Archive for the "Social Recognition" Category

Conquer the World with Appreciation! Who’s with Me?

by Lynette Silva

Climbers on Mt Everest's summitRecognize This! – Through recognition and gratitude, we have the opportunity every day to change how we and others experience the world.

Last week was our annual kickoff meeting, which we call Ignite. Every year, I leave the meeting with one compelling, driving thought: “Conquer the world!” I’m not exaggerating. I get fully re-energized by our leadership, my colleagues, and our customers to do everything I can to advance our mission to move our industry forward by striving to become leaders in thought, innovation and global capability.

Why am I so motivated? What’s pushing me personally? Am I just drinking too much of the company Kool-aid?

I don’t think so. I am fired up by what we do, by what we offer to the world. It’s the opportunity to help other organizations and their employees feel as appreciated and valued for their work as I do. So I’m poised and ready to help conquer the world… but I quibble with the right preposition that comes next. Should it be “conquer the world for recognition” or “…with appreciation” or “…through gratitude?”

A minor nuance, sure, but important nevertheless.

  • For recognition implies the end goal – where are we seeking to be when we’re done. To use a mountain climbing analogy, this would be us summiting Mt. Everest.
  • With appreciation references the tools we will use to achieve our goal. In our Everest analogy, this would be camping and climbing gear we need to even attempt the summit.
  • Through gratitude relates to the people we need to rely on to get to top. No one summits Everest alone.

So in the end, all of the prepositional phrases apply. Now that I see it spelled out, my desire to conquer the world for recognition, with appreciation and through gratitude is an example of my own exponential engagement, which is defined as having the right tools to get the job done, a great relationship with the team members needed to do the job, and deep belief in the greater mission and purpose of the work such that I am willing to go the extra mile.

Who’s with me? Are you ready to conquer the world and change how we perceive ourselves, our colleagues and our work? Will you take the first steps by sharing your appreciation and gratitude with the people you are with every day?

What fires you up?

Why Peer Relationships Matter at Work

by Derek Irvine

Diagram of interconnected colleaguesRecognize This! – Peers see and understand more of their colleagues’ contributions, enabling them to offer more support.

Work/life balance is a myth. I could say that in today’s hyper-connected world, work comes home with us far more easily than it did 20 or even 10 years ago. And that would be true. But it’s no less true that our “life” also comes to work with us. Worries about our sick children, concern over a fight with a spouse the night before, fear over making ends meet on a tight budget – all can color how we approach our work and how we treat our colleagues.

At best, we can hope for work/life blending in which we focus on letting the best of both worlds influence each other. I doubt anyone reading this post will argue that that their lives are not very busy. But how do we define that busy-ness? In many ways, I enjoy my work colleagues as much as I do my outside-of-work friends. I have deep, personal relationships with them.

That’s the reality of our lives today. We tend to develop relationships with the people we are in contact with the most. For many of us, we spend more time at work and with work colleagues than we do even with family.

Strengthening and reaffirming those relationships with peers/colleagues at work just makes sense:

  1. Peers see more – Those with whom we work closely naturally have a better window into what we do, ways we contribute, and how we behave.
  2. Peers understand more – Because they are often in similar roles, peers understand the context and the many variables of our working situation. They can more easily appreciate the complexity of our day-to-day.
  3. Peers support more – Our peers are in the same trenches we are. They are working most closely with us to deliver the near-terms goals. They are the ones that most likely know how our kids did at the weekend sports tournament, or how our ill parent is recovering. Peers become a more natural support mechanism at work.

Clearly, our peers are fundamental to how we get the work done. Yet all too often, peers and their observations are ignored or lessened in an employee recognition experience. Managers are given the opportunity to share their appreciation, which is valuable and very important, too, of course. But let’s not ignore both the power of peers and their more direct insight into their colleagues’ contributions and achievements.

One hindrance to peer recognition is manager perception that recognition is one of the few levers they have. At our annual company kickoff event this week, a customer of ours shared the fallacy in this thinking. When they opened peer recognition to all employees to nominate others for recognition and rewards, they results showed 70% of recognition moments came from peers, with only 30% of the budget for recognition and rewards used on those moments. Managers still retained their lever, but empowered all members of their team to notice and appreciate the good happening around them every day.

With whom do you have the deepest relationships at work? How do you recognize and appreciate peers to foster and strengthen those relationships?

