You Asked: Answering Your Questions about The Power of Thanks (Part 2)

by Derek Irvine

Cover of Power of Thanks BookRecognize This! – Social recognition is a very powerful means of creating and managing culture, when structured in a considered, thoughtful way.

Continuing on my last post, below are the remaining questions asked in our recent webinar about our new book, The Power of Thanks. (Download a recording of the webinar.)

Q10: How should companies balance positive recognition with encouraging people to offer candid criticism, as well? In other words, is there a risk that focusing on encouraging positive recognition risks silencing negative feedback?

There is a far greater risk to negative feedback outweighing positive. Both are important, but one thing to be sure to avoid is the “feedback sandwich,” which is just confusing to all. Check out these posts on research showing it takes 5 positive comments to outweigh one negative for feedback recipients and Gallup research showing employees whose managers acknowledge their strengths are far more engaged than those whose managers focus on their weaknesses.

Q11: I am in management in a department that has just completed a hostile takeover of another department. There is a great deal of mistrust and dysfunction. How can we turn this around without undermining the needed authority we have to maintain?

While departmental, many of the principles for any kind of merging of cultures likely applies. I recommend the information in this post: “The Power of Thanks during M&A – 5 Steps to Merge Company Cultures.”

Q12: I give recognition frequently, but I do not receive it (personally) because upper management doesn’t believe in it. I purchase recognition items out of my own money, but just can’t seem to get buy-in from the top.

A strong business case for recognition that appeals to what upper management cares about most would likely be a strong approach. I refer you specifically to chapter 8 in The Power of Thanks, “Driving ROI and Business Results.” Working with customers to create solid business cases is also a service my team offers. Reach out through the email link above if we can help further.

Q13: In today’s environment, we are getting very impersonal and managers miss the little things that count when it comes to employee recognition. Agreed?

Agreed. It’s the many little things that make us a success. Even the very best managers can’t be expected to see all the good occurring around them every day, especially in today’s distributed workforces. That’s why peer recognition is vitally important to empower everyone to “catch someone doing something good. This post has more detail: Open the Floodgates of Recognition.

Q14: Is it effective to do a “recognition” program within a smaller group–if you can’t impact the entire company? And can you give more examples of the best ways to do that?

It can be effective to structure a program in a smaller group, but the same principles of best practice program design apply. No matter the size of the group, follow the blueprint for recognition success outlined in chapter 7 of The Power of Thanks, “Building a Social Recognition Framework.” Doing so will not only ensure success of the program within your smaller group, but also prove the value of your efforts to the company as a whole (hopefully enabling you to expand the positivity to the entire organization).

Q15: Is there a blueprint/best way to measure employee engagement? Cultural health?

That’s a question the various employee engagement survey providers would want to weigh in on, I’m sure. My advice would be to be sure any survey you conduct, you’re prepared to take action on feedback received in a very timely fashion. Otherwise people think their time spent offering their opinions is wasted. For measuring culture health, there’s no better way than staying on top of the factors you’ve determined to be the markers of your culture – your core values (in most cases). Chapter 9 in The Power of Thanks, “How Social Recognition Impacts HR” addresses this topic in much greater detail, delving into the power of big data and people analytics.

Q16: Is there a value to doing a recognition program that simply acknowledges and gives thanks without actual awards?

“Thanks Only” recognition programs have a couple of challenges, first of which is no calibration of recognition to level of effort, contribution, result achieved. Someone who led a cross-departmental team on a project with company-wide, lasting impact should be recognized at a higher level than someone who contributed as part of team to achieving a short-term goal. Without that calibration and differentiation, recognition becomes devalued very quickly. Also, research shows employees themselves find ethanks to not be memorable or have a lasting impact.

Q17: Do you have any research on gamification tools and their impact on social collaboration and recognition. Any success stories or key things to look for in gamification software?

Gamification is a tricky issue. In a true incentives or contest scenario, then gamification techniques make good sense. But in true recognition, you want to be sure all praise and appreciation activity is organic. You don’t want people to game recognition in terms of wanting to be a “top recognizer” on a leaderboard, as that only encourages people to recognize others for the wrong reasons. Again, my colleague, Darcy, has done a terrific job of explaining this in more depth in this post: “5 Myths about Gamification Everyone Should Know.”

Q18: What would be the difference between current social recognition actions and actions like “employee of the month”?

Employee of the Month programs, as traditionally implemented, are often seen as “Teacher’s Pet” programs (John is always the winner as he’s the boss’s favorite) or “Who’s Turn Is It This Month?” (rotating the award through the team, regardless of how deserved the acknowledgement is). There is way to salvage these programs through social recognition practices, which I’ve discussed in this post: “Is Your Employee of the Month Program Recognizing the Right People?”

Clearly, we enjoy addressing your questions here on Recognize This! Feel free to reach out through the email link above any time or in comments on any post. I often address those questions in posts directly.

What are your biggest questions or concerns around social recognition?

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

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