Archive for April, 2012

CFOs Care More about the Praise than the Prize

Recognize This! – CFOs say communication and recognition are most lacking in employee management.

What do Chief Financial Officers – those charged with managing the money – say is most lacking in employee management? For more than 1,400 CFOs from US companies who were asked just that in a recent survey by Accountemps, the answer is simple – communicate more and say “thanks.”

Most common employee management mistakes according to CFOs:

  1. Lack of communications (41%)
  2. Lack of praise and recognition (28%)

Ryan Sutton, senior vice president for the New England district for professional staffing and consulting services company Robert Half, had this to say about the Accountemps survey results:

“It’s pretty much the same across the board at all companies. Something you hear is that management is so focused on the tasks at hand and finishing their projects and meeting their deadlines that sometimes they just don’t find the time for acknowledging the support of their subordinates.”

That’s where a formal strategic recognition program can play a powerful role in creating a culture of recognition and appreciation in which management is strongly encouraged (if not required) to acknowledge and praise the good efforts and behaviors of their team members – especially when those efforts reflect the core values of the organization.

In fact, putting such a recognition program in place guarantees stronger communications and recognition results, as recently reported in a recent Globoforce/SHRM survey:

Are communication and praise from your management team lacking in your organization? Is there a strategic program in place to encourage better management performance in these areas?

I’ll be leading interactive workshops to help participants build their own winning cultures of recognition.  Join me in Dallas, Boston or King of Prussia, PA, to you create your custom one-page strategy for a culture of recognition in your company.

Register today!

  • Dallas, Texas – May 10, 2012 – Hilton Dallas Lincoln Center
  • King of Prussia, Penn. – June 12, 2012 – Radisson Hotel Valley Forge
  • Greater Boston, Mass. – June 14, 2012 – Westin Waltham

All sessions start with breakfast at 7:30, then kicking off the workshop at 8:00. We’ll end at noon with a box lunch. Readers of my blog also get a 50% discount on the registration price. Just be sure to use code: RECOGNIZETHIS when registering.

Culture Cannot Be Built through Only a Few

Recognize This! – A vibrant, positive culture of recognition that delivers bottom-line results must be real to all employees, not just a few.

The rise of the importance of organization culture in the last few years has been quite striking. No, wait. That’s not true. The rise in the realization of the importance of culture in the last few years has been striking.

Culture – the spoken and unspoken rules and mores by which an organization functions – has always been critical to company success. It’s only in recent years that more and more organization leaders have begun to fully understand their own ability to manage and, indeed, manipulate the culture to he best benefit of employees, customers and the organization as a whole.

But that cannot be accomplished in a “culture initiative” or efforts that focus on the few.

Paul Hebert, author of the i2i blog, recently wrote on this, using research about the stickleback fish to make the point. (You’ll have to click through to his post to see the connection.) In part, Paul says:

“Changing culture at a company is the result of many individuals changing in small ways, not just a few individual changing in big ways. …

“Culture is function of shared values.  If only a few people have them – it is less likely to move through the entire employee population.  The chances of a culture change are much greater IMHO – if you can demonstrate small changes in many people over time versus a simple “program” that’s launched in January and wrapped up in December.

“If you want to really impact your corporate culture take a clue from the stickleback fish and plant many seeds of change throughout the organization.  If you do have a reward and recognition program make sure it can be accessed and leveraged by the greatest number of people as possible.”

I’ve written repeatedly that your core values do you no good hanging on a plaque on the wall. They deliver little better result if only a few employees live them. Permeating your values through every employee such that every person knows how to live those values in their daily and, critically, knows why they should – that’s the basis of a strong organization culture.

Strategic recognition is a powerful, positive method to drive your values deep into your organization by consistently, frequently and specifically recognizing employees when they demonstrate those values at work.

Do you need to build a strong, values-based culture in your organization? Join me in Dallas or Boston for an interactive workshop in which we will discuss these best practices along with others as you build your custom one-page strategy for a culture of recognition in your company.

Register today!

  • Dallas, Texas – May 10, 2012 – Hilton Dallas Lincoln Center
  • Greater Boston, Mass. – June 14, 2012 – Westin Waltham

All sessions start with breakfast at 7:30, then kicking off the workshop at 8:00. We’ll end at noon with a box lunch. Readers of my blog also get a 50% discount on the registration price. Just be sure to use code: RECOGNIZETHIS when registering.


