone at any level who demonstrates the needed behaviors in line with the values, ensures employees will repeat them, creating a continuous circle.

Or, as Schein explains it:

"One electric utility company I studied, Alpha Power — I can’t reveal its real name — was under pressure from regulators to improve its environmental record. Management told employees, 'Every oil spill on every sidewalk must be reported immediately and cleaned up.' A lot of electrical workers said, 'That's not me. I’m not a janitor. I splice big, heavy cables.' Alpha responded that this was an order, not an option, and that workers would be trained in cleaning up spills safely.

"Some electrical workers quit, but most were retrained. After about five years, the workers were asked, 'How do you feel about Alpha’s environmental policies?' They answered, 'It's the right thing to do. We should be cleaning up the environment.' That wasn’t what they’d said five years earlier. But once they embraced the behavior, the values caught up."

Change the behaviors, change the values, change the culture. Do you agree?

Company Values Are Vital to Culture * Whether You Follow Them or Not

Recognize This! – Employees will follow your lead on what you truly value based on what you recognize and reward.

Frequent readers of my blog know how I feel about company values and their influence on the culture of the organization. Ann Rhoades, president of PeopleInk and a founding executive of JetBlue (whose values are a topic of praise and a mini case study in our book Winning with a Culture of Recognition) wrote an entire book on the topic: Built on Values: Creating an Enviable Culture that Outperforms the Competition. She gave some highlights in a recent Smartblog post, saying:

“Just by looking at the behavior of leaders, you can tell what the values of a company really are. And all too often, those lived values bear almost no resemblance to the stated values — those lofty statements painted on the walls or sanctified in a mission statement. … Your values will be perceived as hollow and meaningless unless you base compensation and rewards on expressions of the behaviors that go along with the values.”

I couldn’t agree more. Regardless of the STATED values, it’s the TOLERATED values around which the culture is formed. Making the stated values and the tolerated values one and the same is possible through strategic employee recognition – structuring your recognition and rewards program such that:

1) Every recognition given is linked tightly (and with a detailed message about how and why) to a company value demonstrated. -- "Ann, great job on the MacGuffin project. The way you rallied everyone from multiple parts of the organization to pull together a comprehensive, detailed response embodies what we mean by 'Teamwork.' I'm sure your efforts will be the linchpin to our winning this business."

2) Such recognition is given frequently -- It doesn't do Ann any good to be reminded of her achievement a year later in her performance review or at the annual banquet if she barely remembers the MacGuffin project. If your goal is to encourage frequent repetition of such actions -- make it memorable in the moment!

3) Such recognition is given to 80-90% of employees, not just the top 10% of elite -- Far more than your top 10% are working hard every day to deliver the results you need. You must encourage all of them to repeat the actions and behaviors you've defined as necessary for success. In fact, research shows focusing on the top 20% is “a corrosive approach that discourages cooperation and initiative.” (Workspan magazine, December 2010, membership required)

In my organization, the values with more power and influence are the:

Tell me about your company culture. Do the company values as stated mean anything?

Can Saying “Thank You” Change Your Life?

Recognize This! – The power of “thank you” can dramatically change your workplace, too.

John Kralik certainly thinks so. After watching everything in his life, personally and professionally go from bad to worse (and complaining about it all the way), John tried the opposite approach – looking for something to be grateful and writing a thank you note every day of the year. After 365 notes, John took stock, finding:

"When you appreciate something, it comes again. If I was thankful for clients paying their bills, they seemed to pay faster. If I was thankful for cases, they seemed to come more."

There is power in positivity in the workplace, too. Scientists have run the studies for us, proving that receiving a simple thank you increased the likelihood of a person’s willingness to help again in the future by 100%. A different study by McKinsey reported 67% say praise or recognition from a direct manager is an effective or extremely effective workplace motivator.

How do you implement this idea of saying “thank you” in the workplace? It’s easier than you think if you just give people the mechanism (employee recognition) to do so, the guidance on why, and the example (from the highest levels on down) of others doing the same.

