Archive for the "Social Recognition" Category

3 Lessons from the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces

by Derek Irvine

Statment about ease of losing trustRecognize This! – Gratitude matters. No matter who good we are, there’s always room for growth and improvement.

Tomorrow, the Great Place to Work® Institute will release the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces 2014 (you can see the list of companies here, starting 23 October). China Gorman, CEO of Great Place to Work, offered insight into trends seen in these best multinational workplaces in her weekly blog post. I’m calling out three of those trends, quoting China and offering a few insights on each trend myself.

1) Great Workplaces Are Getting Better

“The positive trend that I’m speaking, to be exact, is that levels of trust, camaraderie and pride are rising at the best workplaces – essentially, the world’s best workplaces are getting better. In recent years we’ve seen “the best” companies get better in the majority of the ~50 countries where we measure workplaces using our Trust Index© employee survey. Additionally, we have seen increasing trust at the companies that make up Great Place to Work®’s annual World’s Best Multinational Workplaces list.”

In my consulting engagements, I speak often about the importance of creating or strengthening a culture of appreciation and recognition. When I work with “top” companies, leaders will often ask, “We already have a strong workplace culture. What’s the benefit to us of focusing on this?”

Simply put, you’re either moving forward or you’re moving backward. In today’s business world, you never stay in the same place for long. As this study points out, the strong are getting stronger. If you are strong today and are not focused on continuing to build your strengths, you may see your strength slipping away. If you don’t have a good, positive, healthy, appreciative culture today (or even a middling one), you will only continue to lose ground to the “bests.”

2) Increasing “Trust” Increases Business Results

“Our research highlights seven reasons why trust is rising in great workplaces: awareness, evidence, Generation Y, employee gratitude, wellbeing, momentum, and transparency. Globally, company leaders have been demonstrating an increased awareness towards the importance of a high-trust workplace culture. Furthermore, we’re seeing increasingly more evidence published that great workplaces lead to better business results. For example, publicly traded companies on the U.S. Best Companies to Work For list have nearly doubled the performance of the stock market overall from 1997 to 2013 and a paper published earlier this year by the European Corporate Governance Institute which studied data from 14 countries, concluded that higher levels of employee satisfaction (reflected by earning a spot on a best workplaces list generated by Great Place to Work®) corresponded to stock market outperformance in countries with high levels of labor market flexibility, such as the United States and the United Kingdom.”

Out of the six “dimensions” the Great Place to Work model uses, China chose to spend a large amount of her post focused on the impact of one of those dimensions in particular – “Trust.” It’s trust in our leaders, in our colleagues, in the value of our daily work that engages us at work. And, as China points out, the impact of that trust on business results in undeniable – globally. This is, again, a virtuous circle. The more trust we have, the more we give, the more successful the company is, so the more we trust.

3) Employee Gratitude Is Vital to Increasing Trust

“Employee gratitude also plays a big role in high-trust cultures. Best workplace environments reflect employee gratitude and reciprocation and aren’t solely about what management is doing for employees. This is especially true during trying times for companies. When one company’s culture may take a turn for the worse during economic hardships, organizations that take care of their employees amid such a time can create higher levels of trust.”

China also points to employee gratitude as one of main contributors to increasing trust. We express gratitude to our employees in any number of ways, the most obvious being through ongoing, timely, and meaningful recognition and praise. I like the phrase “employee gratitude” for the duality it implies – both the gratitude received by an employee as well as the gratitude expressed to others by an employee. It’s the back and forth between employees at all levels (and not restricted to manager-to-employee only) that creates a broad and deep sense of trust between everyone.

What do you see as the biggest drivers of your organization’s success? How would you describe your culture today?

It’s Not Fair! – Why “Fairness” Matters in Employee Recognition & Reward

by Traci Pesch

It's Not FiarRecognize This! – Research shows our brains are built to perceive fairness as rewarding in itself.

Any parents out there? What’s the most common refrain you hear from your kids? In my house, it’s “That’s not fair!” It can apply to anything – who got the extra chicken finger, who got to pick the movie, who got the comfy chair for movie night, who had to go to bed earlier.

It turns out, my kids’ brains are hardwired for this kind of behavior. Actually, we all are.

Research reported in showed:

“We have an inbuilt idea of fairness as well as a learned one. The researchers, led by Alexander Cappelen at the University of Bergen in Norway, had volunteers perform routine office work for various amounts of time. Then the subjects were put in an MRI machine and told their monetary reward would be split with another participant. This unequal split sometimes reflected the amount each had worked, and sometimes didn’t. When someone found they were receiving more money, the striatum lit up — but it lit up even more when they had worked longer than the other person. In other words, the brain perceived the fairness of the division at a very low level.”

