December 6, 2011
Sure, it’s nice to provide employees with web-based tools to send each other kudos, and even better when managers also participate actively. A focus on the positive can be a welcome change as we strive to emerge from troubled times and retain our best talent.
Unfortunately, you’ll always be faced with skeptics who view employee recognition as yet another fluffy HR initiative unless you can clearly demonstrate that its effect is much deeper. All this recognition stuff is admirable but it doesn’t matter one bit if it doesn’t move the needle for your company.
Your employee recognition program becomes a strategic initiative and wins over the C-Suite when it:
1) consistently reinforces the behaviors required to achieve corporate objectives;
2) provides employees with a solid understanding of how company aspirations translate into their daily work;
3) reveals insights into the living forces that bolster your culture, and identifies gaps;
4) promotes innovation, speed, flexibility, spontaneity and cultural vitality;
5) exposes and rewards role models; employees who may not always be the most visible but are often highly engaged;
6) results in increased employee satisfaction, which increases customer satisfaction, retention and revenue.
Can you look your CEO in the eye and tell her your recognition program is a strategic imperative if all you have to show for it are 140-character platitudes like Great job! You rock! Couldn’t have done it without you!? Can you really pretend these are tied to your core values?
Here are additional tips on creating a highly successful and long-lasting employee recognition program.
September 1, 2011
I don’t get it. After months of research, RFP reviews, demos, presentations and heated arguments, the Leadership Team finally approved the budget for the launch of a major employee recognition program.
And yet, in too many cases, not a single executive participates in the program, let alone the CEO, unless it’s to present a plaque or trophy at some formal recognition event.
Why is that? Is day-to-day, informal employee recognition too trivial, too bourgeois for the rarefied air of the C-Suite? Is recognition not worthy of management attention unless it’s attached to a grandiose award?
Did the Executive Team approve the initiative because they actually believe there is a strong correlation between culture, employee recognition and an employee’s emotional and intellectual commitment to the job? Or was it just because they say that “Employees are the Company’s Number 1 Asset” but don’t truly believe it?
The simple truth is that if it doesn’t matter to the boss, it doesn’t matter, and the recognition program will never have the impact on employee motivation that it could and should have. It will not ring true.
Conversely, what is important to the CEO will inevitably become important to the entire management team and the program could well become a movement that really moves the needle for your company. As the old adage says, where the head goes, the body follows.
Today, private social recognition software makes it instantaneous to publicly acknowledge employees who live the corporate values and reinforce what the company stands for day-to-day. If your leadership team doesn’t believe that taking the occasional few minutes out of their week to recognize those who inspire others is time well spent, they are sending a very clear message that employee recognition is just not a priority.
Worse, if Management doesn’t even know who your everyday heroes are, let alone what they do, your recognition program should be the least of your worries.
They approved the initiative and budget. Now the Leadership team needs to put their money where their mouth is. It starts with the CEO’s enthusiasm for recognizing your culture-builders, which will ensure the interest and active involvement of all levels of management.
Only then can you deem your employee recognition program successful.
Do you have any insights into the reasons why executive participation in informal recognition is so often near non-existent? Would love to hear from you.
July 21, 2011
In a recent post, Chris Guillebeau – author of The Art of Non-Conformity and one of my favourite bloggers, talks about how people closest to you can sometimes leave you feeling dejected with their less-than-enthusiastic reaction to an idea or project that means the world to you.
But lo and behold, just as you’re questioning yourself and whether you should just give up, you’re totally surprised by people you barely paid attention to before who come out of left field to praise your idea. They explain how your innovation or hard work is making life so much better for them and tell you how much they appreciate your dedication and selflessness.
Wow! Not only do you feel appreciated, refreshed and energized, you now feel a responsibility towards your new fans to keep going, work harder and be worthy of their praise. You immediately re-engage, and bask on cloud nine for a while.
This scenario also happens at work where – for whatever reason – an employee may not always get the support that she needs from her manager or teammates. Fortunately for her and for the organization, fans will emerge from other teams or departments with messages of appreciation that raise her spirits and bolster her level of engagement.
That’s the beauty of an employee recognition program that is fully social and open to everyone in the organization. When some people won’t step up, others will step in to save the day.
June 29, 2011
I have a bone to pick with whoever started the trend that focuses on quick recognition. It seems entirely counter intuitive to say and promote that quick recognition from peers or managers is the way to go.
Sure, everyone is busy these days, I understand. But, when you have an opportunity to communicate your appreciation for a colleague or employee’s success, is less really more? Will that deserving individual really feel great about what they’ve accomplished when they read your note featuring 144 characters or less?
Please don’t get me wrong, all forms of recognition are good. What I’m saying is that employee recognition becomes incredibly valuable when you create meaningful stories. Stories that let your employees shine. Stories that truly communicate what it means to be a dedicated, hard-working, goal-achieving member of your team.
The recognition message certainly does not need to resemble an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story; simple additions and a bit of extra thought will do wonders.
