Archive for the "Social Recognition" Category

Compensation Cafe: Employee Engagement and Incentives Compensation

by Derek Irvine

Compensation CafeRecognize This! – Employees choose to give more and behave in desired ways based on the environment they are being asked to engage in.

Employee Engagement Is Dead! Long Live Employee Engagement!

What sounds like a non-sequitur may not be. Last week on Compensation Cafe I blogged: “Is Employee Engagement Moot in Today’s High Stress Work Environments?” in which I reflected on the seeming stagnation of employee engagement stats in the research across many organizations. I argue:

No, the error lies in how we are pursuing employee engagement. Yes, employee engagement is a two-way street. Employees must themselves choose to engage in the work, but employers must also offer conditions in which employees would want to engage. That’s where we’ve fallen down.

What must change? It’s time to go back to basics. Why should employees choose to engage in the organization’s greater mission, purpose, and goals and give additional discretionary effort to achieve them if (1) compensation is not equal to market rates or is insufficient to cover basic living needs, (2) the work environment is itself unsupportive or downright abusive, and (3) essential human needs of rest, restoration and the ability to meet the needs of the whole person are ignored.

Read the post for more on the backing research and how to change those three factors to improve employee engagement.

Then today, I blogged “The Tricky Business of Incentive Compensation,” examining research on when and how incentives can motivate, given the typically low performance of such schemes. As I unpack in the post:

What they found was that incentives largely worked… but only for certain people and in certain circumstances… If companies are primarily concerned with behavior that aligns to performance, shifting focus away from pre-designated incentives structures towards “surprise” programs that can recognize and otherwise reinforce those behaviors may be a valuable path forward. For example, if managers are recognized and publicly celebrated for a willingness to take risks like those mentioned above, the signal may be that much stronger for others to overcome that initial sense of inertia.

Again, click over for the full post.

Creating a Culture that Recognizes “Originals”

by Derek Irvine

Person wearing bear claw shoesRecognize This! — Recognizing cultural contribution instead of cultural fit is a valuable way to reinforce the contributions of “Originals.”

I recently caught a piece on the Marketplace Morning radio program, interviewing Adam Grant (one of our WorkHuman speakers from 2015!). He was sharing some of the interesting findings from his new book, Originals.

I think like most of us, Adam initially expected that the nonconformists at the center of the book- the ones driving innovation and upturning the status quo- would be passionate and risk-taking types. What he found instead was that these people were often quite cautious, hedging their bets and thoroughly thinking through alternatives before moving forward.

When asked what these findings mean more broadly for organizations, Adam said something that really stuck with me. He recommended that companies need to move away from hiring for “cultural fit” and towards hiring for “cultural contribution.”

This was almost as counter-intuitive as his previous findings, especially given how many companies emphasize the importance of fit when hiring. I am paraphrasing, but Adam’s argument is that fit can only give you more of the same without really adding anything new. There will be a temporary boost in motivation and solidarity when new workers join, but that boost quickly dissipates. In its place is the danger that the organization will be susceptible to groupthink and ill-equipped to adapt to future changes.

Cultural contribution, on the other hand, seeks to find those new hires that can add something to the culture that already exists- to find the gaps, identify what is missing, and strive to strengthen it. This is a key take-away for me: helping companies identify, hire, and support these original thinkers, particularly when they may not look like what we commonly expect but can contribute to the health of a company’s bottom-line.

Extending this thinking beyond hiring, there is ample opportunity for organizations to encourage “Originals” in the scope of everyday work.

Simply put: we start recognizing for cultural contribution instead of just for cultural fit.

This means that senior leadership, managers, and employees are not only invested in reinforcing their culture, but doing so through strengthening and improving it. It means giving everyone the ability to recognize employees who may express contributions to a company’s culture in new and different ways, expanding the definition of what it means to work according to core values. Given the potential diversity in ways that individual employees may successfully enact a given cultural value, recognition is particularly impactful in communicating the value of that diversity.