2 Lessons We Should Have Learned in Management 101

Recognize This! –Saying “thank you” and remembering our attitude is a choice should be lessons we all learn and never forget.

An interesting book that was quite popular in America in the late 1980s was All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The book was a collection of musings, including the title piece, which gave referenced key life lessons such as: “play fair,” “don’t hit people,” and “clean up your own mess.”

I often think we forget these major life lessons we learned when we were young when we enter the world of business. And that is unfortunate, indeed. What would be the Management 101 equivalent?

Perhaps these two lessons we should have learned in Management 101:

1) Say “thank you.” Every day.

Recently in Fortune magazine, Victor Lipman made this salient observation:

“Just because something should be obvious doesn’t mean it always is.  Two observations after decades of management: (1) Recognition (or lack thereof) is always a key element of employee engagement; and (2) In a business environment where people are extraordinarily busy and routinely asked to do more with less, all too often successful tasks and projects are completed without  recognition for those involved.”

Pausing in our daily rush to notice and appreciate the positive efforts and results of those around us clearly communicates to our colleagues, “What you do is important. I notice your work. Others do, too. Please keep it up.” All from a simple, “thank you.”

2) Choose to make work better.

One of the many benefits of blogging is the introduction to wise and interesting people I may not have otherwise known. Doug Shaw is one such person (be sure to read this recent interview/bio of him in

In that bio, Doug describes his job (he’s a consultant now) as “I make work better.” The bio goes on to explain:

“The clue to how he performs this feat is in the name of his consultancy – ‘What Goes Around’. Treat staff well and they will treat their employer and its customers well too. Reciprocity – or what goes around comes around – is the secret of staff engagement and a happy workplace, Shaw believes.”

Our attitude and approach to our work every day is a choice. I can choose to be angry, vindictive and competitive, or I can choose to be complimentary, appreciative and helpful. Guess which option makes for a happier, less stressful work day?

What lessons do you think we should add to Management 101?

How Recognition Affects Employee Productivity

Recognize This! – Excessively high productivity cannot be sustained without intervention.

One of the major outcomes of the Great Recession is a dramatic increase in employee productivity. This is not surprising as the employees who survived round after round of layoffs naturally picked up the work of their former colleagues.

Now the question becomes how sustainable is that increased productivity over time? Sure, employees who feared they might be next on the layoff list willing worked at a breakneck pace on far more projects than was typical. But that pace cannot be sustained over the long term.

Advances in technology will likely help, as will increased hiring. But smart managers realize simply recognizing employees for their contributions – helping them understand how meaningful their efforts are and how valuable they are to the organization – is fundamental to maintaining and yes, even increasing, productivity.

The Economic Times recent reported on a poll on employee productivity from TJinsite, the research arm of, revealing:

More than 35% of the employees consider lack of recognition of work as the biggest hindrance to their productivity. According to them, rewards and recognition for achievements at workplace act as morale booster, which in turn increase their productivity.”

A client of ours tells us their annual employee survey reveals 90%+ employees report receiving recognition boosts their productivity. Achieving these kinds of results in increased productivity and performance are possible by creating a true culture of recognition in which it becomes habit for all employees, at every level, to pause, notice and appreciate the efforts and achievements of those around them.

But you can’t do this with an “employee of the month” or “annual bonus” program. The article goes on to note:

“Sakaar Anand, Vice President-HR, CA Technologies, underlined that the recognition culture is not built by rewarding a few top performers once a quarter. But, it is built when companies go beyond the routine principle of do ‘X’ amount of work and get rewarded.”

Is sustaining higher levels of employee productivity a concern in your organization? What proactive steps are you taking to help employees engage and stay motivated to deliver the performance levels you need?

If you want to build a winning culture of recognition in your organization, join me for my latest workshops in Dallas and Boston.

Register today!

  • Dallas, Texas – May 10, 2012 – Hilton Dallas Lincoln Center
  • Greater Boston, Mass. – June 14, 2012 – Westin Waltham

All sessions start with breakfast at 7:30, then kicking off the workshop at 8:00. We’ll end at noon with a box lunch. Readers of my blog also get a 50% discount on the registration price. Just be sure to use code: RECOGNIZETHIS when registering.