Jonathon Hogg of PA Consulting discussed this in a Financial Times article earlier this year:

“Companies can also explore ways of developing systems to recognise the efforts of individual employees. These are mechanisms that show people how their work contributes to the organisation’s achievements, and to encourage them to appreciate the efforts of colleagues. Nine months after security software provider Symantec [watch Symantec tell their own story] launched its global programme, called Applause, employee engagement scores rose by 16 per cent.”

Do you believe in the power of positivity – that saying “thank you” can change your life? Tell me a story of a time when hearing or saying “thanks” really impacted you.

Signs Employees Are Ready to Walk and What You Can Do to Retain Them

Recognize This! – Employees are regaining control of their value in the workplace.

Where does employee retention fall in your priorities for 2011 list? Too many are still complacent, believing the poor job market will keep workers in place. But hiring is steadily ticking up and unemployment steadily falling.

How at risk are you? According to MetLife’s Ninth Annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends:
• 1 in 3 employees are a flight risk
Employee loyalty at a three year low, dropping 11 percentage points (after a steady decline)
• Employee satisfaction is also dropping at a rate of 8 percentage points over the last three years

Since employers also admit being less focused on employee satisfaction and work-life balance at the same time they’re report dramatic productivity gains is it any wonder employees are less loyal to the companies trying to wring blood from a stone?

reported a much worse scenario of 74% of workers would consider leaving if offered another job. What will you do when those top performers do choose to leave for a better environment? Towers Watson tells us 52% of US employers say it’s difficult to attract “critical skill” employees and 25% say it’s hard to retain top performers.

Signs employees are ready to walk:

1) You no longer value employees. Have you stopped recognizing and appreciating your employees for the good work they do? Our Employee Mood Tracker found 78% say being recognized for their efforts motivated them in their job. Simply saying “thanks!” has a powerful effect. Towers Watson research found “reward policy and practice is the number one driver of intent to stay.”

2) You haven’t communicated change. Yes, change is inevitable. And usually employees will be on board with it — if you tell them what you need them to do, not just the esoteric “change.”

3) You’re ignoring employee well being and engagement, even as the economic environment improves. What does this mean? When I feel valued – when I believe my contributions are helpful to my team members, my customers, my company – I perform at my peak. But only 10% of employees feel like they’re vital company assets. Employee engagement is another key indicator of intent to stay. If people are engaged with their work and the culture of your company (their working environment), they will not easily leave.

Where does your company lie in this picture? Ready to make good on the “employment promise” to do right by employees or still living in the recession mindset of “employees are just grateful to have a job?”

Top 5 Critical HR Priorities: #5 Performance, Planning, HR Effectiveness

Recognize This! – HR priorities are many. Solving one can be the solution to many others.

Concluding my week-long series on the Top 5 Critical HR Priorities for 2011 from the Corporate Leadership Council HR global agenda poll, is a tie!

Priority 5 for HR in 2011: A Tie! -- Improving Employee Performance, Workforce Planning, Improving Strategic Effectiveness of HR

Improving Employee Performance
has a lot to do with management of the company culture itself. Two research studies on this topic seem to contradict each other. The first argues changing culture is hard because it’s “sacred.” If you break culture down into climate, and then into habits, change becomes easier because are more willing to change habits. Based on brain science, the second study argues habits are, in fact, hard to change because doing so is actually painful, requiring a conscious override of “deeply comfortable neuronal circuitry. But (and this is a critical point I think the first researcher would also agree with):

“Therefore, to engender change among people in an organization, it’s important to keep attention focused on the desired end state, not on avoiding problems. This goal-directed positive reinforcement must take place over and over. The most effective way to achieve this is to set up practices and processes that make it easy for people to do the right thing until it becomes not only second nature, but an ethic taken to heart (and to the brain) by the entire company.”

Managing goals has just as much to do with improving employee performance. An HBR blog pointed out:

“For goals to be meaningful and effective in motivating employees, they must be tied to larger organizational ambitions. … No matter what level the employee is at, he should be able to articulate exactly how his efforts feed into the broader company strategy.

