Archive for the "Social Recognition" Category

Compensation Cafe: Recognition in Support of Talent Mobility

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – Internal talent mobility can reinvent the traditional career, but will require a shift towards more flexible solutions like social recognition to be successful.

Long gone are the traditional employee expectations of having an entire career play out within a single organization or even within the same functional area. Instead, modern careers are much more kaleidoscopic, comprised of transitions between a number of different employers and increasingly, across functional boundaries as well.

In light of this trend, and the need to reinvent how we think about careers, Josh Bersin of Deloitte has advocated for internal talent mobility. As I write in a recent post on Compensation Cafe, this solution is well-suited to respond to several converging trends affecting the workplace:

The talent market is more transparent than ever, offering an endless supply of potential opportunities. Organizations themselves are increasingly flatter and more agile, requiring less middle management and more project or team-based leadership. Finally, there is also a greater demand for on-the-job development as opportunities and assignments appear within those teams.

Internal mobility means that opportunities for growth and development can be brought inside the organization, to retain and engage top talent that would otherwise seek those types of opportunities at another employer. It can also transform the organization into a more dynamic and relationship-oriented system, expanding upon the cumulative capabilities and knowledge of the workforce.

To make talent mobility work, programs will be required that are similarly dynamic and relationship-oriented. Social recognition is one such program that offers a number of potential benefits. As I write in the full post, some of those include the following:

As employees move around the organization, recognition follows, providing a complete view of contributions and connections made across the different areas.

Managers themselves can be recognized for a wider range of behaviors in support of talent mobility, including the extent to which they support their direct reports or provide opportunities for development within and outside of their areas.

It provides everyone in the organization with visibility into what teams are forming and what projects are being undertaken… facilitating the collective knowledge of skills, abilities, and experiences, increasing the likelihood that employees are successfully matched with their roles.

A social recognition solution provides a record of the outstanding work that is happening around the company and who is contributing to that work. This information can be leveraged to inform talent mobility decisions, uncovering pockets of success or unsung heroes, and most importantly, getting the right people aligned with the right opportunities.

How do you think talent mobility would work in your own organization?

Compensation Cafe: Have You Thought About Former Employees Recently?

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – Social recognition can help ensure that “alumni” employees turn prior positive experiences into benefits for their former companies.

Today’s employees will rarely spend their entire careers at a single organization. Instead, they will have multiple employers and potentially even multiple careers. One of the chief benefits of this trend is the expansion of professional networks that “alumni” of a company possess as they move throughout their careers.

The benefits of these networks are not restricted to the individual employee; organizations can benefit in a number of ways as well. Responding to some recent research along these lines in a post on Compensation Cafe, I make the argument that:

Compensation professionals can have extraordinary impact [on transitioning employees] through well designed total reward portfolios that drive positive financial and emotional experiences. The most powerful drivers, like moments of recognition, will be able to touch upon both simultaneously.

What are those financial and emotional experiences, exactly?

Financial, influenced by existing compensation levels, as well as additional inducements to retain the employee. To the extent that both are perceived as fair, transparent and authentic, employees are likely to perceive the relationships more positively.

Emotional, influenced by the interpersonal treatment leading up to the transition and whether the value and contributions of the employee have been acknowledged and communicated back. These messages, from bosses and colleagues, have a strong effect on the goodwill of former employees.

Through these positive experiences, former employees can serve a number of important roles for their past employers. They can serve as ambassadors, future customers, strategic partners, or even become “boomerang” employees. To achieve these benefits, recognition can be a powerful driving force:

Each moment of recognition communicates a financial investment in the form of an award, as well as an emotional investment in the accompanying message of the employee’s importance and value within the company. Moreover, these moments can be sourced from anywhere in the organization, amplifying the potential for a positive experience.

Click here to read the post in its entirety.

Does your company work to ensure that former employees leave with positive experiences?

3 Steps to Impactful Recognition

By Derek Irvine

StairsRecognize This! – Investments in employees need to account for value, visibility, and level of contribution to maximize their effectiveness. Social recognition is the ideal solution across all three.

One of the challenges that some clients bring to us involves getting the right mix of recognition and other investments in their total rewards portfolio. This is an important question because the strength and duration of some of those investments, especially in the form of incentives or bonuses, has been called into question.

At the same time, there is a growing body of evidence that illustrates how important recognition is in creating a more human workplace, which itself is foundational across a number of pressing HR challenges in talent attraction, engagement, and retention. Together, these dynamics suggest that the better investment is towards strengthening social recognition, the effects of which may be more impactful and also more enduring.

For some companies, this can present something of a paradigm shift in thinking: often from a blend of tactical yet inconsistent recognition alongside bonuses and incentives, towards a strategic and unified social recognition solution. This shift also requires thinking about what it is about recognition that ultimately makes it an effective motivator vis-à-vis other potential investments a company can make.