Case Study: Why You Can’t Ignore Governance of Recognition & Reward Programs

Recognize This! – Lack of complete and total understanding of your recognition & reward activities globally opens your organization to financial risk.

Thought it’s a bit like choosing which of your children is your favorite, one of the most important services my Insight consulting team offers is our recognition program audit. Just hearing the word “audit” makes people think of long, boring hours spent digging through papers and files. So why would I pick this as a critical service?

Simple – if you don’t know what is going on in your organization in terms of recognition and reward, you open your organization to great risk.

Case in point, news out of the U.S. about recent misuse of employee rewards at the General Services Administration (GSA). I’m not referring to the extravagant Las Vegas trips most reported in the news. I’m talking about this story out of the Federal Times, which reported in part:

“The General Services Administration is suspending a controversial employee awards program amid revelations that thousands of dollars worth of merchandise is missing or was mismanaged. Under GSA’s “Hats Off Program,” employees receive award points and can redeem them for prizes such as iPods, digital cameras and gift cards, according to an inspector general’s report.

“But it turns out that those responsible for administering the program received the most awards, the IG report found. Also, GSA has had problems keeping track of the merchandise: 115 iPods valued at $20,000 could not be accounted for, while another 40 iPods were stolen from the Philip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, according to the report.”

Lack of governance and program oversight can be just as detrimental in the private sector. One client of ours related a story in which well meaning managers, dissatisfied with a prior employee rewards program, would buy an iPod or similar and give to a deserving employee. The manager would then expense the iPod. That means the iPod was not properly accounted for or taxed in the company system, opening the organization to risk.

That is but one small example of the misuse of funds and possible risk possible when an organization does not have a detailed and complete understanding of all employee recognition and reward activity. Compound that by organization locations globally and the myriad tax laws and you can easily see how an audit becomes a valuable service.

Once you understand the gaps and the risk, understanding the value of a single, global, highly governable strategic recognition program becomes easy – especially one that can  provide detailed reports in real time.

Are you confident all employee recognition and reward activities in all of your locations are fully and appropriately accounted for?

Stop Demotivating Employees with Bad Recognition & Reward Programs!

Recognize This! – Employee of the Month programs create competition and resentfulness, not appreciative work environments.

Compensation pros – when you think of base pay in today’s organization, do you think in terms of guaranteed annual increases or in some form of pay for performance?

Most realize the former is the method a century old, while pay for performance in some guise is the far more modern approach. Yet, these same compensation and benefits pros often continue to cling to century-old approaches to employee recognition and reward.

Employee of the Month and similar limited winner, “popularity contest” methods for employee recognition should be long buried. The Monster Thinking Blog outlined reasons why in a recent post:

“Years of research unequivocally supports the conclusion that traditional employee motivation programs actually decrease the overall morale and productivity of a workforce. Unfortunately, many well-intentioned human resource professionals continue to spend their resources attempting to create motivational programs that, while they make sense intuitively, do far more harm than good.

“When I refer to traditional reward-and-recognition programs, I mean … ‘dangling carrot programs.’ … Among all programs, “Employee of the Month” stands out as the most counterproductive.”

I’ve commented before that employee of the month programs often devolve in one of two ways – either turning into a competition instead of praise and acknowledgment or becoming a “who’s turn is it this month?” exercise.

Let me be crystal clear – these programs largely demotivate. They do not engage, encourage, motivate or appropriately recognize employees. As the Monster Thinking blog post points out:

“By the way, it becomes progressively more difficult over time to get employees who lose motivated again. Do you really want to have to worry about dangling carrots every day and every time you want your employees’ best effort?”

Any kind of recognition program that intentionally creates “losers” is doomed to failure. What should you do instead? Recognize and show your appreciation for employees – all employees – who demonstrate your core values in contribution to achieving your strategic objectives. This eliminates both the competition and “it’s your turn” of failed programs like Employee of the Month that have seen their time pass long ago.

Have you ever been named “Employee of the Month?” Was it an honor, a popularity contest, or “your turn?”

Why Focusing on Culture Is as Critical as Results

Recognize This! — Jack Welch puts company culture ahead of results. Do you?

When you hear the name “Jack Welch,” what do you think of first? “Neutron Jack,” famous for an (often misunderstood) employee differentiation method that resulted in the bottom 10% of performers being let go annually? A powerhouse industry captain who helmed GE for decades?

