Event Spotlight


3 Steps to Create a Global Company Culture

Image of multple people coloring in a globeRecognize This! – A company’s culture defines how the work gets done. It should be the same in every location, every country, everywhere in the world.

Building a strong, global culture seems an obvious step in ensuring company success. But it can be easy to become lazy about your culture, assuming it will continue along well without intervention or oversight. This is simply not true. As I’ve said before, culture is like a bonsai tree. It can take years to shape and grow into what you want, but mere seconds to destroy.

Today, I’m sharing wisdom from three executives who know of what they speak on the topic of company culture. Together, they lay out the three steps needed to create and maintain the culture you need to achieve your success objectives.

1) Define the culture you need for success by aligning cultural attributes with strategic vision.

Cultures necessarily vary by organization. Clearly defining that culture, then aligning its attributes (desired behaviors, communications, workplace environment) with company’s strategic goals helps employees more easily contribute to achieving the objectives – especially when those cultural attributes are regularly and positively reinforced through frequent, timely and specific recognition.

Ernst & Young Executive Director in the Americas Advisory Customer Practice, Barbara Porter, shared this wisdom in Forbes:

“So, how do you create a culture that engages employees and delivers financial results?

“First, leaders must acknowledge that culture and employee engagement are their responsibility. Rather than simply focusing on HR, entitlement or employee happiness, companies must create a culture that aligns peoples’ intrinsic values and behaviors to the guiding principles of the organization. Culture is the driving force within every organization, department and team.

“An intentional culture specifically aligns the environment, communication and emotional drivers to a company’s strategic vision and brand. To build a culture that supports the brand experience, leaders must bring the corporate vision to life and help employees’ link what they do every day to the key elements (values, objectives, goals, key performance indicators and behaviors) of the organization’s guiding principles and strategy.”

2) Make sure culture is consistent globally.

It’s not enough to allow local cultural “pockets” or silos to continue. Driving an intentional, consistent culture across all locations is what drives real success.

Tom Erickson, chief executive of Acquia, explained more in a recent New York Times “Corner Office” column:

“I went into France to build our business there. I thought I had hired the right guy, and he started to explain to me that France was a different market, and that the French are different. I let him persuade me that the kind of people we had to hire were different. The whole thing collapsed a year later, and I had to make tremendous changes.

“Building the culture and the way you go to market need to be consistent, no matter where it is. I used that lesson many years later when building the business in Japan. People would try to tell me, ‘We need to do things differently here.’ I’d say, ‘No, this is how you stay on message, on target.’”

3) Be sure executive leadership drives the cultural push.

Both examples make it clear leadership needs to drive this alignment. Indeed, it is only executive leadership that can enforce a truly global, consistent culture, but the benefits are worth it.

China Gorman, CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute, explained why in an article in Fortune:

“‘The world’s best workplaces face the daunting task of creating ‘one workplace culture’ from the myriad of local cultures in which they operate,’ Gorman says. All successful organizations or companies have mastered the art of creating this culture. These organizations take in talented people, mold their identities, and assimilate them into their organization’s way of life.”

Do you have a consistent, global company culture?

Engaging Employees on Their Way Out the Door?

Image of employee holding office items, preparing to quit jobRecognize This! – Is the best way to engage employees to focus on them when they leave?

I’ll admit, I started to read this Fast Company article prejudiced to disagree with the premise – “the best opportunity to engage employees is how you treat them when they leave.”

Ridiculous, right? They’re leaving! How does working to engage them now do any good? It’s like using your exit interview as your best survey tool for employee engagement in your organization. (Yes, that’s really a thing.)

But, after reading the article, I admit my prejudicial instincts may have been wrong.

Author Jessica Amortegui’s point is employees are likely going to leave anyway. Statistically, there are very few “lifer” employees that stay at one (or even two or three) companies for the entirety of their careers. She cites a Deloitte survey showing 85% of the workforce is actively looking for a new job or open to talking to recruiters. So, when they do succumb to the “grass is always greener” syndrome, do everything you can to leave a good impression so they’ll want to return.

Citing two of my favorite researchers on employee motivation, recognition and engagement (Dan Ariely and Theresa Amabile), Amortegui recommends celebrating employees’ accomplishments, even as they walk out the door:

“If you want an employee to walk out of the door engaged, what better way than to celebrate the progress they made in their tenure? It’s never too late–nor can you ever do too much–to make somebody feel like their work matters.”