Fairness matters. And that’s why we talk about the need in employee recognition programs to calibrate awards to the level of effort, contribution, and result, among other factors. Think about it. Let’s say you worked on a team project, but through some investigative work, you were solely responsible for the discovery of a system malfunction that could have saved the company millions over the next several months. The entire team is praised for the discovery and every team member is equally recognized with a reward that has an economic value of $100.

You and everyone else on the team know it was your discovery that made the difference. You, of course, feel slighted. But here’s the interesting finding – your fellow colleagues are also upset on your behalf. It’s not “fair” and everyone knows it.

Calibrated award levels let givers of recognition choose the appropriate award based on several factors (proactivity, scope, impact, ownership, and time investment) to ensure the recipient’s experience is memorable, enjoyable and – yes – fair.

How fair are your employee recognition and reward practices?


5 Must-Haves for a Meaningful Message of Appreciation

by Lynette Silva

Cover image of book Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.Recognize This! – We see good examples of recognition around us all the time. The trick is incorporating those lessons in how we recognize others.

What’s your top 5 favorite movie list? I won’t admit to all of mine (just yet), but one is definitely Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (I’m a huge Audrey Hepburn fan.) I share this with you because of a book I finished over the weekend, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M., by Sam Wasson. The book is about the making of the movie, including the making of Audrey Hepburn as an actress up to that point.

What does this have to do with a blog about recognition and appreciation? A letter written by Audrey to Henry Mancini (who did the music for the movie) is a case study in how to write a good recognition message. Here’s the letter:

Dear Henry,

I have just seen our picture – BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S – this time with your score.

A movie without music is a little bit like an aeroplane without fuel. However beautifully the job is done, we are still on the ground and in a world of reality. Your music has lifted us all up and sent us soaring. Everything we cannot say with words or show with action you have expressed for us. You have done this with so much imagination, fun and beauty.

You are the hippest of cats – and the most sensitive of composers!

Thank you, dear Hank.

Lots of love,


Without a good, heartfelt, detailed message of praise, many employee recognition efforts fall flat. I often call these half-hearted efforts “drive-by recognition,” which often looks like the manager breezing past an employee’s desk, calling over his shoulder, “Great job, Louise. Thanks!”

By contrast, Audrey’s letter illustrates what a recognition message should include, specifically:

1) What the person did that is worthy of thanks.

It’s obvious in this case – Henry Mancini added music to a movie, lifting it above what it was alone. How can you apply that at work? Let’s imagine Louise helped you on a client project that required a good deal of research to be completed on a tight deadline. Your message might begin, “Louise, we couldn’t have completed the Smith project without your contributions and deep knowledge of available research in this space.”

2) How that effort went above and beyond.

Above and beyond effort is especially worthy of recognition. Audrey calls that out through a beautiful illustration of how music lifts us all up. In our example, you could continue your message to Louise with, “You dropped other high-priority work to jump into the Smith project with full commitment. You recognized the importance of the project to the overall team and did not hesitate.”

3) Call out the specific skills, talents or attributes demonstrated.

Generalized recognition does not help a person improve or know what behaviors they should repeat. Specific recognition, on the other hand, makes it very clear. Audrey expresses that by describing Henry’s work as “imagination, fun and beauty.” In our example, perhaps you would convey to Louise, “Not only did you pull research to support our position, but you carefully reviewed it for the most relevant arguments, whittling down copious amounts of supporting data to those that would matter the most in this particular and unique case. That take both attention to detail and a willingness to immerse yourself in the client’s mindset and needs.”

4) Make it real to the moment or event being recognized.

To people who are not fans of the movie, the phrase “hippest of cats” might seem merely a reference to the decade in which the note was written. It’s not. Audrey is bringing in words used by her character, Holly Golightly, tying the message of praise even more firmly to the movie and reason for recognition. For Louise, this might read like, “You are our research guru. We might as well call you ‘Google’!”

5) An expression of sincere thanks.

As obvious as it might seem, it’s important to use the words, “thank you.” They mean something at a deep, heartfelt level when not used in a tossed-off fashion. Audrey wraps her note up with those words, and so should you to Louise, “Thank you, Louise.”

(As a bonus, check out this post for other “Letters of Note” that are excellent examples of recognition.)

What’s your favorite movie or message of appreciation?

