Archive for the "Recognition in Tough Times" Category

Give a Bonus of Heartfelt Appreciation This Year

by Lynette Silva

Thank You in woodcutRecognize This! – Even after a difficult year, giving employees the appreciation and recognition they deserve is an important bonus.

Last Summer I followed the Market Basket grocery store saga religiously. I was captivated by the story of non-unionized employees willing to risk their livelihood to keep their CEO. (Here are summary posts about the walkout and the outcome.)

After a six week employee walkout and customer boycott, it’s fairly safe assumption the company took a pretty big financial hit. Employees were rightly concerned that years-long traditions around holiday bonuses might not materialize. Then news broke this week that all associates would indeed receive their deserved bonuses. Local paper The Lowell Sun reported:

“In another sign of a return to normalcy at Market Basket, the company paid out bonuses to employees this week that match or exceed what the chain has awarded in past years. The Christmas and customer-service bonus checks are the first to be handed out since Arthur T. Demoulas returned to running the company in late August.

“‘If we do a good job on our customers and they reward us by shopping with us, we share in the benefit we receive,’ said Dave McLean, Market Basket’s assistant director of operations.

That’s a pretty significant layout, but the commitment to the employee first is the real message that rings through this story.

The Boston CBS news station shared a personal perspective from one employee, Jen Gelvez, who works in the Reading, MA, store office. Ms. Gelvez’s perspective is a brilliant summary of the two elements we must always remember when bonuses are given.

The money matters…

“‘I wasn’t too sure with what was going on in the summer, with the company going into debt,’ Gelvez explains. ‘I didn’t expect [a Christmas bonus] at all. I was just thankful to have a job.’

“But for the divorced mother of two girls, that bonus is Christmas. So when her store manager showed up Tuesday morning bearing bonus checks from Mr. Demoulas, Gelvez almost couldn’t believe it. “To actually receive a Christmas bonus this year was amazing,” she said.

This is always something to keep in mind with a bonus plan. People come to expect them over time. It’s becomes tradition and money that people count on as planned income. It’s great Market Basket was able to continue the tradition this year, but even more so for the sake of the tradition itself.

…but heartfelt appreciation matters more.

“‘Mr. Demoulas writes a beautiful letter every year that each employee gets,’ Gelvez said. ‘I almost cried when I read it this year.’

“Part of that letter reads: ‘The only way our company is able to provide these most-deserved bonus checks is because you, your fellow associates, and our customers had the courage to preserve and protect the culture of this company.’

“Gelvez tears up when she thinks about how lucky she is to work at Market Basket. For her boss, she says only: ‘I just want to thank him. For everything that he did. That’s all.’”

That’s the real message of the bonus. “We couldn’t have done it or continue to do it without you.” That’s what employees most need to know and want to hear – my work matters to the company’s success, to my colleagues, and to my boss.

That’s the real “bonus.”

What kind of special recognition does your company offer at the holidays?

Thank You for Your Service – A Lesson in the Power of Thanks From Our Military Service Members

by Brenda Pohlman

Poster showing all branches of military with "Honor Courage Loyalty" BannerRecognize This! – When recognition and appreciation fully permeate your culture, astounding things can be accomplished, often in the worst of situations.

If you ever doubted the power of recognition, consider the military. I’d venture to say that perhaps no institution on the planet is better at recognition than our armed forces.

Today is Veterans Day in the U.S. (and Remembrance Day in many other countries). It’s a holiday near and dear to my heart. Three of my family members are veterans, two of whom are in their 20th year of active duty. Military service is, as they say, a family affair. I’m not a military spouse or parent mind you, just a sister and daughter, but even in my periphery role I’ve had the chance to be involved. I’m enormously proud of my family’s service to our country and am grateful for the countless opportunities I’ve been given to glimpse a peek into the military lives of my loved ones.

But it wasn’t until I worked in the recognition business that the theme of these experiences became so darn obvious to me. It’s all recognition! As a civilian observer (and recognition strategist) I can clearly see that it is utterly embedded into every corner of military culture. Each of the numerous ceremonies and celebrations I’ve attended throughout the years have been oriented around a recognition moment of some kind – situations focused on acknowledging an individual or team for their commitment and good work…and family was invited to be part of it. Imagine that.

