Archive for the "Strategic Recognition & Company Values" Category

Why Employee Engagement Matters in Healthcare

by Derek Irvine

Patient with DoctorRecognize This! – Engaged employees directly and powerfully impact customer satisfaction, which translates to patient health and safety in the healthcare industry.

Employee engagement is critical to customer satisfaction. This has been proven by study after study. And engagement is critical in any industry from retail to manufacturing to high-tech to pharmaceuticals. But personally, if I had to pick an industry in which I’d want employee engagement to be particularly high due to its impact on me as a customer, that industry would be healthcare.

I want the nurses, doctors and support staff who care for my physical well-being to be fully invested in my “customer satisfaction,” because that means they are fully invested in my health. That’s why I was pleased to see this article that included interviews with executives from two large health services systems in the U.S. Both executives express commitment to the factors that drive employee engagement to ensure patient safety and satisfaction. Both also offer powerful guidance for leaders in any industry.

Kevin Gwin, vice president of patient experience and communications for Ardent Health Services

“Nurse and staff loyalty and engagement play the most important role in generating patient loyalty—it’s where we begin. I cannot ask our employees to change, if our relationship with them is not in the right place.  I must ensure we’re staffed appropriately, they have the tools and equipment they need, they have trust in administration and their supervisor, they receive consistent, accurate communication and they feel recognized and valued before I ask more of them on the patient side.”

Kevin points to three critical factors, two of which are:

  1. Resources – Don’t expect people to do the job if you’re unwilling or unable to give them the tools necessary to do so.
  2. Trust and communications – Give people the guidance and context they need to understand the “bigger picture” and commit with you to achieving it.

Vic Buzachero, corporate senior vice president, innovation/HR/performance management for Scripps Health

“Three areas stand out as key to creating a patient-centered culture. First is leadership that provides clear direction and ‘walks the talk.’ Second is the alignment of work and human resource systems and practices that focus, reinforce, and reward behaviors that support the patient experience… Third is finding ways to isolate those efforts by service line. Pin-pointing the data by service line or room number or physician or a small group of nurses revolutionizes how leaders transform the culture… This changes the whole game; Instead of focusing on the whole house, you can target educate, target coach and target recognize. You can identify your hospital’s champion physicians, nurses, and staff and use them to educate and coach the others.”

Vic calls out two additional scenarios, while also referencing recognition.

  1. Leadership – Similar to Kevin’s “trust and communication,” leaders set the tone. That responsibility cannot be abdicated.
  2. Reporting and Intervention – This is fundamental. If your goal is to improve processes, services, delivery, etc., across all units, then you need to target your efforts based on those who need intervention, using those who are already getting it right to assist in making those improvements.

All four of those efforts are made easier with the common critical element called out by both executives – Recognition. Frequent, timely and specific recognition helps people see the deeper meaning of their work and reinforces in the moment the behaviors, outcomes and efforts you desire in all employees. But it also gives you far more data – the information you need on areas for success and areas for improvement.

How are you gathering data you need to make better decisions as leaders and communicate with staff?

Finding Your Hidden Heroes – Listen to Their Peers

by Lynette Silva

Bruins Hockey Team Logo with "Strong"Recognize This! – Your “Steady Eddie” employees are the people who make it possible for your stars to shine. They deserve recognition and praise, too.

If Traci Pesch can blog about her beloved Cleveland Cavaliers, then I can about my own Boston Bruins. I moved to Boston more than 20 years ago from West Texas. Needless to say, ice hockey wasn’t a sport we followed where I grew up. But from my first hockey season at Boston University, I was hooked. It’s just such a fast-paced, exciting game, it’s impossible to not get a rush just watching it.

And then there’re moments that bring you to tears. In this case, happy tears. Did you see the sweet story of Liam Fitzgerald last week? I can’t set it up any better NBC Sports did, so I’ll rely on their words:

Liam Fitzgerald is an eight-year-old who has Down syndrome and was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at four. He battled with cancer for three and a half years and has beaten it. He’s also a big Adam McQuaid fan, to the point where Liam dressed up as him for Halloween in 2013. When McQuaid learned of him, the Bruins defenseman arranged for him and his family to be guests at a game in February. He was invited back on Tuesday and this was the result:” (Email subscribers, click through for the video.)

This video has been the talk of the office for days. A colleague of mine, Eric Bauer, had this to say about it:

“It’s great Liam is such a fan of McQuaid. McQuaid’s no superstar, but no slouch either.  He’s one of the most unsung heroes of the Bruins over the last few years.  Every night, he quietly gets his job done, and his presence on the ice is definitely felt.  Although on Tuesday night, McQuaid was superman to Liam (and all the Bruins who fist-pumped Liam as they returned to the locker room).”