3 Principles to Help Everyone Give Their Best

by Lynette Silva

Casual gathering of business colleaguesRecognize This! – We all have a responsibility to pay attention, encourage and support our colleagues as we become excellent together.

Above and beyond – that’s a common theme for what types of employee contributions should be recognized. And it’s a good theme. This is so important to some of our clients that they’ve even branded their recognition programs “Above and Beyond.”

But what about “completely different?” Or “entirely outside of the job description?” Sometimes we recognize and reward these individuals, but all too often we punish them instead, forcing them back into the box and encouraging them to “just get the job done.”

And then there are people like Charles Clark, custodian at Trinity High School in Euless, TX. Featured in a recent CBS Sunday Morning story, Mr. Clark does his defined “job” very well. He is committed to providing a clean and comfortable environment for the students and faculty. But it’s his “extra” work that perhaps has the most lasting and profound impact.

Here’s the story (email subscribers, click through for the video):

Mr. Clark pays attention and watches out for the students that might need a little extra encouragement and guidance to stay on the right path. He serves as a counselor of sorts, one who the professional counselor on staff acknowledges is better than the pros at working with some of the students. And his results are outstanding. The students Mr. Clark targets for special attention tend to go on to graduate college.

The principles he applies to students work just as well with our colleagues. When applied thoughtfully, these principles can have profound impact on others.

  1. Pay attention – Mr. Clark gets his job done, but he also pays attention to those around him. He is intentional in looking for those who need bit more support. Then he actually gives it.
  2. Offer words of encouragement and support – Many of us know others who need additional support, but not all of us are willing to give up our own time to spend a few minutes to offer the recognition and help they may need. Often, kind words of praise and appreciation are all that’s needed.
  3. Seek out the good in others – Mr. Clark tends to reach out to the students who might be on the brink of “trouble” or seeking the wrong path, but he looks beyond that. He sees their potential and the good they have to offer. Think for a moment about your colleagues. Who are the most difficult to work with? Do you tend to avoid them because of their reputation? Now pause and rethink, what does that person do particularly well? How can you seek out ways to engage with them to benefit from their strengths? Praising others for their strengths is a powerful way to help them refocus on what matters most.

How can you be more intentional in noticing your colleagues and their efforts? How have words of encouragement from others helped you?


Who Should You Recognize at Work?

by Lynette Silva

Several cards for saying "thanks"Recognize This! – Every employee should be contributing to your success. All are deserving of recognition.

I love my job. Every day, I get to help people find ways to make their work environments and culture more appreciative, grateful and purpose-driven. That’s powerful stuff. Arriving at such an important end goal, however, requires involving all employees in the effort. After all, every employee contributes to the culture of the company (whether good or bad).

The ramifications of this are quite broad. Many are calling 2015 the year of the retention challenge, with good reason. A recent KPMG global survey of “people and change practitioners” in their member firms highlighted this challenge, but also noted retention issues are different (quoting):

  • Skills shortages are set to increase as globalization and competitive pressures take hold across sectors and industries and improving economic conditions spur employees to seek new jobs.
  • Two-thirds of survey respondents say it is more important to address the talent needs of all employees, in the context of the business and its strategy.
  • Just over half agree or strongly agree that pursuing high potential talent at the team’s expense puts the business at risk.

A key theme of those findings is what we’ve been discussing for years – the efforts of all employees matter, otherwise why do we employ them? So if all efforts matter, we should be doing much more to invest in all employees in terms of training and development, tools and solutions to get the job done, and recognition and rewards.

For too long, resources have been concentrated on top performers primarily or fully at the exclusion of others. Our goal instead should be to offer those top performers the recognition, skills development and resources they deserve, but also ensure we are doing the same for the “Mighty Middle” – those 70% of employees in the middle of the performance bell curve. By focusing more time, attention and investment in these employees, we will move many of them up the bell curve into top performer range. At the very least, we are increasing the skills, commitment and engagement of a far greater percentage of employees – all proven to contribute to increase performance, productivity and retention.

Where to start? The KPMG survey points out an important path – “in context of the business and its strategy.” What guides your strategy? Many organizations have defined strategic objectives (goals) and core values (desired behaviors in achievement of those goals). That’s the ideal starting point. Work to embed those objectives and goals deeply into the daily efforts of every employee. Very specifically recognize employees when they do so. Empower everyone to praise and appreciate each other when they see the same. Provide a method and mechanism to make it fun, fast and easy to do so.