Even the most casual interactions with service members are so often laden with recognition. The simple act of being introduced by my family members to their coworkers includes the inevitable sharing of “why this person is great” stories on both sides. It’s as if there’s a genuine eagerness to publicly and sincerely praise colleagues in front of their loved ones.

The evidence of recognition is everywhere, even at home. My brother’s house, for example, is chock full of representations of career recognition moments – framed handwritten notes of thanks and congratulations, photos signed by legions of teammates, official commemorations of important milestones. The décor is what a designer might describe as “Navy chic,” akin to other trendy decorating styles only with way more recognition on display!

Clearly, this is all by design. The military is simply leveraging the power of thanks to motivate and engage its employees. And it’s doing so in a big, bold, social, emotionally impactful way.

If recognition, praise and appreciation is embraced by the military to inspire people to do amazing things with enormous risk and often immeasurable personal sacrifice, imagine what it can do for your workforce.

On this Veterans Day, take a lesson from our men and women in uniform and thank a coworker. Then pay it back by thanking a veteran too.

Who will you thank today?

Thanking Those Who Go Above-and-Beyond (outside the workplace)

by Lynette Silva

greeting card reading "thank you"Recognize This! – Difficult times are made easier by those who perform with excellence and compassion. They deserve thanks.

My father died last month. It was unexpected. Stroke, caused by an underlying brain tumor. While trite, it is true it’s a blessing he went fairly quickly and didn’t suffer long. But I’m not sharing this with you for sympathy. I’m taking the opportunity to express my appreciation to the medical staff at UnityPoint Health – Methodist in Peoria, IL.

When my dad first fell ill, we expected a full recovery fairly quickly. Then complications set in. He spent a total of two weeks in the hospital, most of it in the Intensive Care Unit. My family is the type that just moves in when one of us is in the hospital. The ICU nurses were very accommodating of our need to be by my dad’s side for the duration. We came and went in shifts (never exceeding the 2 visitors at a time rule), but someone was always there, trying to stay out of the way of the nurses and help whenever we could.

Every single nurse, nurse assistant, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, doctor and staff member was not just accommodating, but comforting and concerned. Not just for my dad’s health and well-being as their jobs required, but for that my mother, my sister and myself as well. One nurse even called me directly when the worst happened to be sure my mom wouldn’t have to leave my dad’s side. That is above-and-beyond. That is true care.

So, today, I’d like to say thank you to the staff of Unity Point Health Methodist. To the ER doctors and nurses, to the ICU team, to the surgical recovery floor staff where my dad had a brief respite between ICU stays, thank you. You made a difficult, horrible experience a bit more bearable.

I’d also like to encourage you to take a moment today to think about those outside your workplace who deserve your thanks and appreciation. Perhaps it’s family members or friends who sustain you in hard times. Perhaps it’s the people at your place of worship. Or maybe it is your medical provider who helps you sustain body, mind and soul. In honor of my dad, I ask you to take a few minutes, reach out, and thank those people, too. Then think about the people you interact with as you run the regular errands of your life – grocery store, gas station, banking, vet, etc. These people are at their place of work when you encounter them, but may not be getting the recognition and appreciation they deserve. Some comments back on blog posts show how true this is in some of the most unexpected places. I’ve heard from readers that recognition and appreciation for people who work in places of worship are particularly lacking, for example.

And recognition at work – from colleagues or customers – is very powerful. It contributes to a more thoughtful, empathetic and caring environment, like what I experienced at UnityPoint Health – Methodist. In my two weeks there, I regularly observed staff helping each other, thanking each other, supporting each other. And I experienced it in a very personal way here at Globoforce. As I went through a difficult, highly personal time, my colleagues were also my friends. Yes, they took over the work that needed to be done, but they also spent personal time reaching out to me and offering support. Our culture of appreciation helps make day-to-day efforts easier – as it smooth over the bumps that we all go through. I am very thankful, too, for my friends at work and their continuing support. I experienced first-hand what our latest Workforce Mood Tracker revealed – just how important friends are at work – as we spend more time with them than our family.  Recognizing and appreciating each other – noticing each other – builds those deep bonds that sustain us.

