Archive for the "Culture of Appreciation" Category

Recognition, from Culture to Practice!

By Traci Pesch

Photographic light spiralRecognize This! – A sustainable culture of recognition starts with “why” to inform positive spirals between culture and practices.

Why does employee recognition matter? What elements make social recognition a success? How do we even define “success?” What types of significant results are achievable through social recognition?

These are a few of the most common questions I hear about social recognition. Beyond the obvious, “Yes, it’s important to say ‘thank you’ – to notice, acknowledge, and appreciate the efforts of those around you,” social recognition does have significant impact on how our people experience work. (So why not make it a more WorkHuman environment?)

So, why is recognition important?  More importantly why is creating a culture or recognition vs just implementing another program so important?  A culture of recognition contributes to success by creating a positive spiral effective, encouraging greater alignment with core values, and reinforcing key behaviors that drive businesses forward.

In turn, connections between employees are strengthened, leading to greater engagement and satisfaction, as well as improved trust and collaboration.  Employees who are recognized for their contributions are more likely to bring their whole self to work, resulting in a range of outcomes and results.  Essentially, recognition done right, drives top priorities and business results.

Illustration of culture spiral text

We’ve thought about this a lot. It’s our passion. We’ve been refining this with our customers for years, codified in our book The Power of Thanks.

Recognition BlueprintThis blueprint for social recognition success involves the elements illustrated here, starting with securing executive sponsorship and defining your goals and metrics for success, then continuing though creation of a strong program designed to reach all employees for that engaging recognition experience, and then offering a great choice of rewards in order to ensure every recognition moment has the longest emotional tail possible.

These are the elements from which our best practices and benchmarks are derived.  These best practices and this approach, is proven with large, global companies across many verticals.

With these elements in mind, have a look at your employee recognition program and the current state against each key element of success.  Our vision for all of our clients is to truly build a culture of recognition and appreciation that lives, grows and is sustainable.  As a matter of fact, this year we’re celebrating 10 years of partnership with several clients, who transformed their thinking from “let’s have a recognition program” to “let’s build a sustainable culture of appreciation and recognition and have quantifiable results to back up the WHY.”

What are some of your company’s ambitions for establishing a culture of recognition?

Top 3 Drivers of Employee Satisfaction (and Salary Isn’t One of Them)

by Traci Pesch

Rabbit on a benchRecognize This! – Company culture, career opportunities and trust in senior leaders drive employee satisfaction far more than salary.

Have you ever gone down rabbit holes on the web, where you start reading one article, then click an embedded link that seems intriguing, and then do it again in the next article? The next thing you realize, three hours have passed, you missed a phone call with a colleague, and worst, you missed your regular infusion of Diet Coke (okay, maybe that last part is just me).

I have Glassdoor to thank for my latest trip down the rabbit hole through the innocent entry point of their list of the 25 highest paying companies in America. Unsurprisingly, all 25 spots are held by consulting and high-tech firms. Far more interesting to me was this paragraph at the end of the article:

“While the companies on this list pay handsomely and a Glassdoor survey shows salary and compensation are among peoples’ top considerations before accepting a job, Glassdoor research also shows that salary is not among the leading factors tied to long-term employee satisfaction. In contrast, culture and values, career opportunities, and trust in senior leadership are the biggest drivers of long-term employee satisfaction.”

It’s that second link that proved my undoing. As a passionate believer in the importance of core-values-driven cultures, especially those reinforced through recognition, I had to click. It took me to this report from June 2015, which included several thought provoking statements: (largely quoting below, emphasis mine):

“A 10% increase in employee pay is associated with a 1 point increase in overall company satisfaction on a 0-100 scale, controlling for all other factors. In other words, if an employee making $40,000 per year were given a raise to $44,000 per year, his or her overall employee satisfaction would increase from 77 percent to 78 percent. And it’s important to note that there is a diminishing return to happiness for every extra $1,000 in earnings.”

Glassdoor then dug further into the findings to find out, if money isn’t the main driver of employee satisfaction, then what is? They went back to their employer review survey (another link!) to add controls for employee ratings on business outlook, career opportunities, culture and values, compensation and benefits, senior leadership and work-life balance. The results:

“In this regression, all of these control variables were statistically significant predictors of workplace satisfaction. And the model predicts overall satisfaction pretty well, explaining about 76% of variation in employee satisfaction. From this model, we find an employee’s culture and values rating for the company has the biggest impact on job satisfaction. And not surprising given the findings above, we find an employee’s compensation and benefits rating has the second smallest effect on overall satisfaction, ahead of business outlook rating.”