Recognition provides a pathway for organizations to apply Adam’s latest findings and actually encourage the contributions of “non-conformity” as a way to enhance a shared notion of culture.

How does your organization recognize cultural contribution?

What Type of Realist Are You?

by Derek Irvine

Trees in color and B&WRecognize This! — Whether you favor a competitive or humane workplace, or something in between, a culture of recognition can be valuable.

More and more is written these days about the best ways to interact with each other in the workplace. And more and more, very different camps are forming and battle lines being drawn to convince you which techniques and tactics are superior.

In one camp are what I call the brutal realists. These are the folks that are proud of cutthroat cultures and believe in the inherent, zero-sum competition of business. They praise things like radical candor, tournament based policies, and Darwinian cultures to improve performance.

In the other camp are the humane realists, and they have taken a very different stance. These folks see the workplace as a place to come together, collaborate, and win by supporting those around them. They favor approaches to the workplace that center on gratitude, compassion, and empathy.

I imagine you already have in your head a clear picture of each of these very different work scenarios, and also an evaluation of which one you believe is superior. That evaluation is probably reflective of your own personal style, which no amount of research on the efficacy of the opposite approach could convince you to change. It is probably also reflective of a long history of self-selection into contexts, organizations, and bosses that fit with your personal style. Can you imagine the discomfort and lack of fit for a brutal realist in a compassionate organization, or a humane realist in an ultra-competitive one?

Still, I wonder how many organizations fall so neatly into either of these archetypes. Clearly there are unique standouts that get media attention, but I suspect they are the exception rather than the rule. What about the organizations that occupy the middle of the spectrum, balancing a need to compete with a need to have coworkers successfully relate to one another? I would love to see more written about these cases and their guiding philosophies towards structuring the relationships among their workforce. What do they do that works, and are there any trends that characterize this middle of the pack?

Developing a culture of recognition realists can be one successful path to this middle ground. These people believe in the power of recognition to address the humane aspects of the workplace, allowing coworkers to express appreciation and gratitude towards one another, strengthening social connections. They also believe in the power of recognition to address the competitive aspects of business, rewarding coworkers who achieve high performance and devote extraordinary effort while demonstrating corporate values.

A social recognition program can also be structured to reinforce a company’s existing culture wherever it falls on the spectrum, providing emphasis on those culturally valuable aspects of interaction between employees. Positive feedback and coaching on performance, building collaborative relationships, or any other value that lends competitive advantage can be included into the process of providing recognition.

Where does your organization fall on the spectrum and how does that equate to success?

Why You Need to Revisit Maslow

by Derek Irvine

Balls in balance on fulcrumRecognize This! — The hierarchy of needs can have a lot of value, but only if we really understand how needs are fulfilled in the workplace.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has staying power. It may often be reduced to an oversimplified pyramid, as I’ve written about before, and has its share of critics, but there is a silver lining!

The longer a theory hangs around, the better the chances that folks can return to the original thinking, debunk common myths, and pick out the true value of the thing. So let’s re-evaluate how a needs hierarchy ties into notions of engagement and recognition in business settings.

Where do we stand right now?

There are three primary levers that organizations can use to fulfill employees’ needs, aligned to the traditional hierarchy. Two of those- base salary and benefits– mostly target basic needs like food, shelter, and safety. Once a certain threshold has been reached, though, the incremental value of continuing to fulfill these needs tends to have diminishing returns – especially as focus shifts to higher order needs.

The third lever- recognition– represents a much smaller slice of the overall compensation picture (typically around 1-2%), and yet has the larger potential impact in reaching across the higher values of belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. These dynamics are illustrated in the smaller of the two pyramids.

Reimagination of Maslow

What does recent research say about Maslow?

To understand the scope of the impact of recognition, we need to take a deeper look into how needs are actually fulfilled.