Articulating goals and strategy and appropriately recognizing those who achieve the goals is all well and good for improving employee performance, but that requires retaining key employees, which is likely why Workforce Planning is of equal concern to HR pros. The Corporate Leadership Council says 27% of high potential employees plus another 20% of non-high potentials are actively planning to leave their jobs in the next six months. An Accenture survey found 30% were ready to switch employers. More concerning is results from an American Psychological Association survey showing just over half of employees feel valued on the job. This doesn’t necessarily mean they want higher pay. Only 43% said they receive adequate recognition for their contributions at work.

Solving this last challenge would help dramatically in Improving the Strategic Effectiveness of the HR. As discussed in my Monday post, CEOs don’t see the performance and ROI benefit of employee engagement and employee recognition. The two are closely linked. My CEO, Eric Mosley, explained this well in an article in last month’s Chief Executive magazine:
“If recognition is implemented in a strategic way, it gives senior management a new window into the health of the organization. Acting as a barometer for engagement and employee performance, companies can monitor how often recognition occurs as well as in which divisions, geographies and teams. ... The link between prolonged neglect of consistent recognition and deteriorating company health is not always realized -- the focus is on productivity rather than on what LEADS to productivity (i.e., happy, fulfilled employees who are fully engaged in their work).”

Can you prove the value of what you do to bottom-line?

What is your top priority for 2011:

Prior posts on 2011 Top HR Priorities
Priority 1: Improving Senior Leader Capabilities at Managing the Workforce
Priority 2: Improving Manager Capabilities at Managing Their Direct Reports
Priority 3: Engaging Employees
Priority 4: Managing Organizational Change 

Top 5 Critical HR Priorities: #4 Managing Organizational Change

Recognize This! – Values + Strategy + Recognition = Effective Communication of Change Needs

My fourth post in a series about the Top 5 Critical HR Priorities for 2011 from the Corporate Leadership Council HR global agenda poll, continues to bring together the learnings from Priority 1, Priority 2 and Priority 3.

Priority 4 for HR in 2011: Managing Organizational Change

It’s not surprising this is a hot topic in today’s economic environment. I’ve written before about the impact of the recession (and the resulting changes in company strategy and objectives) on employee understanding of those changed objectives and what that means in their daily work. Recent research from Booz & Co. reported “56% of executives say ensuring day-to-day decisions are in line with strategy is a significant challenge.”

Getting this right is now more crucial than ever. Numerous indicators point to an improving economy and job market. Employees have more options for employment. Customer budgets are opening up. What are you doing to effectively and appropriately redirect employee energy to those projects and strategic targets you need them to hit? How are you ensuring this message is carried accurately to all global locations so no employees feel like outcasts?

Employees are more than willing to work on these priorities – if they know what they are. Commenting on results from research conducted with Gagen MacDonald, an APCO Worldwide senior executive commented:

"The large gap between employee and employer connection we've seen in the last two years is alarming. It's clear from the survey results that to close this gap, CEOs and their executive teams need to have clearly defined company values aligned with their business strategy and support … and regularly communicate those values personally."

There’s no better way to do this than through strategic employee recognition in which employees are frequently recognized every time they perform in such a way that demonstrates a company value while contributing to achieving a strategic objective. This deeply ingrains in employees – in the most positive way – what it is the company needs from them to succeed.

But also never forget the power of the trend setters in your organization. Who do you think sets fashion trends? Designers? Celebrities? Wrong. It’s Pantone – the color company.

You’d likely be surprised at who the true trend setters are in your organization – the behind-the-scenes leaders others look to for how to behave, respond and perform. You can easily uncover these trend setters by strategic application of social recognition – drawing on the wisdom of crowds within your organization to find those most recognized and most appreciated. Those are the people who will carry your torch of change most effectively throughout the organization.

Are you experiencing organizational change? Has your company, team or product line shifted direction? Do you know what you should be doing now in support of change? How is that communicated?

Prior posts on 2011 Top HR Priorities
Priority 1: Improving Senior Leader Capabilities at Managing the Workforce
Priority 2: Improving Manager Capabilities at Managing Their Direct Reports
Priority 3: Engaging Employees

Top 5 Critical HR Priorities: #3 Engaging Employees

Recognize This! – Don’t trust “fixed grin” employee engagement scores as an accurate representation of how employees really feel.