Compensation Cafe: Employee Recognition – The Psychology Perspective

by Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – Employee recognition matters – to employee health, performance and productivity as well as to the bottom line.

There’s lots of research on the importance of recognition and the power of thanks. Long time readers know I’ve written about a good bit of it, whether the research came from academia, industry analysts or vendors. On Compensation Cafe today, I wrote about a new piece of employee recognition research that caught my attention mostly because of who conducted the survey – the American Psychological Association (APA) Center for Organizational Excellence.

Click over for the full post and more on 3 key findings I highlight:

  1. A better recognition experience leads to better business outcomes.
  2. Fair pay matters most, but don’t rely on that too much.
  3. We rely too much on manager recognition.

As I conclude in the original post, it’s a bit obvious why a psychological association would be conducting this research – because whether or not we’re recognized for what we do all day impacts our psychological well-being. And that’s also a bottom-line impact – the health and wellness of our employees.

Read the post and share your comments.

A Culture of Appreciation Starts with You

by Derek Irvine

Thank you speech bubblesRecognize This! – Creating a “thank you” culture requires each of us to do good work and thank and appreciate others who do the same.

Tell me about your workplace environment. What’s the general attitude or “feel” of the office? Hopeful and energetic? Downtrodden and despondent? Somewhere in between?

What’s your personal reaction to this environment? How do you work within it or contribute to improving it? Do you see this as your responsibility?

I believe it is every person’s responsibility to contribute to a work environment and culture they want. If you think about it, every person already is – consciously or subconsciously – by their regular comments, efforts, actions and interactions. The challenge is that those “cultural contributions” can be positive or negative.

So, how do you – and I mean you, personally and individually – create a culture of appreciation? It starts by choosing to be more appreciative yourself, with no hidden agenda but out of a sincere desire to notice, acknowledge and praise the good work of those around you.

Laurie Ruettimann shares a good story around this in her blog today, with this key piece of advice:

“The way you thank people is by doing good work yourself and not looking for a thank you. When you get a chance to pay it forward and say thank you, do it. But don’t wait around for a letter of thanks to come your way.” (Emphasis original)

Let’s break that down:

  1. Do good work – Committing to doing your very best work every day signals to those on your team who rely on you that you are also committed to their success. It communicates that you will do all you can to “own” the work and not burden them further. It acknowledges that you know the value of good work yourself.
  2. Don’t ask for thanks – Unfortunately, this question comes up in many facilitated session I lead on recognition. “What about the people who expect some kind of recognition for every little thing, even when it’s part of their regular job?” My advice to you – don’t contribute to the problem. Good work gets noticed. If you don’t feel you’re being recognized for your good efforts, then refer to Point 1 above and Point 3 below.
  3. Say “thank you” to others – Create the culture you want to be part of. Nobody says “thank you” to you? Start saying “thank you” to others. When you notice good work, desirable behaviors or exceptional effort, make the effort to show the appreciation you’d like to receive in turn. You can be the catalyst of change.

Now, today, look around your workplace. Consider the people you work with. Who can you proactively say “thank you” to in a meaningful, personal and specific way? What’s stopping you?

Rally Your “Posse” for Success

by Derek Irvine

Chalk drawing of team pyramidRecognize This! – We are all more successful as individuals when we commit to the success of our teams.

I’ve another good executive interview featured in the New York Times “Corner Office” column to share with you. This one is with Deborah Bial, president of the Posse Foundation, which “recruits and trains students from public high schools to form teams to help them succeed in college.”

This is quite an interesting organization with a purpose I’m happy to support and publicize through RecognizeThis! But there’s value for us in the workplace, too. In this brief interview about her approach to helping at-risk teens succeed in college, Bial offers three lessons any of us can apply in our organizations, today.

1) We work better with a “posse” we trust.

When we’re facing a new and unknown challenge, we’re likely to be more successful when we have people we know and trust around us. Bial explains this in terms of the birth of Posse:

“I was in charge of this idea of Posse, which came from one of the kids — a really smart, great kid from the Bronx who had gotten a scholarship to an Ivy League school and had dropped out, and was back at CityKids. He said, ‘I never would have dropped out of college if I had my posse with me.’”

Think about the formal or informal work teams you’ve been a part of in your career. Which teams were more successful? In which teams did you feel more successful, personally? I bet it’s those in which you had a stronger personal connection to the people on the team. The depth of the personal relationships makes us all want to give more of our best, yes, but also feel safer to share innovative ideas or go out on a limb.