Recent research based on global data from Gallup finds support for a “tendency, but not a strong one” for needs to be achieved approximately in the order that Maslow theorized. It is important to be clear that this does not mean a person satisfies a need at one level before moving onto the next one in this linear and lockstep process. Nor does it mean that every person achieves each need in exactly the same order and timeframes as everyone else.

Instead, we can think of need profiles, where individuals can “simultaneously work on a number of needs regardless of the fulfillment of other needs.”

Moreover, individuals need profiles vary, ranging from a focus on a few needs to the full spectrum. The former most likely address only physiological and safety needs (influenced much more by the country one lives in than specific individual circumstances). Further along the spectrum, individuals expand their focus to a combination of basic and psychosocial needs (like belonging, esteem, and self-actualization), some trending towards Maslow’s order and others not.

What do need profiles mean for employee engagement?

A workforce is a collection of need profiles across the hierarchy. Each employee differs in terms of complexity (how many needs are simultaneously being focused on) and salience (how needs are personally ranked in terms of importance and impact). Furthermore, most employee need profiles will be focused on psychosocial aspects over which employees feel they have the most control. It just so happens these are also the aspects that are closely tied to engagement.

Practically, this suggests the pathway to engagement occurs through broad values-based initiatives focused on fulfilling a variety of different needs, appreciating their fluidity rather than a narrow focus on maxing out any particular level of the hierarchy. These dynamics are captured in the larger of the two pyramids.

Recognition works across need profiles!

The challenge is meeting people where they are in terms of their need profiles. Relationships will matter more to some employees, task mastery or esteem will matter more to others, while still others will prefer some balance between the three. Social recognition is powerful because it can raise the total level of fulfillment across this diverse set of need profiles, eventually resulting in greater employee engagement that is also aligned to core organizational values.

For example, recognition can focus on a full range of behaviors that contribute to achieving a value of quality. For those with strong needs for belonging, recognition can emphasize the key role that developing relationships had in helping a project team achieve its quality goals. For those with strong needs for esteem, recognition can focus on the specific achievements and contributions of the team. And for those with self-actualization needs, recognition can reinforce continually striving to enhance the processes of quality.

Think of how your own needs are met at work. What does your own profile look like and how do you meet those needs while delivering on company values?

Mapping Out Employee Accountability

by Derek Irvine

Map in handRecognize This! — Accountability requires a clear mental map for achieving results. Recognition enables everyone to share that same map.

“How do I get my people to be more accountable for results?” is the essential question from a recent post over at Harvard Business Review. It’s the kind of question that usually follows some type of failure at work. Someone misses a project deadline or comes in over budget. Forecasted performance goals go unmet.

A single failure can be frustrating enough; resolving more systemic issues of accountability across a team or organization can be daunting for managers and executives.

I suspect systemic accountability problems actually have to do with a lack of clarity and coherence. The former almost certainly drives the latter. In the absence of clarity, everyone can work from their own sets of rules about what outcomes are expected and how those commitments are followed through. No one shares the same mental map of the workplace and the way priorities and tasks are achieved.

Clarity even precedes the usual accountability suspects that leaders may point to: employee competence and motivation. Without shared ideas of appropriate outcomes and success metrics, these attributes just aren’t going to be much of a factor. If no one is using the same map, it will nearly be impossible to differentiate who is making progress in the desired direction, let alone what is driving that progress.

Developing a Shared Map of Accountability

The critical task facing leadership is to create and foster this shared map, either as a standalone culture of accountability or by weaving accountability throughout the organization’s core values. The map must clarify the following:

  • Destination: what outcomes are sought and how you know when you are there
  • Trip Planning: what resources are required and what happens if outcomes are not achieved
  • Route Updates: continuous feedback along the way to monitor progress, as well as keep teams and organizations aligned

There are several possible ways to achieve this depending on the specifics of your own organization and its culture, but one potential universal approach is through a culture of recognition. Here’s why.

A Recognition-driven Map

Recognition goes a long way in helping to develop a shared Destination. Leaders can recognize behaviors that drive results and demonstrate accountability. These behaviors provide an organization with vivid and specific examples of what success looks like and how to get there. They are powerful examples that all employees can share and learn from, developing their own repertoires of similar results-focused behaviors.