How about a vastly experienced CEO who puts company culture ahead of results?

Most don’t equate “Neutron Jack” with what many think of as the “soft” side of business. But Jack understands the fundamental power of strong company culture to drive business results, an insight that was also the core tenet of our book, Winning with a Culture of Recognition.

Case in point,  a recent article in Fortune by Jack and Suzy Welch in which they say:

“Soft culture matters as much as hard numbers. And if your company’s culture is to mean anything, you have to hang — publicly — those in your midst who would destroy it. It’s a grim image, we know. But the fact is, creating a healthy, high-integrity organizational culture is not puppies and rainbows. And yet, for some reason, too many leaders think a company’s values can be relegated to a five-minute conversation between HR and a new employee. Or they think culture is about picking which words — do we “honor” our customers or “respect” them? — to engrave on a plaque in the lobby. What nonsense.

“An organization’s culture is not about words at all. It’s about behavior — and consequences. It’s about every single individual who manages people knowing that his or her key role is that of chief values officer, with Sarbanes-Oxley-like enforcement powers to match. It’s about knowing that at every performance review, employees are evaluated for both their numbers and their values.”

Jack and Suzy go on to argue why you must get rid of the person that brings in the numbers while behaving in ways completely opposite the company values. This article in Inc. magazine walks through the four most common excuses for not getting rid of your worst employees and why you must overcome them.

The Fortune article points to several foundational requirements for building a winning culture of recognition that is proven to drive bottom-line business results through increased employee engagement, retention, productivity and performance. Not least of these are:

  1. Making culture an ongoing topic of conversation, training and reinforcement instead of a one-time event
  2. Taking the values off the plaque on the wall and deeply integrating them into the daily work of employees
  3. Clear rewards – and consequences – for how employees reflect the values in their work

If you want to build a winning culture of recognition in your organization based on these principles and more designed to drive the business results your CEO cares about, join me for my latest workshops in Dallas and Boston.

Register today!

  • Dallas, Texas – May 10, 2012 – Hilton Dallas Lincoln Center
  • Greater Boston, Mass. – June 14, 2012 – Westin Waltham

All sessions start with breakfast at 7:30, then kicking off the workshop at 8:00. We’ll end at noon with a box lunch. Readers of my blog also get a 50% discount on the registration price. Just be sure to use code: RECOGNIZETHIS when registering.


Yes, HR Hates Performance Reviews, Too

Recognize This! — “The enemy you know” isn’t a good enough reason to keep relying on a broken process that demoralizes employees.

Eve Tahmincioglu ran a story on today on just this topic. Jumping off of results from the SHRM/Globoforce Winter 2012 research, Eve pointed out this stat and comment from my CEO, Eric Mosley:

“The poll found that 45 percent of HR leaders thought reviews weren’t good gauges of a worker’s performance, compared to 39 percent last year. The increase points to “a more heightened concern from HR leaders about the shortfalls of traditional performance management,” said Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley. “Annual performance reviews continue to be the lightening rod for what’s wrong with traditional performance management,” he added.

Eve went on to cite the much stronger position of Samuel Culbert, author of Get Rid of the Performance Review!: How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing – and Focus on What Really Matters. Culbert’s response to why HR sticks with performance reviews they loathe themselves:

“Even though they hate getting and giving reviews and know they are bogus, they are comfortable with it. It’s the enemy they know. … [The HR department gets] much of its power from championing, running and having access to all the reviews. They have a lot of self-interest in preserving this ridiculous, morale-busting and results-damaging practice.”

I wouldn’t go that far. The formal review process can have a place, but only when part of a much more useful and meaningful process of frequent, timely feedback and praise from far more people than just the manager – essentially, crowdsourcing performance management.

My only quibble with Eve’s article is her very last point about needing to play office politics in an environment of crowdsourced performance management. This simply isn’t the case when you’ve developed a true culture of recognition that naturally feeds social performance management.

If you want to build your winning culture of recognition, including a custom one-page strategy to make that happen while achieving your bigger business goals with measurable results, join me at my upcoming interactive workshops in Dallas and Boston (dates and locations below).

Register Today!

