Archive for April, 2008

Good Slacker?

I was surprised to see the reader advice recently given in the Lucy Kellaway column of the Financial Times. A 15-year marketing executive wrote in describing why her effort on the job went down by half – but her latest performance appraisal was her best yet. The marketing executive is asking if its okay “to continue to coast” and if her feelings of guilt at coasting are wrong or merely inconvenient.

The columnist seems to believe that it’s not that the marketing executive’s superiors do not notice effort, but that the appraisal process itself is dodgy. Kellaway goes on to advise the writer to not feel guilty about slacking because she is “not cheating anyone, and if your employer is happy with what you are now putting in, that should be enough.”

This is the hallmark of how disengaged employees negatively impact the workplace and keep themselves, their divisions and ultimately their company from achieving the levels of high performance and bottom-line results that are possible. Quite contrary to Kellaway’s advice that the executive is “not cheating anyone,” she is actually cheating everyone by giving less than her best effort.

Even more disheartening is a reader comment: “I also had a good appraisal in a year in which I had stopped trying because I felt underappreciated.” Reading between the lines, it seems this reader only received recognition for her efforts at her annual appraisal. As our best practices show, frequent, appropriate and timely recognition ensures employees feel appreciated for their efforts on an on-going basis. I wonder how much more this respondent could have achieved – and how much more valued for her efforts she would have felt – if positive employee recognition happened more frequently than at the annual review.

What do you think about this Financial Times query? Is it okay to coast when your superiors seem to think you’re getting the job done? Do you think you’d be more likely to make a greater effort more consistently if you received more frequent recognition for your efforts?

Using Effective Recognition to Support Operational Excellence

Recognition is a powerful tool to support operational excellence initiatives by rewarding and endorsing the specific actions, behaviors and values you are working to put in place with your operational excellence program. A key component of operational excellence programs is appropriate and timely recognition for achievements throughout the process. Numerous experts mention tying Six Sigma implementation to recognition programs to drive process improvement, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and net income.
Our best practices further show pure recognition to be a more lasting reward than even compensation increases and cash bonuses for task achievement. A simple “thank you” and congratulatory remark – linked to the specific achievement – from either a co-worker or a senior manager is often more meaningful than a trinket selected from a catalog. And when a reward of monetary value is merited, then giving the recipient the reward of choice to select an item or experience personally meaningful to them allows recipients to appropriately brag to their colleagues about what they did to earn the reward.
When rewards are only in the form of salary and compensation, then this opportunity to “brag” and thereby reinforce the success of the operational excellence program overall is lost. Cash and compensation-based recognition programs also fuel competition, which runs counter to the goals of strategic operational excellence initiatives that require teams to collaborate and produce well together at a high level. For more on this topic specifically, see our White Paper: Cash Is Not King.
Creating a culture of appreciation with effective strategic recognition systems also addresses people’s need to fuel their Psychic Income – social acceptance, increased self-esteem and self realization – that can never be met through compensation. This encourages people to assume greater responsibility in their role in achieving the goals of the operational excellence system in place.
Do you see the added value effective strategic recognition programs can bring to those already delivered through well executed operational excellence programs?

Applying Operational Excellence to Employee Recognition

I’ve blogged before about our ambition to help companies foster cultures of appreciation in their organizations. However, a culture of appreciation requires a culture of accountability.

As organizations compete to find and retain talented contributors, employee reward and recognition programs become integral to the total work experience. Harnessing the true power of strategic recognition in a Global 2000 company requires a global strategy that includes all recognition activity in the employee base worldwide. In most market-leading companies, however, strategic initiatives are managed using a process, metrics, measurements, incentives and accountability – except recognition.

Success in deploying strategic recognition requires a management process (such as DMAIC) that sets clear targets for frequency and budget, offers meaningful measurement and reporting functionality, and holds managers accountable for targeted award activity. Setting clear goals is central to the management methodology and should include the percentage of employees awarded, employee satisfaction scores, the match of award distribution to the performance bell curve, and the frequency of awards.

As with Six Sigma, there are four key phases to successful deployment and adoption of strategic recognition programs:

1) Generate leadership awareness of and enthusiasm for the initiative across all functions, divisions and business units. Work together to establish targets that define success for global recognition efforts.

2) Conduct a baseline survey of employee satisfaction and engagement. Then track results from the initial recognition efforts and communicate them to the entire company. This will sell the program far more effectively to the entire company than demands from executives for participation.

3) Implement measures to track results on an ongoing basis to ensure recognition is continuous and building over time. Conduct recognition program-specific and overall employee engagement surveys regularly to ensure growing program success.

4) Build recognition into business as usual with many thousands of “thank you moments” happening around the world in all departments every day.

Where do you see your company on this progression of strategically applying operational excellence tactics to your recognition program? Have you achieved recognition as “business as usual” or are you not even out of the starting gate?