Recognition can also be used to highlight examples of Trip Planning. Examples include employees that go above and beyond in securing resources to meet important deadlines, or take initiative to deliver on commitments in the face of unanticipated obstacles. Again, recognition of these behaviors provides a shared repertoire of behaviors that align everyone behind accountability.

Finally, providing Route Updates, recognition is immediate and frequent. It allows leaders to monitor progress as well as quickly adapt to changes, particularly where peer-to-peer recognition is leveraged. This benefit limits the potential for derailing surprises and allows everyone to behave more proactively. Leaders can also gain insight into patterns of accountability across people, departments, and divisions, rewarding or intervening as necessary.

Altogether, recognition helps to create the shared maps that drive accountability, and as result, business performance. When everyone is aligned behind a common idea of what is expected and how success is measured, as well as creative responses to unforeseen challenges, accountability can become a competitive advantage.

What is your organization’s accountability map? How widely is it shared and recognized?

What To Do With All These Trends?

by Derek Irvine

Arrows pointing opposite waysRecognize This! – Trends are often captivating, but it takes a unified vision to see how they all can fit together to work for you.

If you are anything like me, you enjoy the articles of trends to watch in 2016, what HR should look like in 2020, and what the blue chips are up to. There are so many interesting ideas, it can be hard to know what to pay attention to, let alone what might be a fit for your own organization’s style, culture, and strategy.

In a Perfect World…

Imagine you are given free rein as an HR professional for your company over the next year. You are free to develop and implement anything and everything you have dreamed. Where do you start and what do you do?

Now, and more importantly, how do you tie it all together into something cohesive? What’s your aligning vision or goal for everything you want to accomplish?

This is an especially important question to answer, but all too easy to miss. These forecasts can have an à-la-carte feel. Adopt this practice, tweak this system, analyze that data. This is possibly a symptom of the sheer complexity of what HR is tasked with these days.

Regardless, our goal should be to look for the connections between data points and trends, pressures from the external environment, and alignment between business needs and HR services. We must connect the items on any list into a cohesive perspective of business reality today and how we can improve in the future.

Bringing It All Together

Linda Mougalian’s TLNT article, “Top 4 Trends,”  is a powerful example of this approach. She identifies four crucial trends for HR professionals in the coming years. Among them are rethinking annual performance reviews, improving culture and engagement, adopting new talent sourcing methods, and refining analytics to drive better decisions.

In each, Linda focuses on a foundational concept that unites the set of trends: leveraging relationships and data through social technology. In our imagined scenario, this would be my aligning vision.

Here’s how it all fits together:

  • Building an engaged culture by connecting people to one another, a culture in which they can recognize the contributions of others in helping the team and the company deliver on its core values. Social technology provides the “virtual watercooler” – as well as the data and reporting capability – that makes it all work.

Everything else the business or HR does should flow from there:

  • Reviewing performance is grounded in these relationships, and the day-to-day work those relationships produce. Social technology provides more immediacy and frequent feedback, as well as the ability to track that relationship data.
  • Transmitting the value of your culture and relationships to the external talent market, leveraging social media channels to spread the word. In the words of Josh Bersin, “becoming irresistible.
  • Finally, leveraging data analytics about the social fabric of the organization in terms of ongoing collaboration, movement of key talent, and retention of high performers.

A culture of recognition is crucial in harnessing these trends towards more integration of relationships and data through social technologies. Whatever your specific unifying vision, it is highly likely that some part of the WorkHuman movement will be at its core.

What trends do you see as driving your company forward, and how are they all connected?

Compensation Cafe: Time to Press Pause

by Derek Irvine

Pause button imageRecognize This! — Pressing pause gives employees time to reflect on their own work and the work of everyone around them. Social recognition brings power and frequency to those pauses.