In this third in a series of posts about the Top 5 Critical HR Priorities for 2011 from the Corporate Leadership Council HR global agenda poll, Priority 1 and Priority 2 drive Priority 3.

Priority 3 for HR in 2011: Engaging Employees

I can’t seem to read my email in any given day without seeing another employee engagement research report, each riddled with stats. Here’s just a sampling from the last couple of months:

* 45% said improving employee engagement is a top challenge, and 70% expect that challenge to intensify. (UNUM)
* Employees’ levels of engagement are much lower than they were pre-recession, with levels of commitment to the organisation dropping by 17 percentage points since 2006. (Mercer)
* More than half of CEOs are not engaged in engagement, 22% do not understand it, 19% don’t see the business benefits, and 15% are aware of the concept but not ROI from it. (HR Magazine)
* 69% of Canadian companies consider low employee engagement a major issue in their organization. (Poll)

    Or what about these stats telling the reverse story:
    * 2010 stats show an increase in overall engagement of 8% from 2008 levels and 12% from 2009 (DecisionWise)
    * Employee engagement levels remained steady in 2008 and 2009 (Gallup)
    * Some HR leaders faced an unexpected challenge when employee engagement scores came in for 2010: Engagement data wasn’t low enough! (TLNT)

      What’s going on here? With the latter set of stats, it’s clear employees are putting on a “fixed grin” and surveys certainly don’t tell the entire engagement story.

      What can be done about it? The Canadian research points out that the employees aren’t necessarily lacking in motivation, but managers (direct and senior leaders) aren’t creating conditions that engage employees. In that poll, 58% said managers at all levels need to give more praise and employee recognition. CIPD agrees with research citing feedback, praise and recognition as one of the most mentioned management competencies for supporting employee engagement.

      Why should you care? One survey of hospital staff found that facilities with higher employee engagement also had much higher handwashing compliance. So what? Think about it in a hospital environment. More handwashing means less transference of germs between patients, which means potentially fewer incidences of hospital-acquired patient illness and even death. That’s a good reason to focus on increasing engagement to me!

      Prior posts on 2011 Top HR Priorities

      Priority 1: Improving Senior Leader Capabilities at Managing the Workforce
      Priority 2: Improving Manager Capabilities at Managing Their Direct Reports

      Critical HR Priorities: #2 Improving Manager Capabilities

      Recognize This! – Line managers must improve ability to respect, trust and care for their employees, too.

      Continuing our look at the Top 5 Critical HR Priorities for 2011 from the Corporate Leadership Council HR global agenda poll, the requirements for achieving priority 2 are quite similar to priority 1.

      Priority 2 for HR in 2011: Improving Manager Capabilities at Managing Their Direct Reports

      Just as senior leaders must demonstrate respect, trust and caring for the workforce they manage, so too must line managers show the same for their direct reports. But now it becomes much more personal.


      Line managers must be careful to remember that respect is a two-way street. If they want the respect of their direct reports, then managers must show respect for their direct reports as well. Dan McCarthy points out, “Respect is not something you only give away when it may serve your needs." The same is true of employee recognition. You don’t show your appreciation for your employee efforts only when those efforts directly work to your advantage. You should also be liberal with your thanks when your direct reports may have performed well in helping another manager, team or department.

      Trust is often more easily gained by direct managers than senior leaders who are more removed from employees. But as with respect, trust is a two-way street. As Bret Simmons says, “You have to earn it by the way you behave toward them. Your people need to believe that you are competent and that you care.”


      One way to demonstrate to employees you care about them is by taking the time to talk with them, to clearly communicate what you need them to do, praise them when they’re doing it well, and offer constructive feedback when they need improvement. Harvard Business School research showed employees overwhelmingly prefer a manager who is likeable to a person is very skilled but terrible at communicating.