The next time you prepare to recognize a member of your team, try this: take an additional 5 minutes to consider how their accomplishment has helped your team and your clients, how they’ve demonstrated your company’s values, and how they have contributed to the company’s ultimate goals. Think about the steps they’ve taken and the obstacles they’ve overcome to get there. Sure, it will take a few more minutes, but the outcome will be worth it.
Write a story, share it, and see how great it feels for the recipient, yourself and your entire team. Be proud of all successes, big or small; they truly are worth celebrating.
Employee Recognition Programs can be an essential part of your companies engagement strategy, but are they business critical? Far from being just ‘feel-good’, these programs are becoming more robust and offer a number of aspects that have increased their importance far beyond recognition.
An effective program should be used to highlight many business critical functions in an organization, including:
Emphasizing core values: Core values are an essential focus for successful businesses. The companies who emphasize them and consistently recognize their employees who put them into practice, find dramatic cultural shifts taking place. The list is long and impressive, but here are a few that really stand out. Apple: ‘We don’t settle for anything less than excellence ‘. Zappos: ‘Deliver WOW Through Service’. Virgin: ‘Quality service by empowering our employees‘. Living these core values has separated these companies from their competitors and these values should be the force behind any well-thought out recognition program.
Creating a positive culture: It’s an undisputed fact that positive reinforcement fosters more positive activity. What you focus on becomes reality! Recognition programs should make it easy for employees to feel connected, involved, recognized and rewarded, all key factors in a healthy organization. There are everyday heroes in your workplace, and highlighting them in an open and transparent forum, not only feels good for the recipient, but is also inspiring to those around.
Highlight employee strengths and successes: What do your employees stand for? What are some of the strengths that separate them from each other? A good employee recognition program should highlight these strengths from both the perspective of managers and colleagues. Awards, success stories and strengths should be highlighted for all to see and provide a good overall view of who each of your employees are.
Employee Recognition Programs are not just an extra ‘feel-good’ extension of your company, they should be a driving force behind your culture, and identity. Companies that are buying into this philosophy are making waves, and are defining themselves as leaders in every industry. So what’s your opinion, is your company ready to take the next step?
March 7, 2011
Many companies (including vendors) don’t distinguish between rewarding and recognizing. The difference though is vital to the success or failure of your Employee Recognition Program. So what is the difference and how much does it matter? Let’s compare.
Recognizing is all about the story. It’s defining values and celebrating (ideally, in front of your entire company) individuals or teams that put them into practice. You see, it’s all about context. It’s letting your employees know what you believe in, and sharing the real-life stories of the heroes that have gone beyond the call of duty and lived by those values. When everyone sees that these stories are celebrated, they are more likely to understand and become part of your corporate culture.
On the other hand, receiving a gift, having a pizza party, or getting a plaque are all ways of being rewarded. There is no doubt that people love to be rewarded as well, but the emphasis shouldn’t be on the reward. You don’t want a culture where rewards are what spur your teams on to do more; you want them to do it because it’s ingrained in your culture. It’s your foundation. Your employees know that it’s what sets you apart from your competition. It’s those values that your business lives by, and that keep your customers coming back.
Are you using recognition to create a culture of value in your organization, or are you just dangling carrots in front of your employees? The difference does matter… a lot!
February 26, 2011
Yes, you read right. Most Years of Service celebrations have very little meaning, for the employee and for the organization. They are referred to as Recognition Programs but in reality, they don’t recognize much other than the fact that the employee has stuck around for another five years. They are impersonal and hollow. Everyone gets the same speech and same treatment.
Harsh? Maybe, but see if you recognize this typical event:
The long-time employees get a nice certificate, a plaque and/or trophy, maybe a nice gift (or points to choose their own), hopefully during a special ceremony in front of their peers. At least the CEO rehearsed to make sure he gets each name right. Big bucks are spent on the event. Great photo op for the upcoming newsletter. Thanks for staying at this job for so long!
It’s better than a certificate in the mail (!) but it still leaves the celebrated employee feeling a little disappointed – even disillusioned about how much her employer really cares about her hard work during all these years. Did anyone even notice?
Contrast that with a celebration where the CEO, before she hands out the certificate, regales the audience with real stories of some of the employee’s accomplishments over the years, and talks of the impact she’s made on customers, colleagues and shareholder value.
The good news is that an increasing number of organizations are expanding their recognition programs to include everyday appreciation, which in turn can turbo-charge their Years of Service celebrations. Here’s how:
A well-planned, well-executed recognition program will involve everyone and encourage frequent activity, with employees providing detailed information about the reason for the recognition, hopefully relating back to the company’s core values. A solid online management system will track and save all of these positive stories and make them easily retrievable at any time.
Now, the smart organization has many, many success stories to draw from when celebrating an employee’s special milestone.
How much more rewarding to the employee and to the organization when the CEO publicly affirms how much the organization has benefited from the employee’s engagement, and how she embodies their core values?
Personal. Meaningful. Inspiring.
Is this how your employees would describe your company’s Milestone celebrations?