A new year, a new chance to buckle down, focus on priorities and get to work – right? Actually, now may be a good time to pause, sit back and reflect instead. In my post today on Compensation cafe, I explain why. As I say in the post:

In addition to some amount of “where have I been,” pauses also offer the opportunity to reflect on “where am I now” and “where do I want to go.” If we think about our professional lives, the interrelationships between these questions is really about creating self-awareness, performance, and opportunity. These are the same principles behind everything from mindfulness to leadership and high-potential development. It turns out most activities that require improvement also require a pause that allow us to establish goals and develop plans.

Click over for the full story and more on the role social recognition plays in creating the habits to press pause at work.

The Gift of Giving

by Lynette Silva

Recognize This! — What we choose to give to others Hand holding presentrebounds in positivity on ourselves.

I read a lot of blogs. This time of year, it seems as many that share the wonders of the season, just as many deplore how it all seems to be focused on “What can I get for myself?” Yet we all know the true power of giving is in the act of giving itself. For all the pleasure in the getting of the gift, the real, lasting impact is more on the giver than on the recipient.

With Christmas a mere two days away, this story touched my heart. Several dozen children ranging in age from 6-11, most who live in poverty, where given a choice:  Get the Christmas present of your dreams or give a gift to a parent. The children were presented with both gifts – an Xbox 360 for himself and a TV for Dad; a Barbie Dream House for herself and a ring for Mom (“because she’s never really had a ring.”)

But here’s the catch. Each child had to choose just one. Keep the toy for themselves or give the gift to their parent. We all know what happens next:

“In the end, they all chose to sacrifice what they wanted to make their parent happy… The parents were blown away that their kids chose to give to them and were so attuned to what they would want and enjoy.”

Not only did every single child make a sacrificial choice to give to someone they loved, the selected gifts also communicated how well the child knew, noticed, appreciated, and loved their parent. I’m not sure which aspect of the gift meant more to the parents (the story doesn’t say), but for children who naturally tend to be self-focused at that age, the gifts tell a powerful story of love.

Of course, in the end the kids got to keep their presents, too.

The point is, it’s the ability to give that has tremendous impact on the giver. As organizations and leaders, we must ensure we are empowering all employees with the ability to give to others through recognition, praise and appreciation. The ROI of such acts is doubled because of the impact it has on both the giver and the recipient.

Today, think about that special someone in your life. What does a gift you would give to them communicate? Would you sacrifice your own desires to give that gift?

Performance Review Redesign: Human and Social Capital

by Derek Irvine

Diagram of interconnected colleaguesRecognize This! – New ways of working rely on collaboration and relationships in addition to individual skillsets. Performance reviews should take this into account.

There has been a lot in the news lately as more and more companies have abandoned their traditional performance review processes in favor of both more immediate and more ongoing alternatives. So far, the Fortune 500 players have been leading the charge, and other mid-size and smaller companies are sure to follow.

Most of this trend has been attributed to a growing awareness that successful companies will need to have systems that not only evaluate, but also develop their workforces. There is also the realization that these processes need to occur more often than annually or semi-annually, and be much more human-friendly to impact performance. The companies on the front lines have been largely pursuing unique approaches to accomplish some of these goals and resolve other common challenges with the practice. It will be interesting to see which of these crosses the threshold into becoming a best practice.

In the meantime, I want to offer a perspective on these trends complementing many of the forces noted above. Fundamentally, human capital is no longer a sufficient force to sustain high performance. In its place, social capital is playing an increasingly important role in helping organizations to manage the complexity and pace of work, and achieve lasting competitive advantage. What’s the difference between the two?

Human capital is captured in the knowledge, skills, competencies, and other characteristics possessed by individual employees. It runs the gamut from tangible (like computer programming skills) to intangible (like creative thinking). Organizations have long sought to acquire and manage the collective human capital of their employees to drive productivity and performance. In this world, traditional performance reviews make a whole lot of sense. Managers want to be able to quantify what each individual brings to the team, and expand that level over time.