We’re also less likely to leave organizations in which we’ve formed close friendships.

2) We have a better chance of success when we reach out to others for help.

When asked what makes the biggest difference in which Posse students ultimately succeed, Bial answered:

“In a crisis, they reach out versus reach in. We look for the person who reaches out, because they will give themselves more options to succeed.”

In the context of teams and team success, this makes perfect sense. We must remember that teams are made up of very distinct individuals. When any one person on the team is not functioning at his or her best (for whatever reason), the entire team will also suffer. The wise individual reaches out to the team for help, and the wise team will also proactively reach out to the individual to offer needed support. Sure, it’s altruistic. But it’s also imperative for success.

3) The team behind the leader is the real reason for success.

The “Corner Office” columns always share “leadership advice” from the interview subject. Bial offered this nugget:

“My philosophy is that leaders should always remember that it’s not because of them that things are successful.”

Leaders are important, yes, but it’s the people who get the work done that drive ultimate success. This is another reason to look beyond just your high performers in your recognition and reward efforts to include the “mighty middle” – those “average” employees who consistently contribute day after day and make it possible for the stars to shine.

Many members of my posse joined me on this blog a few months ago. Who’s your posse at work? Who do you count on for success?

How You Give Feedback Is as Important as What You Say

by Traci Pesch

girls volleyball team celebratingRecognize This! – Some employees are well conditioned to receive and respond to feedback, but they will still do better if that feedback is given in a constructive, helpful and positive way.

My kids are going to top performers in the workplace someday. Sure, they’re only 12 and 5 right now, but I’m fairly confident in their ability to perform, refine skills based on feedback, and deliver results.

Of course, you could chalk this up to “Proud Mama” talk, but I have validation. Andy Porter, Chief People Officer at the Broad Institute, wrote in a Fistful of Talent blog post:

“All things being equal, if I have the opportunity to hire a musician or an athlete over a non-musician or athlete I’ll do it.  Every time.  … How about those running drills you used to do at 6AM before school so you had a chance to make the team as a third-stringer?  Turns out that discipline of getting up early to practice and go after something you really wanted sticks with you even today.  And it makes you a better employee because of it. Why is this the case? … 1. Feedback is public and immediate. … 2. You know who’s better than you.  … 3. The tape doesn’t lie. (Performance is documented.) … 4. Deliberate practice…

“Now when I say ‘musician’ and ‘athlete,’ I’m not talking about the guy who plays Guitar Hero in his underwear or the woman who’s an intramural league MVP.  I’m talking about people who, for an extended period in their lives, were formally trained to be a musician or an athlete and had to practice and perform on a regular basis.  Why?  Because they understand the importance of accepting critical feedback and diligently practice to get better.  It’s just part of their DNA.  And in a work world where most people are just trying not to make waves and piss anyone off, it’s refreshing to have people on the team who demand that you help them be better.”

I agree with Andy’s perspective. Aside from specific skills, athletics and music train for discipline. Being in the midst of volleyball tournament season with my daughter and the soccer season with my son, I’m on the sidelines watching the practices, seeing the reactions to referee judgments or coaching corrections, and watching how they respond by working harder and tweaking performance.

But one observation I’ve made more times than I like to count is how feedback is given to these young athletes. By way of example, let me share this story from one of my daughter’s volleyball games this past weekend. The opposing team had a very vocal parental cheering section, and not in a good way. Waves of constant berating comments flowed from the stands, both towards our team as well as their own team members. I noticed the physical effect on the girls – downturned shoulders, less aggression, negative instead of supportive comments between the teammates – and this was the girls on the team we were playing against, responding to comments from their “cheering” section.

I’m proud of how our girls rallied. We cheered them on with positive encouragement and comments like “You’ll get it next time, step in more.” The girls offered encouraging words to each other, as they usually do. The outcome – it was a well-played game on both sides by well-matched teams based on skills, but our team won. I know beyond a doubt a key reason we won was the consistent, positive feedback, even when constructive criticism or redirection was also needed.

So, yes, your “athlete and musician” employees are accustomed to feedback and hard work, but how that feedback is given is a primary determinant of how well the individual and the team perform.

What’s the predominant form of feedback in your organization or team? How do employees respond?

Appreciating a Favorite Co-Worker

by Andrea Gappmayer

Support Co-workersRecognize This! – We all have the ability to be the superstar, and we all have the responsibility to praise and recognize the superstar.

One of my all-time favorite co-workers is a woman named Cami. Cami was a big ball of fire with a teeny tiny body, amazing cooking skills, and fabulous boots. But that’s not why I loved her.