[Tweet “Employee perception of company culture and core values has highest impact on #EmployeeEngagement” @WorkHuman]

Company Culture ImportanceWondering why the culture and values rating is so influential, Glassdoor determined, “An employee’s culture and values rating probably represents a combination of factors that contribute to overall well-being such as company morale, employee recognition, and transparency within the organization.”

Why did this fascinate me so greatly? Culture matters. And every employee in your organization owns, influences and benefits from the culture – whether it’s the culture you want or the one allowed to “just happen.” And let’s not ignore the statement in the original quotation above about the importance of trust in senior leaders. Don’t forget the findings from the latest WorkHuman Research Institute employee survey showing the dramatic impact of recognition on trust for leaders.

Recognition Impact on Trust

What most drives your satisfaction and engagement in your work?

Make Work Human by Making it Personal

By Derek Irvine

Painting on wallRecognize This! – Providing an individualized experience to employees, rather than one-size-fits-all, is a key to making work human and improving well-being.

One of the characteristics of modern organizations and the WorkHuman movement at large is making the workplace a more individualized experience as one part of a larger unified and human-centered culture.

This often stands in contrast to thinking that still lingers from the early days of scientific management, when science was first applied to workplaces in order to uncover and standardize the single most efficient way of working. The primary consequence has been the assumption that what works for one employee will work for the next.

As science has progressed, however, we are beginning to understand the important role of more human ways of working – through individual preferences, styles, motivations, and abilities. Building appreciation and care for the individual into a human-powered culture can lead companies to greater productivity and success.

One need look only as far as desk arrangements to see progress away from a one-size-fits-all mentality. I came across a paper in an ergonomics journal just this morning, questioning the feasibility of guidelines for sit-stand workstation positioning to improve well-being. It turns out that the standing and sitting configurations were “unique to each participant… and each was significantly different from [the other].” Everyone, it turns out, has their own set of “sweet spots” in terms of what ideally works for them.

I bring up this research to illustrate not only how work can be quite individualized at the most basic of levels, but also how quickly complexity can increase. Desk preferences are shaped by a few variables; work overall is defined by a breadth of physical, psychological, and social factors that shape our experience. The challenge for company leaders is to balance the flexibility of allowing employees to work in their sweet spots, while also providing some measure of cohesion and alignment across the organization.

The essential secret to success, as some have written, is to pay attention to the key differences between and among employees, and use that information to individualize and humanize the work experience.

In some instances, there are broad practices that meet fundamental human needs around accomplishment, communication, and purpose. Individualization within this scope entails listening and understanding what specifically motivates employees and delivering recognition and feedback, for example, in a manner that aligns with each individual’s preferences.

There are other practices- policies and procedures for example- that are more specific. Individualization here means offering greater flexibility and choice, in order to meet employees where they are. Such policies could run the gamut from flexible workstations to remote working arrangements, providing spaces for fun and spaces for recharging, and allowing flexibility or autonomy in the way work is done.

All of these practices reflect a greater appreciation of the different ways in which people can bring more of themselves to work, ultimately creating more well-being and productivity. By approaching the design of work on an individualized basis, and amplifying that effect through a powerful shared culture, leaders can show that they care about creating a more human workplace and reap the benefits of an engaged and motivated workforce.

What types of practices would help make your workplace more individualized?

How Recognition Makes WorkHuman

by Lynette Silva

Coffe mug with foam in shape of a smileRecognize This! – We all have the ability to create more human workplaces for ourselves and those around us, simply by saying thank you.

Recently we released our WorkHuman Research Institute Spring 2016 report, The ROI of Recognition in building a More Human Workplace,” assessing the attitudes and expectations of those fully employed from their workplaces today. (Be sure to tune in Thursday, April 14, for Derek Irvine’s discussion with Sharlyn Lauby of the findings of the report. You can register for the webinar here.)