Operational Excellence and Recognition

One of our five Strategic Tenets of Recognition is Securing Executive Buy-In and Setting Strategic Goals. The key point of this tenet is that historically, global strategic initiatives are managed using a process – except recognition. Globoforce is setting a new ambition for global strategic recognition. We strongly recommend our clients implement strategic recognition based on operational excellence practices.
Known by many names, operational excellence programs primarily began during the quality improvement movement with initiatives such as Six Sigma, total quality management and the like. Now, operational excellence guidelines are applied far beyond the walls of manufacturing into multiple industries and nearly all functional areas of a company.
Regardless of the program name or structure, the goal of operational excellence initiatives is to help business leaders achieve strategic goals through a clearly defined and focused process. Six Sigma’s DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) methodology is one that is commonly understood. These types of process-based systems have been proven to produce significant bottom-line results.
During the next few posts, I’ll be blogging about recognition and operational excellence practices. I’d like to hear how operational practices are managed in your company. Are these programs applied in your organization beyond quality programs? Have you seen the value of these programs?

Employee Engagement Network

I’ve recently joined an excellent online social network for professionals involved in employee engagement: The Employee Engagement Network hosted by David Zinger.

A recent interesting discussion in the Manager Tools for Employee Engagement Forum was started by a member to discuss why most managers fail, a topic triggered by a recent study by Hay stating that most managers fail to implement the managerial style that will promote a positive and engaging workplace. Several members added to the discussion with book excerpts that were meaningful to them on the topic and also observations and lessons learned from their own workplaces.

As I commented in the forum, it is critically important that managers play to employee strengths, not their weaknesses. Too often, managers invest wasted time and energy trying to improve employees in their weak areas instead of focusing employees on projects or initiatives that draw from their natural strengths and abilities. Then the critical managerial action is reinforcing these positive efforts and natural strengths with appropriate and timely employee recognition. Every employee — regardless of level or role — deserves recognition for their contributions.

Also, managers sometimes forget (or neglect) to change their managerial style – simply because we’re too busy! Yes, we all know we can be too busy, but being too busy to say “Thank you” to an employee is almost as demoralizing as if you actually made a negative comment. So what can help managers change? We need to build in formal recognition time into our management rhythms. That’s where formal programs can help, pushing managers into adding recognition to their to-do list so that the good intentions are actually acted on, as well as being recorded and disseminated for many others to see. Sometimes busy managers just need a bit of extra structure to make that behavioral/management style change.

We’ve seen great success on this front at a large software client of ours – where the changing social architecture is being encouraged by managers, and staff members have more positive conversations as a result.

By establishing a culture of appreciation through simple and daily “thank you moments,” companies can see the genesis of a high performance culture.

I encourage you to check out the Employee Engagement Network. I’ve enjoyed interacting with my colleagues in this way and have learned from them as I hope they have learned from me.

High Performance Culture: The Common Factor — RECOGNITION

Across all three characteristics of a high performance culture is a single common factor – employee recognition. When global strategic recognition is done right, a high performance culture emerges that energizes teams, drives maximum employee engagement, and ensures the achievement of strategic goals. By making the company’s values come alive for all participants and rewarding employee behaviors that reinforce them, appropriate and consistent recognition across teams and countries inspires the workforce and promotes greatness in all areas of performance.

By making it easy to acknowledge the daily exceptional contributions of individuals and teams located anywhere in the world, frequent and appropriate recognitions provide daily inspiration to all. Strategic recognition changes a company’s social architecture, creating a global culture of appreciation that is woven into the very fabric of the company. Manager-to-peer, peer-to-peer, team-to-team, country-to-country recognition unleashes a company’s latent power in its people to unite the workforce, energize a recognition program and drive a high performance culture across the organization.

Roger Herman and Joyce Gioia, authors of How to Become an Employer of Choice, said: “Employee performance is everything – it is what distinguishes top performing companies from those who are struggling. Statistics show that companies who recognize their people outperform companies that don’t by 30 to 40 percent.”

What would the impact be if your company performance numbers increased by a third? How would that change not only your company, but your industry? The potential impact of effective and appropriate recognition is too powerful to ignore.

High Performance Culture: Critical Factor #3 United in Executing the Company Mission

Once employees are engaged and share company values, then they can unite in executing the company’s mission. For these employees there is a clear understanding of their individual role and contribution, a team mentality is encouraged and embraced, and individual and team efforts are equally recognized.

UNDERSTANDING OF INDIVIDUAL ROLE AND CONTRIBUTION Once a company’s values are pulled down off the wall plaque and instilled in every employee’s every day actions, then each employee can begin to understand how his or her role contributes to the company achieving its mission. Employees who see their daily effort as more than “just a job” – more even than “a career” – begin to understand that their individual efforts directly and profoundly impact the company’s ability to achieve its strategic goals.

TEAM MENTALITY ENCOURAGED AND EMBRACED Individual contributions without a team mentality will ultimately result in failure. By its very nature, a company is group of people united in a common goal. Once individuals unite as a team, functioning as a highly tuned machine to achieve departmental, divisional AND company goals, then a high performance culture has truly been achieved.

INDIVIDUAL AND TEAM EFFORTS EQUALLY RECOGNIZED Human nature does not lend itself to putting the team ahead of personal goals, however. A successful high performance culture is closely intertwined with a culture of appreciation in which it is second nature for employees to recognize the achievements of their colleagues, managers to recognize individuals and teams for their efforts, and both peers and managers to engage in daily “thank you moments.”