Point taken. My one concern is people using this advice as an excuse to wait until an employee is ready to leave to recognize their contributions. Far better to praise, celebrate and appreciate employees for their efforts, contributions, and results throughout their tenure with your organization because this is what engages them in their work in the first place. Failure to do so results in just as many employees actively looking for a job open to talking to a recruiter, but far more of that 85% mentioned earlier will fall into the “I quit but forgot to tell you” category.

In today’s volatile job market, sometimes the best we can do is to fully engage the employees we have for as long as we have them. If we can do a better job of that – even incrementally – we can boost the bottom line quite dramatically. (See this recent Aon Hewitt global research showing every 1 percentage point increase in engagement drives a 0.6% increase in sales growth.)

How much effort does your organization put into “alumni” employees? Would your past star performers want to return? What are you doing to make that more likely?

5 Steps to Align Your Culture so All Employees Are Committed to Achieving Your Strategy

Recognize This! – Daily employee behaviors contribute to or detract from achieving company strategic objectives. Be sure you’re encouraging the right behaviors depending on your strategic objectives.

Culture eats strategy… strategy trumps culture… On which side of the culture/strategy divide do you fall? I’ve written about this before, and I tend to side with culture – primarily because culture drives the behaviors of individuals who are the one that achieve your strategy (or not). But culture is the driving force.

Regardless of where you stand, it’s undeniable culture and strategy are deeply intertwined in organizations large and small, global or local, public or private, for-profit or non-profit. Last summer, Towers Watson produced a report on just how deeply this interweaving between the two is and why achieving strategy/culture alignment is critical for success.

Towers Watson also defines culture as “the shared beliefs (either explicit or implicit) that exist within a company and drive behaviors.” The real question we should be asking is: “How do we understand, manipulate, redirect or recreate the shared beliefs in such a way to drive the real behaviors we need to succeed?”

The report attempts to dig into this, looking at why most culture change efforts fail, identifying a lack of two key elements (quoting):

  1. A view of culture that goes beyond generic notions of “high performance” and focuses on those aspects of culture uniquely relevant to a company’s particular strategic goals.
  2. A focus on the underlying systems, processes and behaviors to support long-term culture change.

To resolve those challenges, Towers Watson did deep analysis, resulting in a definition of the 5 primary company strategies for success and the associated “cultural profiles” to achieve those strategies. That breakdown is illustrated here:

 Image showing 5 strategies Efficiency, Quality, Innovation, Customer Service, and Brand/Reputation

Image Credit: Towers Watson, “Strategy/Culture Alignment: How to Identify, and Close, Critical Gaps,” July 2013

This is quite valuable, but how do you make this kind of strategy/culture profile connection real to employees who are the ones focused on achieving the goals? I recommend a five-step process (using the “Customer Service” strategy as an example):

1) Redefine the culture attributes into actionable core values.
(Information Sharing, Teamwork, Customer Focus, Leadership, Decision Making, Taking Action)

2) Define behaviors associated with each of those core values.
(Teamwork behaviors: Committed to common goals, active participation and leadership, open communication up and down the chain, willing sharing of resources)

3) Frequently and very specifically recognize any and all employees who demonstrate those behaviors by calling out clearly the core value demonstrated and explaining how those behaviors impacted you, the team, the customer or the company for the better.
(Sam, you really lived our value of Teamwork when you went out of your way to locate the necessary research materials needed to move the Juno project forward. You didn’t have the information yourself, but you knew who did and how to get that information in the right hands. By doing so quickly and without prompting or direction, you helped us beat project deadlines, thrilling our client and making them a partner for years to come.)

4) Share that recognition across the organization so it can serve as training for others on what desirable “Teamwork” behaviors look like in the daily work, encouraging others to demonstrate similar actions.

5) Closely monitor, measure and report on areas where values are being more or less recognized to intervene where necessary with additional training or resources to ensure all employees both understand and are committed to achieving the company’s strategy – in their own work, every day.

What is the primary strategic goal for your organization? How are you aligning your culture (and the associated daily behaviors of employees) to achieve your strategy?


Celebrating the “Average” among Us * Remembering Boston’s Heroes and Helpers

Boston Marathon Memorial Ribbon Saying "Boston Strong"Recognize This! – True heroes often come from unexpected places.

Today is a solemn day of remembrance and tribute. Our US headquarters are located near Boston, and several of our employees are regular runners of the Boston marathon. Last year was a brutal, heart-wrenching blow to all of us, but of course, no more so than to those who lost loved ones or survived the horrific events one year ago today.