  • Dallas, Texas – May 10, 2012 – Hilton Dallas Lincoln Center
  • Greater Boston, Mass. – June 14, 2012 – Westin Waltham

All sessions start with breakfast at 7:30, then kicking off the workshop at 8:00. We’ll end at noon with a box lunch so those who need to rush back to work can do so. But those who have time to stay and chat with us and their fellow participants further are more than welcome to do so over lunch.

Readers of my blog also get a 50% discount on the registration price. Just be sure to use code: RECOGNIZETHIS when registering.


Research Shows Recognition Increases Retention & Performance

Recognize This! –Without a truly strategic recognition program, you’re likely not doing all you can to retain employees, help them achieve and sustain maximum productivity, and engage them in your culture.

This seems to be research reporting week for me. Following on the heels of SHRM/Globoforce research on the bottom-line ROI of employee recognition, is this research from Office Team: “Recognize Results: Drive Success through Employee Recognition.”

Surveying office administrative personnel, the survey revealed:

  • 66% would leave their current position if not shown appreciation by their manager
  • 67% say receiving recognition greatly or somewhat improves their performance

That last point mirrors a client of ours whose internal employee surveys show 93% of employees saying receiving formal recognition helps motivate them to sustain high performance.

I’m not surprised by (but pleased to see) survey respondents strongly saying the praise itself is the most meaningful element – being noticed for their work with specific, meaningful and personal messages of thanks and appreciation. As the report noted:

“Many of the rewards administrative professionals rated highest did not involve money. Cash, for example, was far down the list. Most forms of recognition ranked highly by administrative professionals are cost-effective. Top responses included an in-person thank-you or communicating an administrator’s achievements to upper management. One professional’s comment may best sum up the power of praise: ‘Simple recognition on a frequent basis keeps me going far more than anything else.'”

But whatever you do, if you’re going to make the effort to recognize employees, be sure you do it right.  A member of my consulting team keeps a “tombstone” award on her desk from a prior company. Though she received the “President’s Award,” her name is spelled wrong in the engraving. Any personal meaning or value in the award was instantly lost.

This video from Office Team drives the point home:

Are you truly investing all you can in retaining employees, helping them achieve peak productivity and sustain it over time, and engaging them in the culture of your organization? Without a strategic employee recognition program in place, you’re likely not.

Crowdsourcing Performance Management: A Discussion on How to Do It Right

Recognize This! — You can’t have a meaningful discussion about performance, goals, and successes in an environment of fear, dread and anxiety.

How do you feel about performance reviews? Personally, I think the annual performance review (as most commonly implemented) is broken. It’s too infrequent, too fraught with anxiety and fear (for the manager as well as the employee), and too ineffective at doing what it is supposed to do – deliver solid, actionable praise and feedback on employee performance for a year’s worth of work (not just the work completed within the last week or so).

What’s the solution? I recently shared two case studies from companies that kicked the annual review to the kerb quite successfully. But the answer really isn’t as simple as that.

One benefit of the annual review is it forces managers to have conversations with employees about their work. But everyone hates and dreads them. And if you go into a meeting full of fear, dread and hate, are you really in any position to hear what is being said in a constructive way?

Of course not. Several peers of mine from various organizations providing HR services chimed in on this topic in an article appearing today from SHRM: “Inviting the Masses to Rate Employee Performance.” (Membership required for access)

In the article I speak in favor of crowdsourcing feedback and performance, commenting: “It’s hard to see the downside to crowdsourcing because it’s tremendously important to give employees a voice.

Another commenter voiced concern about inappropriate comments and passive-aggressive behavior, but I don’ think this should preclude people from considering crowdsourcing feedback. As I say in the article: “It’s the same as inappropriate comments in an email or team meeting. There are HR processes for people who don’t act with integrity.”

This idea is very different from 360 degree feedback, a difference aptly explained by Scott Erker, senior vice president of DDI:

“360 is a single point in time and is typically structured around a competency model. People answer questions only in that structure. It’s a process that sits in a box. Crowdsourcing, on the other hand, is always on, every day, and it lacks structure. It’s going to be much more organic.”

How do you get to crowdsourcing feedback and performance? Social performance management is an important factor, allowing anyone – peers, colleagues and managers alike – to share their detailed feedback and praise on the achievements and behaviors of their fellow employees. Folding this informal crowd-sourced feedback into more formal processes is the trick that brings value and insight into the true performance of employees.

Do you see a place for crowdsourcing feedback or do you prefer the more formal annual review process?