      Oft-reported Google research into their own employees (in an effort to “build a better boss) found:
      “What employees valued most were even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.”
      What does that tell me? Employees want bosses to be present, patient and honestly interested in the people they manage. How do you or your managers stack up? Take my quick poll:

      My direct manager demonstrates respect, trust and caring:

      My direct reports would say I demonstrate respect, trust and caring:

      Prior posts on 2011 Top HR Priorities
      Priority 1: Improving Senior Leader Capabilities at Managing the Workforce

      Top 5 Critical HR Priorities: #1 Improving Senior Leader Capabilities

      Recognize This! – Senior leaders need to improve respect for employees, trustworthiness, and caring to better manage the workforce.

      The Corporate Executive Board recently shared with us the Top 5 Critical HR Priorities for 2011 from their Corporate Leadership Council HR global agenda poll. Each day this week, I’ll address one priority.

      Priority 1 for HR in 2011: Improving Senior Leader Capabilities at Managing the Workforce

      Senior leaders constantly juggle innumerable priorities, each often requiring a different capability. Which should HR focus on to help senior leaders improve? I suggest senior leaders can’t hope to manage effectively unless they have the respect and trust of their teams. Their employees must also know the senior leader cares about them as people, not just “human capital.”

      Paul Marciano, author of Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work, recently offered seven “critical” ways managers show respect for employees. His way was employee recognition: “Thanking employees and acknowledging their contributions on a daily basis.”

      I don't know if Paul listed these in order of importance, but there is no denying that acknowledgment of ourselves, our work, and the value of our contributions goes a long way to telling us we are respected in the workplace. Paul’s last item was trust: “Demonstrating faith and belief in their employees’ skills, abilities, and decisions,” which leads in the next capability senior leaders need to manage the workforce.


      BlessingWhite’s CEO points out that without trust in leadership, employees question where they fit in the company. Towers Watson’s 2010 Global Workforce Study found “the most desired leadership characteristic is to be trustworthy, but only 47% of respondents agree that their leaders are, in fact, trustworthy.”

      Why is this? Les Allan suggests on his Business Performance blog: “It can be more difficult to ascribe honorable motives to a ‘faceless’ leader.” To become more present to employees and “add a face,” senior leaders must show they care.

      In his book The Thank You Economy, “King of Social Media” Gary Vaynerchuck, said:
      “I care more about my employees than I do my customers, and I care more about my customers than I do breathing.”

      Do you care more about your employees than you do breathing? Do your employees trust you? Do you have respect for them? If not, I can guarantee they do not respect you, trust you, or care about you and your success.

      Stop Turning Rewards into an April Fools Prank

      Recognize This: Poorly structured recognition programs can be more damaging than no program at all.

      Dan McCarthy, author of the Great Leadership blog and a person I respect, recently blogged Without Integrity and Trust, Rewards and Recognition are Meaningless."

      Dan points out that poor program design allows for participants to “game the system” and “do whatever it takes to gain the advantage and win at all costs.”

      And the money quote from Dan: “Rewards and recognition are supposed to motivate, inspire, and not create cynicism and mistrust.”

      That’s why we so strongly advocate strategic recognition programs in which the focus is on appreciation, not competition. Incentive programs, in which people compete against each other for a prize, can have their place, but far more prevalent in the culture should be an employee recognition program in which all employee are encouraged to notice and appreciate the good work of their colleagues.

      The key to structuring recognition and rewards to avoid “gaming the system” lies in creating a common "language" of recognition that is understood by all employees, regardless of where in the world they may work, job duties, or level within the organization. That's why we recommend the company values (and demonstration of them in daily work) as reasons for recognition and reward -- then publicizing that (as appropriate) through internal social recognition mechanisms.

      This helps all employees understand what it takes to be recognized -- especially if a detailed message is included describing precisely why the employee deserved recognition -- and prevents such gaming.

      Have you participated in a recognition, rewards or incentive program in your workplace? What was your overall sense of the program? One that could be “gamed” to the advantage of the highly competitive? Or one that allowed all employees to demonstrate their excellent capabilities and achievement, for which they would be recognized?

      Also, don’t forget to tweet your tips for employee appreciation and recognition using hash-tag #appreciationtip to be entered to win a copy of the Winning with a Culture of Recognition eBook or Amazon Kindle pre-loaded with the eBook.