In honor of those who remain Boston Strong, I’d like to focus on the average people. There are several stories (here’s one) about the first responders who rushed in to help the injured when the bombs went off. Yes, trained first responders – police, firefighters, EMTs – rushed into the fray, but the vast majority of first responders were untrained, uninitiated into the aftermath of violence, unprepared, unready – yet there in moment.

These first responders – the average person at the finish line to cheer on friends or family or just enjoy the spirit of the day – should have run away from the explosions. Certainly, many did (and that’s okay). But these people – these true heroes – raced towards the chaos, towards potential danger to themselves to help others in dire need. Here’s how one person described it:

“[Matt] Smith still can’t explain why he ran toward the smoke and screaming. Before he did, he told his friends to run as fast as they could away from the scene. ‘I just knew something was wrong. I had never been in the military or any first-responder-type job, but I just knew I had to help,’ Smith said.”

These average people saved lives. Of all the injured who made it to a hospital, every single one survived. If medical tents for runners hadn’t been on site and staffed with trained medical personnel, this outcome would have been far less likely. Yet if average, scared yet concerned, people hadn’t run into the mess and followed their instinct to help, comfort and encourage, many of those injured wouldn’t have even made it to the medical tents, much less to the hospital.

Sure, I could draw several analogies to the greatness of the “average” people in our workplaces, but that’s not appropriate today. Instead, today, reflect for a moment on the average people around you at work, at home, in your community. Look at them in a different light. Consider them as more than “average.” After all, they could save your life someday.

Compensation Cafe: Reverse the Purse – Get More Out of Spot Awards than Annual Incentives

Recognize This! – The frequency, timeliness and specificity of spot recognition delivers much greater benefit than delayed annual awards.

In my most recent post on Compensation Cafe, I look at recent survey results from a a WorldatWork, Deloitte Consulting and Vivient Consulting report, showing employee incentive plans (as they term them) in various forms are alive and well (click through for the full report).


I go on to discuss why and how companies can derive much greater value from reversing the investment levels in annual incentive plans and spot awards. Go to Compensation Cafe to see the details.

Love at Work * 3 Ways to Get It Right

Heart with words "Thank You"Recognize This! – We should be encouraging love at work, particularly companionate love, to increase employee engagement and retention.

Love at work. If you’re in HR and reading that statement, likely you shuddered, even just a little. Usually, “love at work,” means some kind of relationship gone wrong, necessitating a new policy about relationships in the workplace, etc.

New research out of Wharton (and reported in Knowledge@Wharton) shows, rather, we should be encouraging love at work, particularly a form of love called “companionate love.” Wharton management professor Sigal Barsade defines companionate love as “when colleagues who are together day in and day out, ask and care about each other’s work and even non-work issues. They are careful of each other’s feelings. They show compassion when things don’t go well. And they also show affection and caring.”

Barsade and co-author Olivia O’Neill conducted a study on the effects of companionate love at work in what is often a tough work environment – long-term health care. Goals of the study were to see how companionate love impacted employees as well as patients and the patients’ family members. Finding showed a culture of companionate love (quoting):

  • Reduced employees’ withdrawal from work… Units with higher levels of companionate love had lower levels of absenteeism and employee burnout.
  • Led to higher levels of employee engagement with their work via greater teamwork and employee satisfaction.
  • Rippled out from staff to influence patients and their families… [Patients] would be in a better mood if the culture among the staff was more loving.

All that is well and good in a company in which one would hope the employees are more geared for compassion and caring. But what about other industries? The researchers asked the same question, performing a second study involving 3,201 employees in seven different industries (including real estate, finance and public utilities). Finding remained very similar, showing: “A culture of companionate love positively correlated with job satisfaction, commitment to the company and accountability for performance.”

What does this mean for us in our workplaces? Ask yourself:

  • What can I (as a manager, leader or HR professional) do to promote a culture of companionate love among my team members or those over whom I have direct influence?
  • What can I (as an individual) do to show companionate love to others, even if similar behaviors are not initially returned?

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Proactively seek ways you can encourage, support and recognize others for work well done. Where can you do a better job in looking up from your own hectic work schedule to notice the efforts of those around you and thank them for it?
  2. Offer small acts of service to others. If you’re going to the local café for a cup of coffee, offer to pick one up for a busy team member. (This is especially powerful if you are the person in power in the relationship.)
  3. Care about the other person’s life outside of work and beyond how it may impact their work effort. Make a habit of asking others about weekend plans, child sporting successes, or generally how their family members are doing.

