Archive for May, 2011

How to Enjoy Going to Work Every Day

Recognize This! – Meaningful work, within context of greater need, is all that most desire to make work more enjoyable.


A couple of questions for you:

  1. Do you enjoy going to work every day?
  2. What would it take for you to enjoy going to work every day?

There’s a lot of research out there that just makes me chuckle. A Lumesse (formerly StepStone Solutions) survey reported in TLNT that only 37% of men and 24% of women enjoy going to work every day.

We could discuss all day various angles of this (Why fewer women than men? What if the question was “most days” and not “every day?”), but setting that aside – is this really surprising?

Then consider research from a Monster Workplace Survey:

  • 82% believe there is a dream job for them and 83% of them are actively seeking that dream job
  • 41% want to be challenged and inspired in their jobs (with a 17% subset that want to make a difference in that job)

It’s easy to roll our eyes at these expressions, especially in a recovering economy. But indications are numerous that employee productivity is at its limit and employers are going to have to start hiring again just to stay competitive.

And really, it’s not that hard to inspire employees in the jobs they have and help them see how they are making a difference. But it does take intentional effort on the part of leaders to do so. For me, I see the meaning in my work when I know that what I did today helped my company achieve its goals. And I know when I do that because my boss, the CEO, tells me so.

I firmly believe it is the same at all levels of the organization. If you are an intern, and your supervisor takes just a minute to tell you, “Thank you for your work on the McGuffin Project. The timeliness of your reports ensured the client was happy with our delivery” – then you know what you did contributed to the bigger picture. You understand the meaning and value of your work. And I’m sure you’d be like me – inspired to keep doing more.

Am I off-base here? Would such an approach make going to work more enjoyable for you every day?

Military Veterans * Thank You!

Recognize This! – Be sure to express your thanks and gratitude while those you appreciate can enjoy it!

Today is Memorial Day in the United States – a day of remembrance for those who died in service to the country.

In honor of this day and those who gave their lives for their country, I’d like to take just a moment to thank those who are serving today and veterans who are still with us. While remembering and honoring those who gave their lives for what they believe in is of great importance, we must not forget to express our thanks, appreciation and praise while they are with us.

Too often, we do not remember to express our appreciation to others – whether that be those who protect our country, family members, friends or colleagues – until it is too late for them to know how much we value them and their contributions.

Don’t wait for a Memorial Day to express your gratitude! Tell someone “thank you” today!

Generational Expectations for Retention in the Recovery

Recognize This! – Are our retention needs more determined by our life stage or our generation?

Considering we are in an economic recovery (slow though it may be) and companies are now at a point where hiring is becoming a necessity just to maintain productivity levels (never mind continue to compete in an improving economy), Deloitte’s research “Talent Edge 2020” is quite interesting on what employers must do to retain their employees.

According to the report, the top retention incentives across generations were:

1)      Promotion/job advancement (53%)

2)      Increased compensation (39%)

3)      Additional bonuses or other financial incentives (34%)

4)      Boosting employee support/recognition from their managers (30%)

The first three are clearly reflective of the actions taken by many organizations during the recession – promotions to account for the extra work so many shouldered, increased pay to offset pay freezes and even reductions, bonuses to acknowledge all that so many helped to achieve in tough times. The fourth, however, that one is a perennial requirement, regardless of economic environment.

Generational response is also very different. Abhishek Mittal, the excellent Mumblr blogger, from the report showing the different requirements of the various generations, and summarizing as:

“For the Gen Y (age under 30 yrs), the report says, non-financial aspects are critical. Company culture, flexi-work arrangements, training opportunities and managerial support & recognition are key factors which make these employees stay put in their organisations. For the Gen X (30-44 yrs), Baby Boomers (45-64 yrs) and Veterans (above 65 yrs), the retention drivers are centered more around the financial incentives. This is a very interesting finding, which contradicts the conception that Gen Y employees are only looking for better pay opportunities.”

As with all such generational studies in the workplace, I wonder if generation is more the correct marker or life stage.  I tend to think that as Gen Y ages, their No. 1 concern may become additional financial incentives and bonuses. What’s important to us at work depends more on our greater selves — a single working parent of 25 will likely have the same motivators as a single working parent of 35 and that will be different from the motivators of a single 25-year-old employee with no children.

What’s your top retention driver? Do you think that driver is more tied to your generation or to the stage of life you find yourself in?

Key Topic at WorldatWork Total Rewards: Performance Appraisals Are Broken

Recognize This! – A new mechanism for frequent, timely feedback, praise and course correction is required to fix the broken performance review process.