Don’t Think Retention Is an Issue? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

Recognize This! – Traditional approaches to retention may no longer be enough.

Granted, the recover from the recession has been mediocre at best. In this reality, many company leaders have become complacent in regards to talent, assuming employees don’t have good options elsewhere so they’ll continue to stay put.

Those days are rapidly coming to an end. John Hollon, editor of TLNT, offers a brilliant summary of survey results recently released by OI Partners. Just glance at the chart below and you can quickly see the changing dynamics of retention in the workplace.

Report Higher Turnover Today

Concerned about Turnover

Front-line workers






Senior executives



Middle managers



With numbers like this, it’s no surprise the same survey shows retaining talent (70%) is the top HR challenge this year, closely followed by recruiting the right talent (65%).

So, what do you do to find and retain these top people. Unsurprisingly, the survey also cites coaching as the primary retention strategy, followed by better compensation and benefits. I’m glad to hear the latter, as too many employees took a hit on their pay and benefits during the recession and have yet to see those values restored as the economy continues to improve.

Yet, I’m also concerned that improving employee recognition and appreciation isn’t discussed as a major means of improving retention and recruitment. Indeed, our own Workforce Mood Tracker Survey found that 60% of those who don’t feel appreciated plan to look for a new job (vs. only 20% of those who do feel appreciated). Recognizing employees for their valuable contributions helps them see how they contribute to achieving a greater mission, a key element of both retention and employee engagement.

On the recruitment front, I can do no better than to point you to today’s post on the Globoforce blog in which my colleague, Darcy Jacobsen, says in part:

“All the same, employer brands can’t be ignored. Different from a marketing brand, an employer brand is the impression candidates have of your company and what it might be like to work for you. They have become a critical differentiating tool for attracting candidates. In fact, according to a recent Monster/Unum study of job seekers, culture trumps all.  A full 87 percent of employees said they want a company that they believe “truly cares about the well-being of its employees.”  Only 66 percent of respondents rated a high base salary as very important. This is why creating a great culture, and a great employer brand as a reflection of that culture, matters so much. It lets you put your best foot forward, and attracts the best candidates to your company.”

Retention can no longer be relegated to the back burner. Look closely at what you’re doing to ensure your employees are highly valued, recognized and appreciated in your organization.

How concerned are you about retention of key employees? What are you doing about it?

Compensation Cafe Round-up: Recognition, Rewards & Compensation from Every Angle

Recognize This! – People need recognition, want good rewards, and hope for relief from overwork due to actions taken during the recession.

Today’s post is a round-up of my recent posts on Compensation Cafe.

You Can Never Give Too Much Recognition (August 20, 2012)

One question I’m often asked is, “Can’t you recognize too much or too often? Doesn’t that water down the effect and impact of recognition?” My answer is nearly always to ask another question, “Have you ever received too much recognition?” The answer is invariably, “No.” Find out why in this post (including why I can’t wait to see the new Wreck-It Ralph animated movie).

Employee Rewards: What Do They Want, Anyway? (September 7, 2012)

Occasionally, I like to share with you the horrible storiesI hear of employee recognition and rewards gone wrong. While my cache of stories is, sadly, fairly limitless, today I’ll share just two.

  1. If You Have to Tie Employees Down to Give Them Their Reward, It’s Not Rewarding
  2. If the Employee Has to Wait 30 Years to Be Appreciated, It’s not Rewarding

Read the details of these terrible stories on Compensation Cafe.