The report is quite detailed, offering “a blueprint for what practices will drive employee behavior, attitudes, and business results. Specifically, [how] employee recognition is a foundational element of building a human workplace.” To me, the greatest value in the report is in the questions it answers, which I’ve highlighted here.

Why is recognition such a foundational element for building a human workplace?

A human workplace is one that fosters a culture of recognition and appreciation while empowering individuals, strengthening relationships, and providing a clear purpose aligned with achievable goals. Social recognition is vital for many reasons, especially for:

  1. What it communicates – Recognition lets people know, “You are noticed. You and your work have value and meaning.” The research reveals the WorkHuman connection – when employees believe organization leaders care about creating a more human workplace:
    • 90% say work they do has meaning and purpose
    • 78% feel like opinions, voice and ideas matter to leaders
  2. How it helps build relationships – The act of appreciating others naturally connects people more closely, at work and at home. In the survey, 70% of employees say recognition makes them feel emotionally connected to peers while another 70% say recognition makes them happier at home. Timeliness of the recognition matters, though. When recognized in the last month, 86% of employees say they trust one another, another 86% say they trust the boss, and 82% say they trust senior leaders. Again, the WorkHuman connection is clear – when employees believe their leaders care about creating a more human workplace:
    • 93% feel they fit in and belong in the organization
    • 91% say they are motivated to work hard for my organization and colleagues
  3. How it boosts performance and productivity – Knowing our work is valued and appreciated by others naturally makes us want to contribute more. 79% of employees say recognition makes them work harder, and 78% say recognition makes them more productive. Interestingly, recognition also helps employees feel better equipped to handle the constant change common in today’s workplaces, which is often a detriment to productivity. When recognized in the last month, 69% of employees say they are excited or confident about change, vs. 41% saying the same who had never been recognized. What’s the WorkHuman connection? When employees believe their leaders care about creating a more human workplace, 90% say they are able to find a solution to any challenge.

Perception is reality. How our employees perceive their own recognition and their leaders’ commitment to human workplaces dramatically impacts the bottom line.

How do I join the WorkHuman movement?

The best place to engage with others who care deeply about creating more human workplaces for all employees is the WorkHuman conference, May 9-11, in Orlando, FL. There’s still time to register. Use code WH16RT300 to get the blog reader discount.

And a final bonus question – do you work in a human workplace today, and if not, what would need to change?


Putting Recognition Out to Pasture?

By Derek Irvine

CowsRecognize This! – Research often helps to expand our understanding of interactions at work and the impact on productivity, even if it does come from dairy farms.

First, for all of the skeptics: this is not an April Fool’s Day post. You’ll understand the reason for that disclaimer in a moment, but I thought today would be a good opportunity to look at the lighter side of recognition.

Sometimes in the hunt for research, you come across a study that is too good to skip, regardless of how tangential the headline is to what you are actually looking for. The study in question from a few years back: “Happy cows produce more milk.

What does that have to do with recognition and improving the work experience?

As it turns out, researchers with Newcastle University decided to investigate the relationship between dairy farmers and their herds, particularly in terms of how different “best practices” or behaviors would relate to milk yield. Of all those practices, farmers who “call their cows by name” and treat them as individuals experienced statistically significant gains in milk production of 3.5% compared to farmers that do not.

According to the researchers, “cows like being treated nicely by humans”, which reduces fear/stress and the resulting biological impacts that has on productivity and interactions with the farmer. Happiness with how the cows are treated is related to productivity. The parallels to human work experiences aren’t exactly one-to-one, but they aren’t all that far off either. Check out the video below that discusses some of these parallels in more detail (email subscribers may need to click through):

Recognition and improvements in individual treatment are part of this larger fabric of interactions at work, apparently whether they take place in a pasture or an office.

I don’t think we’ll see much uptake in social recognition among farm animals (for one, the research on peer-to-peer relationships among cows is lacking, but at least researchers will soon be looking more closely into “assessing an animal’s state of mind”); nevertheless, it’s an entertaining thought for first Friday in April.

What lessons on recognition have you come across in unusual places?

If you want to learn more about improving productivity in your own organization by becoming more human and treating others well: use code WH16RT300 to register for WorkHuman and receive a $300 discount.

Are You Psychologically Safe at Work?

by Lynette Silva

People shunning another personRecognize This! – Successful work teams require a sense of psychological safety, which is key to working human.