What other ways can we show companionate love our colleagues? Has anyone shown companionate love to you? If so, how did it affect you?

The Power of Thanks During M&A – 5 Steps to Merge Company Cultures

Infographic Showing People Issues Affect M&A Transactions More Than EverRecognize This! – Culture is the most powerful (and the most neglected) tool for successful M&A.

Mercer periodically puts out terrific infographics summarizing research around a particular topic. The most recent is “People Issues Affect M&A Transactions More Than Ever” (see it at right or click through). Infographic by Mercer Insights

Notice in particular the last 2 charts showing how neglected company culture is during M&A, with these two major takeaways.

1. Culture Most Neglected Across the Board

The red chart shows nearly all regions of the world agree culture is largely ignored during the M&A process. This is detrimental not only post-M&A, but during as well. People cling to the culture they are accustomed to, either because they enjoy working within the culture and are loyal to it or (at the other end of the spectrum) prefer “the devil they know.”

Ignoring the need to address and ultimately merge cultures will result in a “culture of cultures” after the merger, lengthening indefinitely the process of actuall integrating people, teams, processes and critically, success outcomes.

2. No Process to Leverage Culture Post-M&A

The purple chart shows few have a process in place to proactively leverage the company culture successfully after the M&A integration is complete. This is a huge miss as your culture is the driving force of the organization – it’s how people behave when no one is looking. What is going to be the driving force in your merged organization? How will people know what behaviors are now preferred, from all employees regardless of originating organization?

The lack of a culture-focused process during M&A can be addressed through a strategically designed social recognition program, which is an approach proven to get people focused on and bought into new goals and desired behaviors in the shortest amount of time.

5 Steps to Merge Cultures through Recognition

  1.  Merge the two companies’ vision and values into a new statement and set of core values that are meaningful to employees from both organizations. Then use the new recognition program as a positive communication tool of the vision and values to all employees. When done correctly, recognizing behaviors, actions or attitudes that are tied to a specific value will help those new values come alive for all employees, creating a more meaningful and memorable impact. Designate recognition ambassadors within both merging companies to encourage and demonstrate appropriate use of the recognition program.
  2. As with any strategic program, secure executive sponsorship of the new organization’s recognition program, but be sure to include key senior leadership from both companies in the initial roll-out. By seeing familiar and trusted leaders encouraging positive appreciation moments throughout the merged organization, employees from both companies will begin to notice and acknowledge the valuable efforts and contributions from their colleagues in the other company.
  3. Any strategic program requires measurable goals to track success. Frequency, timeliness and appropriateness of the rewards are critical in recognition programs. In the special case of M&A, specific goals should be included to track the progress of the merger of the two cultures into one of appreciation across the global workforce.
  4. Prior to program launch, confidentially survey employees on current job satisfaction; engagement level in their current roles; level of concern with the M&A relative to job retention, potential culture change and leadership; understanding of the values of the merged entity; and how those values translate to daily behaviors. Conduct the survey again periodically to measure improvements in these and other predetermined critical-to-success areas.
  5. Launch the program soon after the M&A is announced to engage all employees in this new culture of recognition, help them understand their continued value to the merged organization, and unite all employees behind the new vision and core values designed to achieve it.

Have you been part of a merger or acquisition? What was the greatest challenge or biggest missed opportunity?

What Do Your Customers Really Want and Need? – Ask Them!

Image of a s'more treatRecognize This! – Customers are a font of knowledge just waiting to be tapped.

Last week I had the pleasure of joining colleagues and customers at Globoforce’s annual customer forum, Engage. We’re very particular about defining it as a customer forum and not a customer conference. The intent every year is to bring customers together so they can share directly their own experiences, learnings, approaches and best practices with each other in a forum which we facilitate.

This year was no exception with a terrific panel of customers representing a range of industries including high-tech, energy, insurance, finance, manufacturing, construction engineering and travel. It is always thrilling and very informative for me to hear our customers directly sharing their experience from their unique industry perspective, then hearing others chime in with their own direct questions. Is there any better way to learn and grow than from your own peers?

As always, we also shared potential future direction for our products and services, inviting our customers to share their input and vote on their preferences. This is tremendous insight for us as we are always pushing the industry forward with new innovations in employee recognition and appreciation, and in-practice use and preferences from thought-leading clients is very important perspective to have.