I enjoyed the last few days at the WorldatWork Total Rewards conference in San Diego, especially the opportunity to meet with and learn from some of our customers as well as industry experts and influencers.

One theme running strongly throughout the show was this continuing challenge of performance appraisals. Most seem to agree that the current approach simply doesn’t work as employees want and need much more feedback than they typically receive through today’s annual process.

Two speakers I had the opportunity to listen to, including keynote Dan Pink, said mechanisms to allow for and manage more frequent feedback are needed, but neither suggested what those mechanisms might be. With the lack of ideas on “what to do instead,” HR pros seem to be defaulting to current process – and the status quo continues.

I offer suggestions on just what that mechanism should be – Strategic Employee Recognition – in the short video below. (Email followers, click through for the video.)

What mechanisms or solutions would you suggest to overcome status quo inertia and enable frequent, timely helpful feedback, appreciation and course correction as part of the daily flow of work?

Having Trouble Meeting Business Goals * 1 Simple Solution

Recognize This! – In a sea of priorities, help employees focus on your business goals through positive recognition and reinforcement.

Conversations with the Corporate Executive Board revealed organizational development is at top concern and priority for HR pros, which isn’t surprising to me considering recent research from Aon Hewitt:

  • 12% of respondents said their leaders are extremely effective at meeting business goals
  • 14% believe their leaders are extremely effective at meeting profitability targets
  • 17% say the same holds true for delivering service
  • 7% believe their leaders are extremely effective at retaining talent

Just for shock value, let’s read that another way. At least 80% of workers don’t think their leaders are very good at meeting business goals, profitability targets, or service. 93% don’t think their leaders can retain talent.

Those are shockingly high numbers, and yet – I’m not shocked. CEB research suggested one way to overcome these challenges was in getting the business goals valued highly across the organization. This makes sense – if the majority of people don’t put the same sense of importance on achieving a business goal that you do, they’re not going to work as hard to achieve it.

So how do you communicate the importance of some goals over others such that all employees buy into them? Recognize and reward behaviors, actions and achievements that advance those business goals and ignore those that don’t. Communicate positively and frequently in this way to people what it is that you need them to focus on and you’ll be surprised at how quickly their priorities will come into line with your own.

Are you shocked by these numbers as reported by Aon Hewitt? Would you say the same is true in your organization? What would you do help leaders become more effective at meeting business goals?

For Financial Success, Check Your Mood at the Door

Recognize This! – Your mood affects bottom-line performance.

That’s right. Leader “mood” is now identified as a key contributor to financial success. In what it describes essentially as a “No, duh!” moment, Harvard Business Review reports:

“We found that of all the elements affecting bottom-line performance, the importance of the leader’s mood and its attendant behaviors are most surprising. That powerful pair set off a chain reaction: The leader’s mood and behaviors drive the moods and behaviors of everyone else. A cranky and ruthless boss creates a toxic organization filled with negative underachievers who ignore opportunities; an inspirational, inclusive leader spawns acolytes for whom any challenge is surmountable. The final link in the chain is performance: profit or loss.”

Like I wrote about yesterday, your attitude is a choice you make every day. But when you’re the leader, the choice is exponentially more important. The article goes on to argue against “putting on a game face,” but instead finding an authentic but generally upbeat mood that inspires and encourages.

How do you do that? Try thanking just one person every day for their contributions. I’ve written before on research that found: “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.”

Choosing your mood is no harder than choosing to notice, appreciate and recognize the people. Now that you know the bottom line is on the line – will you choose a different attitude and mood?

What’s More Important – Choices or Skills?

Recognize This! – The choices you make every day are more important than inborn talent.

I once worked for an organization in which a senior leader argued “Hire for talent. You can teach skills, but you can’t teach talent.”

I’m sure that’s familiar to many of you as well. And I agree, up to a point. But I also believe it’s more important to hire for “attitude” – for “personality,” if you will.

People can’t help the talent they’re born with. They can work hard to acquire skills. But attitude – that’s a choice.  And a choice each of us makes every day that dramatically affects the workplace, individual performance and team success.

Steve Boese recently wrote wisely on this in his HR Technology blog,  in a story about basketball coach Jeff Van Gundy and player Nick Collison:

“JVG observed that winning teams need guys like Collison, players that may not have all the physical skills of the top players on the team, but have found ways to contribute using capabilities and attributes that are mostly ‘choices’ and not simply genetic gifts.”

Take a minute and think about the people on your team (as colleagues or direct reports). How many are superstars based on innate talent? And how many are the glue that holds the team together and keeps things moving forward – largely because of the choices they make every day?