What to Do if Salaries Can’t Keep Pace with Economic Recovery (September 17, 2012)

Let me ask you something. During the worst of the recession, did your organization reduce headcount? Did people take on the tasks of those who were let go? Did you freeze salaries? If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions, you’re certainly not alone. But here comes the challenge. As the recovery continues to strengthen (if slowly), what are you doing now? In this post, I talk in more depth about the four options I see for companies as we move forward in the recovery:

  1. Continue as you have
  2. Don’t raise salaries but hire more workers
  3. Increase (or simply restore) salaries but do not hire more workers
  4. Increase salaries of your current workforce and hire more workers

Executive Compensation: What the Conversation Can Tell Us  (October 9, 2012)

A couple of influencers got me curious on when CEO pay and compensation became part of our lexicon. I look at the history of language around these terms, concluding with this. People notice. People question. People discuss. Yes, most understand CEOs bear more of the burden of decision making and more of the risk, but people also notice company results and pay are often disconnected. If your goal is to motivate and engage all employees to give their best every day, be sure you keep your finger firmly on the pulse of employee sentiment and discussion on this topic, too.

3 Ways to Counteract Fear in the Workplace

Recognize This! – Employees respond poorly to fear, hindering success for everyone. Positively counteract fear to get everyone back on the right path.

In a not-so-shocking headline, Forbes recently proclaimed “Job Ax Fears Can Mess with Employee Engagement & Morale.”

While I know no one reading this post is surprised by this in the least, the article does go on to make several good points, including the paranoia caused by constant fear of layoffs leading to a destruction of trust and teamwork.

And this stress is happening at levels of the organization, not just the leadership tier. I wrote about research showing middle managers are far more stressed than senior leaders. Now additional research out of the UK shows the same results.

When people are working in this constant state of fear, they respond in several common ways. They hoard information, thinking they will have too much “institutional knowledge” to be in the next round of layoffs. This leads to aggravation among teammates who find it harder to get the work done, perhaps because they’re doing double work or failing to deliver because of missing information. Very quickly, the result is a breakdown in relationships and the way people work together to get the job done quickly, efficiently and effectively.

3 Ways to Counteract Natural Human Behaviors Caused by Fear

  1. Constantly communicate – A fear environment develops in an information vacuum. People will create their own story (often, a far more negative version) in the absence of the truth. Honestly, clearly and regularly communicate with employees on the state of the company, future direction, and potential impacts.
  2. Encourage recognition between peers – Specifically design a strategic, social recognition program to acknowledge and reward the behaviors you need (and consequently discourage those you don’t.) Encourage employees to recognize each other for sharing information, for speeding projects along, for teamwork, etc.
  3. Set an example – Always remember, employees (indeed, no one) responds well to “Do as I say, not as I do.” Set the example by frequently, specifically and in a timely way recognizing your team members and others in the organization for demonstrating the values and behaviors you need and want to see again and again.

Is fear a common emotion in your workplace? What other ways can you or your leadership work to counteract fear?

Cash Is Not the Currency of Employee Recognition

Recognize This! – Mixing cash with employee recognition confuses the intentions and outcomes of a recognition program.

Let me be clear. Cash is not the currency of employee recognition.

Let me be equally clear. Cash IS the currency of compensation. And unless you have your base pay and compensation structured appropriately, no amount of recognition, praise or feedback will ever be perceived as sufficient or good by employees.

Ann Bares, author of the Compensation Force blog (and editor of the Compensation Café blog where I am a contributor), makes this point well in a post earlier this week:

“We must get cash compensation right – and do the communication and information sharing necessary for employees to understand how this critical baseline of the relationship is set and managed.  If we fail this, if employees believe that there is a fundamental imbalance at the core of employment exchange, chances are good that our efforts to provide sound feedback and express genuine appreciation will fall on deaf (or at least highly skeptical) ears.”

What are the consequences of getting this wrong? Employees think, “Gee, I’m glad you appreciate what I do and I got a nice note, but I’m still paid25% less than my colleagues in the same role who I know for a fact slack off half the day.”

Once you do get your cash compensation right, then why can’t cash also be the currency of recognition? It’s simple. Because cash is the currency of compensation, it quickly becomes an expectation and entitlement when used for recognition. That’s why we see the tremendous disconnect with annual bonus programs and people threatening to quit or even sue if they don’t get their expected annual bonus.

Instead, the currency of recognition is tangible and of economic value, but not cash. Strong recognition requires timely and specific messages of thanks and praise, along with a means to choose a reward for oneself that is personal, meaningful and culturally appropriate. But it is not cash.

What “currency” does your organization use for employee recognition and reward?