Here are three attributes that impact the ways that employees perceive investments in them that ultimately determine their effectiveness:

  1. Value. Employees may assign a financial and an emotional value to the investments that companies make in them, but the relative weighting of each depends heavily on the particular type of investment. Bonuses and other like incentives fall more squarely into the financial side, while traditional recognition (e.g., a written thank you) fall more squarely into the emotional. Combining both- a recognition moment which includes a tangible award- is well positioned to have the largest impact by touching upon both financial and emotional drivers.
  2. Visibility. Looking again at the types of investments that a company can make, there are differences in the extent to which those investments are public or shareable, as well as the source most often associated with them. Bonuses and incentives, much like pay, tend to be less transparent in nature and less shared. Recognition, on the other hand, spans private and public acknowledgement through a variety of potential channels and from all across the organization. Social recognition lends structure to the amount of visibility, with flexible control of who can see what to ensure that moments of great work are shared where possible and privacy is maintained where needed or desired.
  3. Level of Contribution. Matching the investment to the level of contribution is another crucial factor to consider. Often, bonuses and incentives are metered out at predetermined intervals, rather than in real-time according to the work being performed. Traditional recognition, in the form of a verbal or written thank you note, can be timelier, but may also fail to accurately reflect the employee’s investment in contributing great work. Again, social recognition can provide a solution that is both timely and structured to capture the differences in contributions across employees, resulting in perceptions of fairness.

The full range of best practices outlined here and here can supplement the factors above to ensure that organizations benefit from robust and meaningful recognition. Successful recognition programs are flexible to account for these differences in an elegant fashion, ensuring that the recognition moment itself remains both simple and natural.

What other factors do you think need to go into planning for effective social recognition?

Compensation Cafe: Keeping Investments in People Top of Mind

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – The investments that companies make in employees can be difficult to keep top of mind. Recognition is one solution that communicates the value employees have on a frequent and timely basis.

The business world seems to moving faster than ever, challenging employees and leadership teams alike to keep up. These changes are affecting a wide range of HR processes and systems as well. From the annual employee census to pulse surveys for engagement, from infrequent performance appraisals to ongoing coaching and development, it is becoming ever more important to provide frequent and high-touch experiences for employees.

In today’s post on Compensation Cafe, I discuss what these trends mean for the full range of investments that companies make in their people- spanning salary, incentives, and benefits- and how difficult it can be to keep those things top of mind. Looking across just some of the trends above, I argue:

A similar transformation is needed in the way that companies communicate (and keep top of mind) the value and investments that they make in their employees. For the sake of argument, I suspect that salary, incentives, and benefits are not top of mind for the typical employee on a frequent basis. Much like traditional performance appraisals, there are certain times of the year when these aspects are at the fore (e.g., open enrollment and the pay discussions within the performance review period). But there are also large portions of the year when these issues rarely rise to the top.

While there are clear exceptions to the above, for the typical employee, daily work responsibilities can easily consume most of one’s attention and effort. As a result, the investments that companies make across salary and benefits can be easily overlooked. At a minimum, employees may miss out on the personal value that benefits may confer; at worst, they may perceive better opportunities elsewhere.

To guard against these consequences, companies need to find better ways of reinforcing the value they place in employees. As I write in the full post:

One such approach within the scope of a total rewards portfolio is through social recognition. Social recognition can provide a daily reminder of the value that companies find in the work their employees do. It provides ongoing communication of the investments that a company makes in their employees, through messages of gratitude and appreciation from both managers and peers.

In pure value, investments in recognition (typically around 1-2% of payroll) may also go further than investments in other incentives or salary increases. Complementing the total rewards package, recognition is one investment that a company can make that will remain top of mind.

How does your company communicate the value it places in employees?

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?

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?


2 Steps to Cultivate Simplicity at Work

By Derek Irvine

Viewing through lensRecognize This! – Competencies are one example of how organizations can achieve simplicity by paring down and leveraging everyday practices.

I was thinking recently about how simplicity can be applied to improving the human experience at work. The idea grew from Josh Bersin’s report on creating irresistible organizations. In this report, he describes simplicity as fundamental, involving “the removal of formal bureaucratic overhead” while favoring “trust, autonomy, and a focus on cooperation.” Far from being easy, simplicity is something that companies have to work hard to achieve.

As I thought more about it, there is an additional aspect of simplicity to point out. Essentially: simplicity involves both paring something down, as well as putting it into everyday practice.

On the latter point, because simplicity is the desired end state and not a beginning, there is a subjective quality that comes from all that hard work. Something that is practiced and second-nature to one person or organization can appear as very complex and unfamiliar to another, which ultimately impacts the effectiveness of the practice.

Competency modeling illustrates this principle well. Many companies spend considerable time developing and refining these complicated models of the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors that lead to superior role performance and organizational success.

Done effectively, competency models can succinctly describe core people attributes in the language of the business, align to strategy, and integrate HR and talent functions. Unfortunately, these benefits are difficult to realize with overly complex competency models that become burdensome to use in a meaningful way.

As it stands, competencies typically only show up during hiring decisions and performance reviews- effectively a few times a year at most. Combine the complexity of the models with the unfamiliarity from infrequent application, and it is no wonder they are often viewed as largely ineffective (much like the performance review process upon which competencies can be based).

How do you overcome these challenges in 2 steps?

  1. First remove some of the formal complexity and hone in on the most impactful competencies.
  2. Then, and more importantly, put those streamlined models into practice so they are a familiar part of the organization’s fabric.

How can we actually accomplish this?

We often discuss the effectiveness of social recognition as a solution to align employee behavior to a company’s core values. Given a shared emphasis on superior performance, this same solution can be leveraged to call attention to competencies that employees demonstrate through those very same behaviors that lead to effective performance.

Moments of recognition can catch not only what employees contribute and why it matters, but how the contributions are made, calling out the specific competencies that managers want to develop on their teams or that peers recognize in their coworkers. The social aspect of this solution ensures that an organization’s competencies become part of the everyday language of the business. As employees become well-versed in that language, more sophisticated competencies take on a level of simplicity and ultimately, effectiveness.

Are competencies a part of your everyday work experience? How are you recognized for behaviors that capture those competencies?

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.)