Newsflash – no person is an island, especially at work. Okay, maybe that’s not much of a newsflash. In today’s complex work and world cultures, little work gets done by an individual contributor working solely on a project all by herself. We are all part of teams working toward end goals. Even within those teams, I doubt any of us work on the same team for an extended length of time. We may be assigned to formal, hierarchical teams for reporting structures, but the work tends to get done through informal teams that are constantly forming, breaking apart and reforming with new members based on the needs of the latest project.

And yet, so many engagement efforts seem to focus on the individual. How do we make the individual more effective? What can we do to inspire, motivate and encourage the individual?

It’s time to take a much closer look at the dynamics of the individuals within a team and what makes the team work more effectively. Google has done that heavy lifting through their Project Aristotle (described in this New York Times article) – a classic data-crunching study of how their people interact and collaborate to get work done. The findings were threefold:

  1. The individual people in the team don’t really matter in assessing the success of the team’s outcomes.
  2. Successful teams consistently showed two features – members listened to each other (no one person dominated conversation or leadership) and were sensitive to the feelings and needs of the team members.
  3. “Psychological safety” – a sense that it’s okay to take risks within the group – is critical to success.

What does this all boil down to? Human dynamics at work. And what does this mean for readers of this blog? To make our work teams most effective, we need to help the humans on those teams be more psychologically sensitive to their teammates to create the safe space necessary for magic to happen.

And this brings us full circle – helping the team requires us to help the individual. Sue Bingham in SmartBlogs wrote about the five factors individuals can focus on:

  1. Positive assumptions about your teammates
  2. Trust in them and their abilities
  3. Inclusion of everyone and their ideas
  4. Challenge with interesting work
  5. Recognition of desired behaviors to reinforce outcomes

Acknowledging these needs of the individual combined with the needs of the team is what enables us to WorkHuman. We are unique individuals that bring a myriad of “personal” factors into our team experience – and both must be integrated to get the best results. As Google learned:

“What Project Aristotle has taught people within Google is that no one wants to put on a ‘work face’ when they get to the office. No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel ‘psychologically safe,’ we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy. We can’t be focused just on efficiency. Rather, when we start the morning by collaborating with a team of engineers and then send emails to our marketing colleagues and then jump on a conference call, we want to know that those people really hear us. We want to know that work is more than just labor.”

Emphasis on that last sentence is mine. Work can be – should be – more than just labor. And we have a better shot at achieving that when we enjoy our work with others.

Do you feel psychologically safe at work? Do you want to help your teams achieve a more human dynamic? Join us at WorkHuman in Orlando, FL, May 9-11, where you can learn more from Elani Pallas and her session on Disruptive Human-Centric Leadership or from Don Yeager speaking on What We Can Learn from the World’s Best Teams. (Register with code WH16RT300 for $300 off.)


3 Steps to Strengthen Peer Recognition

By Derek Irvine

Many hands playing pianoRecognize This! – Recognition of one’s peers can be daunting at first, but these steps can help employees build their skill and competency to achieve greater benefits.

One of the challenges of implementing a social recognition solution is developing employees’ capacity and comfort around peer-to-peer aspects.  Especially where recognition has traditionally or predominantly been a top-down process, it can be difficult for all employees to know exactly where to begin when recognizing the contributions of their peers.

To get the ball rolling, here are some ideas to help you bring peer-to-peer recognition to the next level, regardless of where you or others are in the process:


  1. Start with examples of personal impact. Chances are that your employees are already contributing to the work of the colleagues around them, either through their own work or by stepping in to provide a helping hand when necessary. Unfortunately, many of these behaviors are only appreciated in the context of the immediate relationships where help is provided, or worse, are not recognized at all. But this is the easiest place to start a positive cycle: taking the time to recognize the personal impact that coworkers already have in the course of day-to-day work.


  1. Align personal impact to organizational values. When examples of personal impact are readily recognized, they provide a good starting point for thinking about how those examples also tie into the organization’s core values and goals. Moving from examples to values can be far easier, especially at the outset of a new program or cultural transformation, than the reverse of starting with a value and then looking for examples of behavior. Gradually, the emphasis towards values-based recognition can increase as examples become more widely shared and transmitted around the organization.