Aside from the time with customers I’ve grown to know as friends over the years, one of the highlights of Engage 2014 for me was my first-ever S’more (graham cracker, chocolate and melted marshmallow goodness, for others not in the know). One of our evening events in Scottsdale, Arizona, was a hoe-down party, complete with campfire and S’mores. Our international clients (and my fellow Irish Globoforce employees) got to experience the deliciousness of S’mores for the first time. When asked if campfires and S’mores weren’t a tradition in Ireland, too, my CEO replied, “Well, with all the rain, campfires tend to do little more than smolder in Ireland…”

And this is but one example of the joy of working in a globally distributed organization – sharing local traditions with those of a different cultural background or expectation. Similarly, our Irish-based employees enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner along with our American contingent, while our American employees celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with us in Ireland.

Think for a moment:  What traditions are common in your department, local office or primary country? How can those be shared with those in other locations to create a stronger sense of unity across borders and boundaries?


3 Tips to Become an Exceptional Manager

3 tips graphicRecognize This! – Selflessness, good assumptions and recognition are the most powerful tools in the good manager’s arsenal.

In my most recent post on Compensation Café, I referenced a quote from Don Knauss, CEO of Clorox, about the “head” part of leadership. In Don’s terms, the “head” is focused on, well, focus – how you communicate to and reinforce for employees the tightly focused priorities need for organizational success. Today, I’m digging deeper into the same interview with Mr. Knauss to look at the “heart” part of leadership. He said:

“On the heart side, the lesson is that it’s all about your people. If you’re going to engage the best and the brightest and retain them, they’d better think that you care more about them than you care about yourself. They’re not about making you look good.  You’re about making them successful. If you really believe that and act on that, it gains you credibility and trust. You can run an organization based on fear for a short time. But trust is a much more powerful, long-term and sustainable way to drive an organization.

“The other thing I’ve learned is that you’ve got to assume the best intent of people, and that they’re really trying to do a good job. I’ve seen organizations that are based more on fear than trust because senior management really thinks people are trying to get one over on them, that they’re just punching a clock. People really are trying to do a good job, and they want to be proud of where they work. Understanding that helped make me a bit more patient.”

Once again, Mr. Knauss offers three essential lessons to be a good, effective manager:

1) Always put your people first. When digging deeper into the truism “People leave managers, not companies,” a constant refrain from employees is, “My manager took credit for my work or made me look bad so he/she could look good.” The mark of a truly good manager is the members of his or her team are universally successful in their individual roles.

Ask yourself – Are you leading your people to be the best they can be or to make you look the best you can look?

2) Assume good intent. People don’t start a new job with the goal of doing it poorly. Even those who are less than fully engaged still want to deliver against their goals. When managers assume good intent of those on their teams, it leads to looking for the impetus – the driving force, if you will – behind the action or result.

Ask yourself – When following up on a project status or meeting with your team, do you ask first why a task has not been completed or review all successes to date?

3) Tell people when they’re doing good work. People want to do a good job, but they need to know when the work produced is good in order to continue to deliver at that level. Besides, it’s obvious that if you want someone to continue doing something, let them know! It’s as simple as saying, “I notice what you do and am grateful for it.”

Ask yourself – Do you take the time, every day, to pause, notice and recognize your employees for contributions, efforts and results that achieve the bigger goals? Do you make your recognition specific, personal and meaningful so employees can be “proud of where they work?”

Think for a moment about the best manager you had the pleasure to work for. What made them good?

Compensation Cafe: 3 Steps to Get Even More Out of Compensation

Compensation Cafe Contributor buttonRecognize This! – In it’s most broad definition, “compensation” can encompass all of Total Rewards. How are you bringing the power of your Total Rewards to drive what is most important your organization’s success?

Today on Compensation Cafe, I use the insights of Clorox CEO Don Knauss to share a 3-step roadmap on how to get even more out of how you reward employees (in the “Total Rewards” sense of the word):

1) Focus – Nobody can focus on 10 critical priorities and give the same attention and excellence to all. Narrow down the priorities to no more than three things that can be easily understood by everyone.

2) Communicate – An annual goal-setting meeting or a pretty plaque on the wall are never enough to help all employees understand their role in achieving the mission. Of course, communication must happen specifically and often.

3) Reinforce – Use every instance of positive reinforcement, incentive, or recognition to drive home your key areas of focus.

Click over to Compensation Cafe to read more on what Mr. Knauss said as well as how to bring more focus, communications and reinforcement to your employees on what matters most for your organization’s success.