UK Workforce Mood Tracker * Recognition Is Strong Motivator

Recognize This! – Employees everywhere need and want recognition for work well done.

For a couple of years now, Globoforce (my company) has been running semi-annual Workforce Mood Tracker™ surveys, testing the opinions and moods of fully employed US workers. (I’ve featured the results of those studies in past posts here and here.)

Now we’ve issued our first UK Workforce Mood Tracker, proving the attitudes and opinions of the workforce are very similar across the pond.

Recognition Keeps People Working Harder and Loyal to You

  • 64% of UK workers would leave their job for a company that clearly recognised contributions.
  • 90% said employee recognition motivates them to do a better job.

People Like Recognition, but Aren’t Recognised Enough

  • 86% said they like to have their efforts/contributions at work recognised
  • 37% are dissatisfied with the level of recognition they receive for doing a good job

Recognition Frequency Is Directly Correlated to Key HR Metrics

  • 70% of those recognised in the last month feel appreciated at their job vs. 11% of those never recognised
  • 35% of those recognised in the last month plan to search for a new job vs. 44% of those never recognised
  • 60% of those recognised in the last month are satisfied with the level of recognition they receive vs. 7% of those never recognized

Frustration around Executive Bonuses Is High

To me, this was particularly interesting. With widespread redundancies and salary reductions:

  • Only 6% believe their organisation improved how they motivate and engage employees throughout the downturn
  • 51% feel these elements had declined.

And that’s despite all the efforts of the Employee Engagement Task Force. Clearly, much works remains to be done.

Funding Recognition – Use Bonus Budgets Better

  • 87% believe the money spent on large executive bonuses could be better spent elsewhere in the business. When asked how they would spend this money, 35% call for an employee recognition programme.
  • The negativity towards the impact of bonuses also extends to the employees themselves, as nearly half of UK employees said they’d prefer more frequent recognition than a yearly bonus.

The full press release is available here. What do you think? Would more recognition for your work motivate you more?

3 Recognition Lessons Observed in India

Recognize This! – The power of strategic recognition knows no boundaries.

I recently had the opportunity to travel a bit in India. How excited I was to pick up a Times of India newspaper on my first full day in the country to encounter the article pictured at right.

In “India Inc rewards staff to tide over slowdown,” there are quite a few points made that prove my oft-cited truism that recognition has real power globally – across all cultures and nationalities.

1)      Recognition Is Particularly Powerful in Difficult Economic Times

Recognition is about far more than a pat on the back. Strategic, social recognition conveys to employees how valuable they, their contributions, and their behaviours are to the success of the organization. Making this message clear is never more important than in a stressed economy. As the article points out:

“The general sentiment at an organization during a downturn can be draining with discussions surrounding cost control and return on investments. Companies are, therefore, now walking the extra mile by strengthening existing rewards and recognition programmes and setting up new ones to drive performance.

“Companies have realized that recognition can reinforce desired behaviour in employees, helping them achieve targets. In a Gallup poll, 82% of employees said that the recognition or praise they receive at work motivates them to improve their performance. So companies are tweaking such programmes to make them more attractive.”

2)      Recognition Done Right Rewards Behaviors, Not Just Outcomes

I’m pleased to see our best practice of strongly linking recognition to company values and the behaviors behind those values taking center stage at Indian companies:

“Employee engagement at Ambuja Cements is aimed at working towards improved outcomes on safer work places, improved productivity, better customer satisfaction and enhanced profitability. The company wants to build this into the culture of the organization.”

3)      Attitudes Are Shifting from Jobs Being All about the Money to an Enriching Work Environment

In India as elsewhere in rapidly rising economic powerhouse countries, a maturing employee base is realizing more and more the benefits of growing a career in one organization with a strong employee brand vs. constantly job hopping in search of more pay. A key element of building that strong employee brand is strategic recognition. (Other research also shows that employees who view their company favorably do a much better job of delivering on that company’s brand promise for the customer.)