  1. Leverage values to enhance contribution. Over time, employees become more comfortable recognizing the behaviors of their fellow workers that have personal impact to them, as well as benefit to the organization by aligning with a set of core values or outcomes. As skill and comfort increase, individuals can become much more strategic in their recognition of others, recognizing and also exhibiting behavior that aligns to a wider benefit yet may be more difficult to “catch.” Employees become much more proactive in being on the lookout for good behavior, rather than merely reacting to contributions that directly affect them.


Undoubtedly, the employees of an organization will be at many different levels of comfort and practice with peer recognition as the practice is adopted, necessitating the deployment of the multiple strategies named above. A crucial aspect of successfully managing those strategies is finding a solution that provides in-depth analytics and insight into pockets where peer recognition is successfully occurring and where it can be improved – until peer recognition is a robust practice across the entire organization.

What steps have you found helpful as you have developed your own practice of recognizing others?


To Change Organization Culture You Must Change This First

by Lynette Silva

Women working on computerRecognize This! – All organizational change rides on changing the daily behaviors of the humans first.

Company culture. What is it? What does it do? How can you change it or at least manipulate it? All are questions we encounter often with the organizations we work with regularly. And it’s such a popular topic because leaders realize they are working within a strong and forceful culture, whether it’s the one they want, the one they inherited or the one they’ve “allowed to happen” over time.

Culture has been a topic of this blog, our books, and the WorkHuman movement many times. Because of its importance, it’s a topic I like to revisit and bring back to the fore from time to time. This time, it’s a terrific article on the 10 principles of organizational culture by Jon Katzenbach, et. al. in Strategy + Business. I like particularly how the article helps frame the answers to the most common questions about organizational culture.

What is organizational culture?

At its simplest, culture is all about the underlying behaviors of the people:

“A company’s culture is its basic personality, the essence of how its people interact and work… Culture is the self-sustaining pattern of behavior that determines how things are done.”

And because humans are involved, change can be complex:

“Corporate cultures are constantly self-renewing and slowly evolving: What people feel, think, and believe is reflected and shaped by the way they go about their business. Formal efforts to change a culture (to replace it with something entirely new and different) seldom manage to get to the heart of what motivates people, what makes them tick. Strongly worded memos from on high are deleted within hours. You can plaster the walls with large banners proclaiming new values, but people will go about their days, right beneath those signs, continuing with the habits that are familiar and comfortable.”

Why try to change culture if it’s so difficult to do?

The simple answer – because the benefits are astounding. Organizational culture is a top component of employee engagement. And as Katzenbach points out, it’s the engagement of the people in achieving your priorities through your culture that drives business results:

“When positive culture forces and strategic priorities are in sync, companies can draw energy from the way people feel. This accelerates a company’s movement to gain competitive advantage, or regain advantages that have been lost.”

How do you change organizational culture?

It’s not easy, but it is simple – focus on the behaviors of the humans involved. Katzenbach recommends:

“Behaviors are the most powerful determinant of real change. What people actually do matters more than what they say or believe. And so to obtain more positive influences from your cultural situation, you should start working on changing the most critical behaviors — the mind-sets will follow. Over time, altered behavior patterns and habits can produce better results.”

This illustration from Katzenbach shows the steps change culture – notice how they all focus in one way or another on behaviors.

More to the point, every one of these 10 principles can be strongly influenced through social recognition practices that encourage every employee to notice and very specifically appreciate the desired behaviors in others. True social recognition reaches across organization and geographic boundaries to unite everyone in a common sense of purpose and mission in a way that visibly shares the successes and contributions of others in demonstrating those desired behaviors.

Chart view of cultural mobilizers

Source: The Katzenbach Center For further insights: See

Need additional proof? Look to the seemingly unchangeable culture of the U.S. Navy. As WorkHuman speaker and author of Give and Take and Originals, Adam Grant points out in an HBR article on building a culture originality, if you want to “unleash innovation and change in the ultimate bastion of bureaucracy,” you need to change the accepted and prized behaviors. In this case, find, nurture and replicate “a network of original thinkers who would collaborate to question long-held assumptions and generate new ideas.”

Do you have the company culture you want? Or are you limping along in a culture that holds you – and everyone – back? Join us at WorkHuman May 9-11 in Orlando, FL, to learn more on driving organizational change to create more human workplaces. (Use code WH16RT300 when registering for a $300 discount.)