How does your company stack up? Do they acknowledge only the individual or do they put team above all? Or is it the rare company that recognizes the value of both?

High Performance Culture: Critical Factor #2 Shared Values

To achieve a High Performance Culture, the company’s values must be shared by all employees. This is critical because most employees aren’t engaged with creating more widgets. They are engaged with an idea – no, an IDEAL. And that ideal is characterized in the business world in a company’s values. Those values must be understood by all, clearly and consistently communicated, and reinforced through recognition.

UNDERSTOOD BY ALL Management teams of most companies today have spent countless hours concisely defining their company’s values and honing the company’s mission into an ambition that inspires employees to achieve strategic goals. In reality, these values rarely escape the engraved plaque hanging on the wall. For a company’s values to have any impact on employee behavior and performance outcome, they must be understood in the same way by all employees regardless of position, division or geographic location.

CLEARLY AND CONSISTENTLY COMMUNICATED To achieve this level of common understanding, the values must be clearly and consistently communicated. In many global corporations, this includes ensuring the meaning doesn’t get lost in translation or the importance diluted due to varied cultural norms. While the necessity of doing so is easily appreciated by company leaders, the task is complicated by the variability in communications skills from manager to manager, the infrequency of opportunities to demonstrate the values in a meaningful way, and the constant distraction of deadlines and other pressures.

REINFORCED THROUGH EMPLOYEE RECOGNITION Strategic recognition programs based on best practices incorporate a company’s values into the recognition process. When all employee activities or behaviors nominated for recognition are tied to a company value, then at least two people – the nominator and the recipient – must think about the values during the process. If such nominations require approval, then even more people are reminded of the values. And if all recognitions within a set time period are then announced in a monthly team meeting, then entire teams or divisions will be reminded of the values and how to demonstrate and achieve them in everyday tasks. In large, globally distributed companies this is virtually the only way to make the company values come alive for every employee at all levels.

Can you recite your company’s values? More importantly, do you know why those values are important to your company leadership and necessary to achieve the company mission?

If you – or your team members – can’t answer these questions, you need to consider ways to bring your values to life.

High Performance Culture – Critical Factor #1: Engaged Employees

To achieve a High Performance Culture, companies need engaged employees that are enthusiastic, involved and recognized.

ENTHUSIASTIC Engaged employees – those employees who are willing to go beyond what is required to get the job done by looking for opportunities to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and personal and team results – are enthusiastic about the company and their role in it. These employees are truly energized by their daily efforts at work and are enthusiastic about their personal career prospects and those of the company for which they choose to work.

INVOLVED Engaged employees are also more involved in their office community than the majority of their peers. These employees seek out committees to contribute to and initiatives to help plan. Engaged employees also tend to look beyond themselves to assist their colleagues and attempt to involve them more deeply in the organization as well.

RECOGNIZED Engaged employees are also consistently recognized for their efforts. Employees need to be recognized as important contributors to the culture and values that support the company mission, as well as the company’s bottom-line.

As an employee, are you enthusiastic about your job, involved in your company and recognized for your efforts? Managers – do you see your team members in this description? Are you doing enough as their manager to help them become engaged?

Building the Business Case for Strategic Recognition

Avnet’s Vice President of Operational Excellence Terry Cain recently joined me in a webinar to explain how to build the business case for strategic recognition programs.

In this webinar, we discuss how to bring recognition programs to the level of a strategic investment that changes the very culture of a company – and how Avnet achieved just that.

The first step to building a business case for recognition is to set the right AMBITION for global strategic recognition to achieve: • Culture ChangeSupport for the Company’s Mission and ValuesEmployee MotivationEmployee Engagement

Avnet’s main challenge was figuring out how to keep a growing and culturally disparate global workforce united through times of drastic growth and acquisitions in the electronics market. In the last 10 years, Avnet has grown through 59 acquisitions to more than 12,000 employees in over 300 locations in 73 countries.

Avnet set their recognition ambition to create a unified company culture with recognition and rewards based on a desire to improve the company, increase innovation, foster a consistent employee experience, and unite all employees globally in a locally relevant way.

To build the business case for strategic recognition and achieve this ambition, Terry Cain knew – as with any strategic operational excellence initiative – executive buy-in and sponsorship was critical to bring this program to a high-level, strategic business and ROI opportunity for Avnet. Key to securing executive buy-in was changing the belief system of the C-suite, management and the company. In the webinar, Terry discusses in more depth how to ask the right questions so that these key executives and leaders come to desired belief system themselves.

Terry also describes how he and his team worked to balance the needs of all the stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers and shareholders – to achieve this ambition for strategic recognition.

Terry and I wrap up with a discussion of how Avnet successfully applied Globoforce’s Tenets of Strategic Recognition: 1. Clear, Global Strategy 2. Executive Sponsorship with Defined Goals 3. Alignment with Corporate Values 4. Opportunity for All to Participate 5. Power of Individual Choice

Feel free to download the recorded webinar. I’d like to hear from you about your ambitions for recognition in your company. What would you like to see happen in culture change and employee engagement?