How are you viewing retention challenges in 2015? What’s your plan to retain needed talent?


Compensation Cafe: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Is More Fluid than You Think

logo for Compensation Cafe blogRecognize This! – Frequent, timely, and specific recognition and appreciation are integral to achieving personal, team, departmental and organizational goals in 2015.

Every new year brings about a time of reflection, especially on what we want, need and desire in the coming months. As a fan of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the terms “wants, needs and desires” always makes me think of him and how he presented the basic human requirements beginning at the bottom of a pyramid with base physiological needs of solving for hunger and thirst, moving up to self-esteem and self-actualization at the pinnacle.

By the hierarchy is not so, well, hierarchical. Earlier this week, I shared on Compensation Cafe Maslow’s own opinion, “We have spoken so far as if this hierarchy were a fixed order but actually it is not nearly as rigid as we may have implied.”

As I discuss, I see the needs illustrated by Maslow as very real, but perhaps appearing more in a virtuous circle in reality. Check out the full post for more on this, including commentary from Psychologist and Organizational Consultant Susan David and supporting research conducted by LinkedIn on the importance of acknowledgement of everyday achievements.

How do you view Maslow’s Hierarchy?

Have a Plan for an Appreciative and Grateful 2015

by Derek Irvine

Chalkboard depiction of complex planRecognize This! – Recognition and gratitude don’t often happen by accident. A clear plan for being more appreciative leads to greater sustained engagement and personal commitment.

My colleague Brenda Pohlman shared a lovely post on Friday about her New Year’s Eve tradition with her husband. At the end of each year, they share their “top 10 best days of the year” with each other. The exercise causes them to focus on what went well throughout the year, concentrating their gratitude and appreciation for these days and the people in them.

What particularly touched me about her post, however, was how it evolved from an initial and impromptu question of “What was your best day of the year?” to each living more thoughtfully throughout the year to notice and catalogue those best days. That intentionality shows planning, foresight and proactivity to anticipate and engender best days.

As we enter 2015, that started me thinking about how we can and should show intentionality in appreciation and gratitude in the coming year. That requires a plan.

Here’s the outline of my plan for recognition and gratitude in 2015.

1) Pay attention

The first step in any effort to increase recognition (an outward expression of appreciation of others) and gratitude (an inward acknowledgment of my own appreciation of the goodwill from others in my own life) must be the simple act of paying better attention to occasions worthy of recognition and gratitude.

2) Intentionally acknowledge

Daily life is quite busy and full of myriad distractions. It’s easy to become consumed with an attitude of “get it done.” Far more important to personal well-being and sustained engagement and commitment is to intentionally pause, notice and appreciate the good work and effort of those around us.

3) Review and track

Being timely in giving recognition and expressing gratitude is critical to our happiness in the moment throughout the year. The ability to holistically review and track those individual moments at the end of the year gives us a greater sense of fulfillment, achievement and accomplishment in conjunction with a community of others important to us.

A social recognition system provides the mechanism necessary to make it easy to pay attention, intentionally acknowledge, and review and track recognition and gratitude throughout the year and in a comprehensive manner. Simply having a system in place removes the barriers to recognition for everyone, making it possible to create a culture of recognition and gratitude in which appreciation flows naturally.

What’s your plan for being more intentional in your expression and experience of appreciation and recognition in 2015?

Help Employees Have Their “Best Days” in 2015

by Brenda Pohlman

Gift of a Great DayRecognize This! – Help employees have their best days at work in 2015 by fostering a culture of appreciation and gratitude.

On New Year’s Eve my husband and I have a tradition that we’ve been practicing for years. It started with a simple question he asked me over dinner one New Year’s Eve, “What was the best day of the year for you?”

The next year we decided to make lists. We each made a separate list of our “top 10″ days and then compared notes. In the early years the lists were dominated by fun – good times we’d had, like a great day off, a nice evening out, weekends away or vacations. But over the years the lists have evolved. They’re now comprised mainly of moments and experiences that we’re thankful for: birth of a new baby in the family, a healthy medical report, precious time spent with loved ones.

Interestingly, our “best days” and the moments when we feel the most gratitude have largely become one and the same. I suspect it’s simply a result of getting older, of having more responsibility for ourselves and others, and gaining a wiser perspective on what really matters. I’m sure the original question posed that New Year’s Eve long ago was intended as nothing more than casual chitchat. We had no idea how significant these lists and subsequent conversations would become over the years.