If human capital sets the foundation, social capital is what allows you to build upwards.

Social capital are the resources embedded in relationships between people, within and across companies. Proponents of social capital perspectives point to the critical role of these relationships in getting work done: contributing to improved communication, better access to information or resources, and more efficient large-scale action. These are exactly the type of assets that are most needed in solving today’s complex challenges, where novelty and ambiguity are the new normal. These are also the assets that traditional performance reviews are most ill-equipped to capture.

It may go without saying, but… social capital requires a more social approach to performance reviews.

In addition to the focus on improving the timeliness and developmental aspects of the performance review process, companies need to begin considering how best to quantify and develop the social capital of their employees. There is valuable data to be had in the collaborative relationships that employees develop to be at their most successful, as well as a chance to get in on the ground floor of career development discussions around which relationships are the most rewarding and productive.

From my perspective, high performing companies will be those that establish performance reviews that give weight to social capital in addition to human capital, to deliver insight into their employees’ skillsets and networks as key drivers of performance.

What about your own experiences with performance reviews, has anyone asked about the networks you rely on to get your job done?

Recognition Drives “One Company” Cultures

by Derek Irvine

Working togetherRecognize This! — For organizations struggling to develop an integrated front, a culture of values-based social recognition presents a unique path forward.

There’s an interesting post over at strategy+business that takes a look at the barriers that large companies have in achieving one deceptively simple goal: becoming truly integrated across geographies, product lines, and functions. The post points to three basic issues that get in the way: visibility, complexity, and trust.

No doubt these are important attributes for any organization, regardless of size, given the speed and pace of changes many of us face. Despite being tethered to work devices 24/7, keeping up with our immediate work circles is difficult enough, not to mention connections to our larger networks of project teams, co-workers, and customers. A fix is definitely needed, but somehow, trying to implement separate practices to target each of these specific issues seems too piecemeal, especially within the large organizations where such practices might be most useful.

Imagine, for example, the leadership team of a global organization, armed with the best intentions. They can implement changes to improve visibility and connections between employees; make complexity more manageable through guidelines; and build trust through team collaboration.

Paradoxically, the very things they are trying to fix may get in the way of the solutions being successful from the start. Employees at far-flung locations might not get the memo about the new collaboration summits. Each teams’ processes are complex in their own unique way, requiring layer upon layer of initially simple rulesets around coordination and priorities. At the very basic level, data indicates the high failure rate of large-scale change interventions. You can guess what happens when the amount of change requested of employees is multiplied across these different initiatives.

There is hope yet, though! I would argue that all three of these issues – visibility, complexity, and trust, as well as other human issues a company might struggle with in achieving united execution – can be addressed through a single, foundational concept: a culture of values-based social recognition.

Why recognition specifically? Perhaps the chief reason is that it can deliver a positive impact across the levers that organizations use to develop a “one company” culture: when moments of strong work performance are called out and recognized as aligned with a set of shared values. Here’s how:

  • Such moments are incredibly visible, transmitting to everyone a clear picture of what desired behaviors look like and why they are important. And everyone knows a picture is often worth 1,000 words!
  • These moments are scalable, with everyone possessing the opportunity to multiply the reinforcement of the company’s values – from top leadership to the new mailroom clerk learning the ropes. This scalability provides an easy framework from which to manage complexity: even though everyone’s contribution is different, they are united by those shared values.
  • Finally, recognition is social, connecting workers with one another to build trust, facilitating complex tasks, and allowing organizations to immediately see where collaboration is occurring, across functions and projects.

Rather than a bunch of small changes to address different pieces of the puzzle, global organizations seeking to become more integrated can leverage the power of thanks to achieve the successes that stem from this positivity-driven culture. Simplified in this way, the change management process is easier, and the alignment of people behind a single organizational culture is strengthened. That’s how we create more human workplaces. (Learn more about how to WorkHuman: Join us May 9-11 in Orlando, Florida.)

What are some of the ways your organization is bringing people together under a unified banner?