Cami was the most hard-working person I think I’ve ever worked with. If she was bored—which she rarely was—she would find something work related to do. Cami was always the first person who volunteered to take on extra work or help a colleague. If you had a question about anything work-related—and I mean anything—Cami knew the answer. Not the made-up answer. The real answer. She knew how to set up our computers and phones; she knew how to write training guides; she knew how to invoice a client; she knew who to call to clean up Diet Pepsi spills, and she knew everyone’s cell phone numbers by heart. Is it any wonder we called her “Rainman?” Her willingness to go above and beyond to help people be successful was impressive and always appreciated. Any time she would come to my cubicle just to say hello, she would always leave by saying, “Do you need anything from me today?” And she meant it.

Pull a “Cami” today. Sincerely ask a colleague how you can help them out, and then do it. Help a co-worker find the solution to a problem or question—not a made-up answer or band-aid answer—a legitimate, long-term solution. I think I’ll pull a “Cami” right now by calling my frazzled co-worker and taking some of the work off of her shoulders. Now if I only had Cami’s cooking skills…. And those boots.

Who’s your office “go-to” person? How is he or she appreciated by others for above and beyond efforts?

I’ll Aim For January

by Andrea Gappmayer

bottle of spilled wineRecognize This! – Don’t wait to recognize someone if they deserve to be recognized today.

I live about two hours from Napa Valley.  When people hear that they tell me they’re jealous and ask how often I go wine tasting.  Umm…once?

ONCE?  In two years, you’ve only been once?  But you’re so close, why not go more often?  To which I reply, “That’s a very good question.”  So I had to think about it.  Why have I only been once?  Because, quite honestly, I know it’s there, it’s so close to me, I can go any time I want, so I’ll go next weekend.  Or next month.  Ok, I’ll aim for January.  But then Napa was hit with a 6.1 earthquake and I was rocked to my core.  What happens if Napa Valley has another earthquake and falls into the ocean and I lived so close and never went and now barrels of really delicious wine is lost to me forever!

Are you maybe a little bit like this with your super-star employee?  You know she did a great job on the project this month.  And the project last month.   You can always count on her to do a good job.  You forgot to recognize her last month, and this month you don’t really have the time.  Be she’s gonna be around next week, so I’ll recognize her then.  Or next month.  Or…I’ll aim for January….

Compensation Cafe: Engagement, Business Decisions and Books

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! — Social Recognition is a business decision that is also a powerful means of employee engagement.

Today, I’d like to you point you to my most recent posts on Compensation Cafe and a new book written by 3/8 of the Compensation Cafe Team:


Is It a Reward, a Perk, or a Business Decision?

In this post, I look at recent news of the US government investigating taxation of employee free-food cafeterias such as the benefit offered by Google. How companies perceive the benefit itself will weight most heavily in the ultimate decision on what to do about employee benefits such as free-food offerings. If you think of the cafeterias as merely a “perk” designed to increase your corporate reputation as a “cool company,” then your motivation is coming from the wrong place. However, if you think of fully loaded, free-food employee cafeterias as a business decision, then I’d be willing to wager the programs will continue even in the face of 30% increased taxes (which are paid by the company, not the employee, in most cases). Many companies perceive this benefit (as well as free on-site dry cleaning, day care, and many more) as a terrific way to keep employees on campus, focused and working hard for longer hours at a stretch. It is a business decision that directly impacts productivity and potentially profitability.


The “I’ve Got Your Back” Measure of Employee Engagement

Knowing your boss and teammates have your back is powerfully engaging for employees. In this post, I look at three ways you can communicate “I’ve got your back” to members of your team. Read the post for the full details on these techniques below:

  1. Compensate them fairly
  2. Look for ways to recognize efforts, contributions and achievements
  3. Communicate publicly and privately


Read the Book: Everything You Do in Compensation is Communication

Here’s the description of the book from the Compensation Cafe contributor authors, Ann Bares, Margaret O’Hanlon, and Dan Walter:

“You’re an expert at your job, so why do you need this book? We bet that like us you want your compensation work to have more impact. That’s why you are always looking for a way to do your work better.Whether you are an analyst or vice president, there’s a good argument to be made for thinking about compensation in a different way. Looking beyond Excel spreadsheets. Finding the significance of our work and the influence we can have. We have one goal, to share with you what we’ve learned:  When we acknowledge that everything that we do in compensation is communication, our work has far greater influence on our company’s success.”