I love this idea that our best moments are intrinsically linked with a sense of gratitude and appreciation. And considering what I do for a living, I believe this connection is true at work as well – that employees’ best moments at work are tied to feelings of being appreciated and valued for their efforts and accomplishments.

In reflecting on my own best days at work in 2014, it’s true that so many involve the expression of gratitude in one form or another. One best moment happened when I was publicly recognized, along with several team members, in a personal email from a client to our CEO after completing a challenging project on the client’s behalf. While I got satisfaction from having done some good work, it was this meaningful expression of gratitude that turned the experience from a simple sense of accomplishment into a “best day.”

How powerful to think that you can make more of those “best days” happen by fostering a culture of recognition in your organization by simply offering praise and expressing appreciation to those around you.

What steps will you take to help employees have their best days at work in 2015?


It Just Shouldn’t Be This Difficult! – Eliminating Barriers to Recognition

by Brenda Pohlman

Broken wall with "Thank You!"Recognize This! — Sharing appreciation and gratitude for others should be simple to encourage frequent, timely praise and recognition.

When was the last time you used a fax machine? I recently had the pleasure (ahem) of being re-acquainted with this office equipment fixture of old while trying to execute a recognition moment of sorts. I wanted to do a nice thing for a co-worker on behalf of our team. It was intended as a small gesture – nothing elaborate, nothing designed to convey serious feedback or emotion, just a simple acknowledgement. It should’ve been soooo easy.

We were attending our annual company holiday celebration with our guests, and my colleague, who was bringing her husband (known to most of us as ‘Mr. Wonderful’ by the way), planned to stay the evening at the hotel party venue as a little overnight getaway. It would be a well-deserved break in the midst of a very busy time at work as well as personal circumstances our teammate had faced this Fall. We decided to surprise the two of them with a basket of treats delivered to their room as a show of support. But it proved to be much easier in thought than execution.

I coordinated the details with the hotel, credit card at the ready to pay over the phone. The hotel wouldn’t take it. Payment authorization was required in advance, involving a cumbersome form filled out and returned to them immediately….via fax. I protested, “But it’s just cookies and brownies. I’ll be there in a few hours and can show my credit card in person. I’m connected to the company that’s hosting its big party there tonight.” Nope. No form means no cookie delivery.

Our receptionist looked up our fax number so the hotel could send the form (who has such things memorized anymore and why was email not an option)?. I eventually received it after three trips across the office to check. Hours passed as I went from meeting to meeting, and eventually I got a call from the hotel looking for my completed form and reminding me “no form, no cookie delivery.” I scrambled as the old familiar fax machine challenges came back to me. Dial 9 first or not? Document face up or face down? And alas, an error message. In my head I heard, “No form, no cookies.” Aaargh! A colleague came by, saw me struggling, and asked what I was doing after some teasing about the passé nature of the experience. I blurted out, “I’m just trying to do something nice for someone! It shouldn’t be this hard!”

Eliminate Barriers to Recognition

We encounter companies all the time who have inadvertently constructed barriers to recognition – things that make recognition more difficult than it needs to be, steps and rules that make well-intentioned employees feel hassled by the experience of simply trying to do something meaningful for a co-worker. These barriers rarely serve any legitimate business purpose at all. They’re hold-outs from old school recognition programs that don’t align with the goals and ambitions of today’s initiatives and modern programs. In my ‘nice gesture gone bad’ example here, all the jumping through hoops was supposed to be for my own protection, as the hotel put it.

Things That Make Recognition Harder Than It Should Be:

  • Cumbersome nomination processes, where employees are required to complete lengthy forms to recommend a colleague for recognition (Formal recognition should take as little as 60 seconds).
  • Slow selection or approval processes. We’ve seen systems where committees of HR and business leaders meet quarterly to choose winners for $100 awards! (48-hour award approvals at most – by one or two managers -is ideal).
  • Eligibility rules that prohibit employees from recognizing others directly themselves, forcing them to ask a manager to place a nomination on their behalf instead (Peer-to-peer nomination eligibility is the #1 most powerful way to breakdown barriers to recognition).
  • Recognition systems that aren’t accessible to offline populations or are entirely manual (Mobile apps and computer kiosks are the best hassle-free work-arounds for offline employees).
  • Partial eligibility where some locations or business units are eligible to participate in the recognition program and some are not. These rules can leave employees guessing or force them to investigate a co-worker’s eligibility status (Company-wide participation in a centralized program conveys a simple and inclusive message about recognition).
  • A lack of structure. In the absence of guidelines and tools, many employees will simply do nothing (Elimination of bureaucracy is good, but recognition is not likely to be prevalent in your environment without some rules and systems).