“While India has suffered less than many other economies during the global downturn, there has been a marked change in the outlook of employees and employers. The opportunistic, job-hopping Indian employees of recent times are realizing they cannot sustain that trajectory, with its lack of opportunities for learning and development. Employers are also finding themselves under examination from candidates who are looking for long-term career prospects. Recruitment discussions are moving away from the boom-time focus on ‘how much money?’ and ‘when will I get an increase?’ to ‘what is the business plan?’ and ‘how will this enrich my career?’”

And one final parting thought from this Indian article:

“Engaging the entire team in the potential success of the organization in tough times helps in extending the success during the recovery, and beyond that.”

How true. What is your organization doing to engage employees today? Do you see those efforts building a stronger company once this recession is well and truly behind us?

3 Things You Should Never Do in Employee Recognition

Recognize This! – Misguided recognition efforts can do more harm than good.

Case studies provide an exceptional opportunity to learn – both the good and the “misguided.” Here are three misguided employee recognition case studies to learn from this week.

1) Limit the “winners circle” to just a few.

A primary attribute of strategic recognition is its ability to convey your most important objectives and values to all employees in a personal, meaningful way. But that only works when all employees feel they are active participants – both in the giving and receiving of such recognition. Campbell’s ‘Healthy Lifestyle Award’ misses the mark on nearly every front:

“Campbell Soup Company recognized the achievements of five North American employees Friday with the company’s ‘Healthy Lifestyle Award.’ Presented annually for the past five years, the award celebrates employees who live healthy lifestyles. … Selected from 13 Campbell sites in North America, … each winner received a $500 cash award, company-wide recognition and a gift basket of Campbell’s healthy products, including Campbell’s Healthy Request soups, V8 juices and Pepperidge Farm whole grain breads.”

Not only are there only five “winners,” there isn’t even one winner from each major location. How actively engaged in the program do you think the remaining thousands of employees are? Even if some percentage were engaged prior to the winners for this year being named, how many of the “losers” do you think will choose to engage in the program in the following year.

Far better would have been to acknowledge the successes, big and small, of all participants as the advanced along the path to healthier living.

(Video bonus: Watch my CEO, Eric Mosley, discuss the benefits of creating a bigger winners’ circle.)

2) Leave recognition to “chance”

Similarly, leaving recognition up to the “lucky winners” of a drawing also communicates an inconsistent message to employees. US Airways’ “Above & Beyond” program fails to honor and appreciate the employees who make it happen every day for the airline’s passengers as well as their fellow employees.

“The ‘Above & Beyond’ program recognizes those US Airways employees who provide exceptional service to not only the airline’s customers, but to fellow employees. The program allows US Airways’ most frequent flyers (Dividend Miles Silver, Platinum, Gold and Chairman’s Preferred members) and its employees at the manager level and above to submit coupons recognizing employees for providing excellent customer service in the air and on the ground. All coupons received are entered in a drawing and each quarter US Airways awards 10 employees $10,000 each; 100 employees $1,000 each; and 250 employees $250 each.”

While I’m sure the “winners” greatly appreciate their awards, how many star performers were left with nothing when their names weren’t drawn from the bag? Shouldn’t any employee who “provides excellent customer service” be recognized and rewarded for doing so? If a consistent, strategic recognition program were in place, those employees who regularly go above and beyond would naturally receive more recognition (and therefore, more rewards) throughout the year. But all employees who contribute to the success of the airline through excellent customer service would also receive the recognition they deserve.

3)      Turn to recognition as a last ditch effort

Though technically not a case study, this exceptional post on “The 7 Deadly Sins of Recognition” featured an important point I haven’t seen made elsewhere yet:

“Foul Weather Recognition: If you only trot out recognition programs in bad times, they will become harbingers of doom (low increases, no bonuses) and further deflate morale. Recognition, monetary or otherwise, should feature as a permanent part of your reward strategy.”

Since the recession first began, I’ve read countless stories of organizations turning to “no cost” or “low cost” employee recognition schemes to boost employee morale for those who took on the work of laid-off colleagues for no extra pay.

Let’s be quite clear on this. Recognition is not and should never be a replacement for proper compensation. The two are very different things. Trying to use recognition as a replacement for deserved compensation, especially when only done during bad times, communicates the wrong message to employees.

Have you experienced a misguided recognition program? Share your story!