If you could build a new team from scratch, which group would you take with you?

A 3 Step Process for Higher Performance?

Recognize This! – Playing to strengths enables success and engagement.

There’s a virtuous circle of employee engagement, described by the illustration at right. Gallup also puts it this way:

“To be engaged, you need to identify with the mission and purpose of your company. You’re great at some things and won’t ever be very good at others. If you have the materials and equipment you need to do your job right, you’ll care more about the fate of your organization. You are naturally inclined toward success at some things, and by adding skills, knowledge, and practice, you’ll be much better at them.”

I see a three step process to higher performance in that:

1)      Help employees understand the mission of the company and how their daily efforts help achieve that mission.

2)      Put people in positions that let them use their natural skills to their fullest.

3)      Give them what they need to do their job well.

Similarly, TLNT wrote recently on Steven Kerr’s “Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping for B” (a favorite of mine as well), telling the story:

“A high school basketball player excels at passing the ball, which makes his teammates better. But because his coach and the colleges that might give him a scholarship credit only a player’s ability to score, the player passes less and shoots more — which actually hurts his team’s chances of winning.”

I’d say this basketball player understood the mission, but he wasn’t allowed to use his skills so he couldn’t do his job well.

What’s more important to your organization? Individual stats or group success? Each member of the team has different strengths – play to those so that the whole is greater than the individual parts.

Zappos Gets It Right – Again. How a Performance Appraisal Process Should Work

Recognize This! – Success is about much more than results and deadlines. It’s about delivering those results within the right context of values and mission.

If the performance appraisal as it stands today is broken, what should we consider instead? Whatever the outcome, be sure the focus of your appraisal process is based on the behaviors you want to encourage and not those you don’t.

Zappos has this nailed in terms of the performance appraisal process,  having recently switched from the traditional approach of results-based reviews to:

“Employees would no longer be rated on how well they accomplish tasks, such as meeting deadlines or being punctual. Instead, success would be determined by how well employees embody Zappos’ 10 core values, such as delivering “Wow” service or showing humility. … Under the new values-based system, managers document how many times they notice an employee exhibiting certain behaviors, such as expressing their personality or acting humble. Henry says while the behaviors are open to interpretation, managers must cite specific examples of how an employee displays them.”

That’s precisely the right approach in all but one facet – limiting feedback on behaviors demonstration to managers only. That’s why I advocate so strongly for strategic employee recognition solutions that let anyone recognize another colleague for demonstrating company values in their work – with a detailed message.

If Zappos did that, think how many more data points their review process would have. Think how much more motivated their (already highly motivated) employees would be.

Would you switch to a review process based on demonstration of your company values?

Overcoming Manager Reluctance/Inability to Give Recognition & Feedback

Recognize This! – Giving employees frequent and timely recognition and feedback is not an option. Those who get it right have a distinct competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

I’ve written about annual performance reviews being broken,  but I haven’t necessarily advocated trashing them all together. Kris Dunn, the HR Capitalist,  put a call out for solutions, pointing out that if managers can’t give good feedback, then it doesn’t matter how you deliver that feedback – by annual performance review or other means.

Agreed. But the status quo is not the solution in the face of statistics like these:

  • 70% of employees who were aware that their manager was unhappy with their performance couldn’t tell you what they were doing wrong or how they were going to change. (from Change Anything)
  • Only 17% of organizations know all of its top-performing employees and are looking to develop them for future roles. (This and following from SuccessFactors/Accenture)
  • Two-thirds of organizations have a pay-for-performance policy, but of those, only one in five always ensures that rewards are accurately aligned to contribution.
  • 18% say they are very good at converting corporate strategy into priorities and goals. Just 15% are very good at aligning employee activities to corporate strategy.

So what should be done? To accompany the annual review process, create a new method for ongoing feedback and recognition – two very different things that are also the two lowest rated items in the Gallup Q12 for employee engagement.

You have three options for incorporating ongoing feedback and recognition in a management culture resistant to it:

1)      Train managers to help them give better feedback and recognition in a timely way.

2)      Make giving this feedback and recognition part of manager KPIs and MBOs to ensure they are done.

3)      Exit managers who do not comply with this.

Ideally, some combination of options 1 and 2 are enough. But if managers are unwilling to give the feedback and recognition proven to increase employee engagement, then perhaps those managers are better suited to a role as an individual contributor.

This is critical. As Gallup points out:

“Given the low ratings worldwide for feedback and recognition, organizations that implement — or countries that encourage — effective feedback and recognition systems could gain a competitive advantage.”

Can you afford to ignore such a simple solution that will yield a competitive advantage in this economy?