These barriers can be the root cause of a recognition program manager’s worst nightmare – the employee who is inspired to recognize a colleague, makes a decision to take action, seeks out the system or process to do so, and then gives up when faced with daunting administrative red tape. Recognition must be fluid and easy. Otherwise, it can feel inauthentic and meaningless at best, or nonexistent at worst.

As we come into a new year, make a commitment to create an easier, more natural recognition experience at your organization. Find ways to overcome those obstacles that leave your would-be recognizers feeling frustrated and uninspired. In other words, let those barriers go the way of the fax machine.

Start by choosing one recognition barrier to eliminate. Which would you eliminate first?




If You Can’t Be Sincere, Don’t Recognize at All

by Derek Irvine

Sincere words have a profound impact on a life.Recognize This! – Without sincerity, appreciation and praise fall flat.

When we consult on social recognition, a common (and important) question is, “Yes, I understand and agree with the value and importance of recognition, but how do I recognize well? How do I coach others to do the same?”

There are many principles of good, effective employee recognition that we’ve written about elsewhere – timely, frequent, aligned with core values and objectives, calibrated to level of effort and contribution, involves everyone – but the most important is that the recognition is sincere.

Why is sincerity so important? The Switch & Shift blog put it quite well:

“Where compliments are concerned, the medium with which we must always start is sincerity. Even the most articulate compliment etched from a sense of obligation, routine or self-aggrandizement will be about as effective as having fashioned the David from dryer lint. As Matthew Gordon pointed out, ‘Gratitude that isn’t genuine is worse than no gratitude at all.’”

People can sniff out insincerity very quickly. A half-hearted or even well-intentioned but uninformed moment of praise falls flat because the gratitude isn’t real. It isn’t sincere. Think about wedding toasts you may have heard. The worst toasts, the ones that leave the wedding guests cringing, are those where the best man is focused on the audience the first, on getting a laugh, or setting himself up for praise. The best toasts, however, are the ones where the best man is totally focused on the newly married couple, concerned only with celebrating them and their love for each other.

This holiday season, give the gift of sincere gratitude and appreciation. Here are three tips to keep in mind:

1) Make it about them, not you – Always have the recipient at the heart of your message. Be sure to specify what they did, the exemplary way in which they did, and the impact those efforts had on others.

2) Be detailed and personal – A casual, “Hey, thanks” or “Thanks for all you do” just leaves the recipient wondering, “Thanks for what?” and “Do you even know what I do?” Take an extra few minutes to share a truly personal moment and detailed expression of gratitude with the recipient.

3) Put your heart into it – A top hallmark of sincerity is your own vulnerability, especially if you’re in a position of seniority over the recipient. The need for acknowledgment, praise and appreciation is deeply human. Show your humanity.

What might such a sincere message look like? Perhaps something like this:

“Tom, your contribution to the team on the McQuinn project was the lynchpin in us being able to deliver the project ahead of schedule and under budget. Your trademark ingenuity under pressure really shined when you came up with the idea to reuse an older system that, with some minor tweaks for updating, perfectly suited the client need. I’ve come to rely on you over these last several months as someone whose wit and wisdom not only helps the team achieve our targets, but makes our work together more fun and energizing. I deeply appreciate that aspect of your personality and thank you for bringing your whole self to our team.”

Who do you need to sincerely appreciate this holiday season?

Compensation Cafe: 2 Things to Get the Most Out of Employee Recognition Programs

by Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – Measurable, peer-to-peer recognition set apart average employee recognition efforts from Best-in-Class programs. Results are obvious to the bottom line.

Check out my post today on Compensation Cafe for a deeper dive into a September 2014 report from Aberdeen, “Next-Level Employee Recognition.”

The report highlights two key features of best-in-class employee recognition programs. Recognizing and appreciating employees for efforts, behaviors and results in line with what matters most to your organization is guaranteed to get positive results. But getting the most out of employee recognition programs requires empowering all employees to fully participate in recognition and giving managers actionable oversight of recognition itself through metrics and dashboards.

Here’s a graphic from the report as a teaser:

Graphic showing bottom-line impact of peer recognition programs

Click over for the full story.