Frequency Matters!

By Derek Irvine

All hands in the middle.Recognize This! – Employee Appreciation Day is a good way to show appreciation… but year-round social recognition is much more impactful.

By now, most of you are probably aware of Employee Appreciation Day, which falls on the first Friday in March. The intent for the day is for the leadership of many companies to press pause and express gratitude for the contributions and hard work of their employees.

While I can certainly agree with the sentiment behind the occasion, employee appreciation should not be confined to just a single day’s worth of celebration. Just as employees contribute to the success of the organization throughout the year, recognition and appreciation for those contributions is most powerful when it is frequently delivered.

There are a couple of reasons illustrating why employees should be appreciated throughout the year instead of on a one-off basis (in response to Employee Appreciation Day or other milestones that businesses may sometimes choose).

When appreciation is frequently provided, as a part of a larger emphasis on creating a WorkHuman culture, there is a powerful connection made between specific behaviors and performance for each individual employee. Recognition that is commensurate with the complexity, timeframe, and impact of those behaviors serves to further strengthen those connections.

Recognition that is broadcast to all employees within the space of a single day loses much of this power. For one, the messaging, events, or rewards tend to be equivalent across the entire workforce, blunting the line-of-sight that employees have between their own contributions and the success of the organization.

The distance between employee contributions and the sparse timing of such events further limits the potential impact. One may question whether a once-a-year event covers all of an employee’s accomplishments, or only the most recent one that can be remembered.

This is not to say that employees do not appreciate being appreciated in this manner, but the benefits of these events is likely to be short-lived, and lost on a majority of the workforce as soon as the event has passed. (How many people are still talking about the Oscars in your office?) Social recognition that occurs on a regular basis, on the other hand, creates an ongoing conversation, with the ability to engage everyone in the company culture and align behavior to core values.

If recognizing others regularly seems like a big commitment, it shouldn’t. Chances are that a good deal of you probably already do this informally, whether it’s thanking a coworker for their help or giving some other small token of appreciation. A recognition solution can help amplify these small acts across the entire organization, helping to drive culture, success, and the employee experience. The more frequently recognition is made a part of your company’s fabric, the greater these benefits are likely to be.

How will you be observing Employee Appreciation Day, and more importantly, how will you be keeping it going?

Don’t Forget This Important Component in the Manager Toolkit

by Traci Pesch

Casual gathering of business colleaguesRecognize This! – Peer recognition serves a critical role, but managers must not abdicate their responsibility to notice and praise employees, too.

In my role as a consultant, one of my favorite job duties is traveling to client locations to lead and facilitate strategy sessions. Other than missing an occasional volleyball game or school event for my kids, it’s usually fairly easy to handle logistically – unless my road warrior husband also happens to be traveling at the same time. That’s when we bring in the support team – the grandparents.

We are blessed to have both sets of grandparents close by and ever willing to step in and help out when we travel for work. They do a great job and the kids love them. But, no matter how fun or how good their snickerdoodle cookies, grandparents aren’t Mom and Dad. Inevitably when we return, the kids race to us with big grins on their faces and saying, “You’re home! We missed you! Let me tell you about everything that happened when you were gone.”

What’s the connection to social recognition? Recognition and appreciation from peers and colleagues is undeniably important. Peers see and celebrate with us the great work we do every day. Our friends and colleagues at work are like our grandparents. They celebrate our accomplishments, cheer us on, and offer regular encouragement and celebration.

Parents – well, they’re more like managers. We parents have a responsibility to celebrate the good as well as lay down the law. It’s a balance that is profound and never easy. Similarly, managers have a responsibility to both praise employees and offer constructive criticism and redirection when necessary. That’s why the recognition lever is a powerful component of the manager’s toolkit. Recognition from managers is very different than recognition from peers. Recognition from managers signals acknowledgement of excellent work, growth, accomplishment. Recognition from managers carries weight with employees.

Peer recognition is and will always be an important way to add “eyes” to catch someone doing something good and recognize those we work with every day. But that doesn’t lessen the responsibility for managers to also pay attention and recognize, too.

From whom do you most often receive recognition – managers or peers? Which do you feel carries more impact?