So what’s the lesson I draw from all of this? Your superstar employees tend to get the most attention and adulation, but it’s often those in the “mighty middle” that make it possible for those stars to shine. As Eric pointed out, McQuaid is not a superstar, but Patrice Bergeron wouldn’t be the superstar he is without McQuaid “making his presence on the ice felt and getting the job done.”

But Liam noticed. Liam picked the hero that most matched himself – the person who quietly gets the job done and makes those around him happier along the way. And that’s often true in the workplace, too. It’s peers and colleagues who often notice the value of the “Steady Eddies.” That’s why peer recognition is a critical component of a social employee recognition approach. Empower everyone to praise and appreciate your hidden heroes.

Who are your people that “get the job done” but perhaps don’t get the praise your stars often do?

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

by Brenda Pohlman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who will you thank today?

Want to Increase Employee Engagement? Communicate Meaning & Value of Work

by Derek Irvine

Employees climbing financial chart togetherRecognize This! – Employee engagement is increasing in most factors, but we’re still falling short in recognizing employees and providing them with the tools to do the job well.

Last Friday, I shared information showing that increasing employee engagement is one of the best ways you can help secure corporate information. Today, I’m following up with how to increase employee engagement based on the latest from Aon Hewitt.

Last week Aon Hewitt released its 16th Annual Best Employers in Canada list. Overall, Canadian employees are more engaged (65% engaged) than their US and global counterparts (61% for both). Best employers in Canada averaged 77% employee engagement (versus 58% for other employers). This is lovely news for Canadian employers, but what does it mean? What mechanism does Aon Hewitt use to determine employee engagement?

Aon Hewitt surveys employees at participating companies, determining engagement levels based on its “Say, Stay and Strive” model. To me, it’s a blend of the Net Promoter Score approach (I would refer my company to others), retention models, and the standard definition of employee engagement (I am willing to go the extra mile to deliver on organization priorities).

But even at the best employers, the survey found two areas needing improvement – recognition and enabling productivity. From the survey press release:

“Study participants gave their employers low marks in a handful of areas that remain challenges to better engagement overall. On recognizing employees beyond pay and benefits, for example, average satisfaction among those surveyed stood at 56%. The survey findings also suggest that Canadian employers seeking to improve engagement may be wise to consider ways to better enable productive work — giving employees the tools, technology and the information to do their jobs well, and ensuring that business practices encourage (rather than stand in the way of) productivity. On enabling work, the average satisfaction score was just 59%.”

Why are recognition and enablement so critical to employee engagement? Because, fundamentally, both of these elements communicate to employees “What I do is meaningful and valuable.”

Think about it. If your work is important to company success, then your company is going to make sure you have the tools you need to do your job (whether that’s new software, specific tools, or simply a work environment conducive to how you work best). If you want employees to go above and beyond, you have to give them the means to so. It’s just common sense.

Recognition of work well done should be common sense, too. Recognition is the most powerful (and simple) ways of increasing employee engagement. (And the research on this abounds.) You need employees to focus on certain behaviors, contributing to certain results. How can you most effectively help them focus repeatedly on those desired behaviors? Recognize them when they demonstrate those behaviors – every time! Praise employees for making progress on major projects to remind them of the value of their efforts on the way to success.

How do you communicate value and meaningfulness of work to your employees?

Compensation Cafe: What’s Your “Waffle House Index” for Employee Engagement?

by Derek Irvine

Waffle House restaurant open at nightRecognize This! — There are many organic measures of employee engagement, if we care to notice them.

Yesterday on Compensation Cafe I shared a case study of the “Waffle House Index” – an informal method of measuring the level of destruction from a weather event (tornado, blizzard, flood, etc.) based on the how functional local Waffle House restaurants after the disaster.

I think we have many such informal measurement tools we use in our own organizations – especially to gauge employee engagement and willingness to go the extra mile. Click over to the Compensation Cafe post for the full details of the Waffle House Index and three examples of such informal indices. My post got a little too long, so below I’m sharing a few diagnostic questions for each of the three indices discussed in Compensation Cafe.

1) Relationships between employees

Ask yourself: Do our employees seem to actually enjoy each others’ companies? Are people sitting together to share lunch or go for a walk on break? Do people reach out to others when they may be experiencing personal highs (the birth of a baby, a birthday) or lows (death of a loved one or other major life change)?

2) Informal gratitude, appreciation and other expressions of recognition

Ask yourself: How does positivity flow through our organization? Is recognition seen as purely a purview of managers or does everyone feel responsible for appreciating the efforts of others? What do we see being recognized by others? Are these the behaviors, actions or results that we want to see reinforced?

3) Voluntarily engagement in outside-of-work activities

 Ask yourself: How popular (really) is our annual BBQ picnic? Do employees come out of sense of obligation or because they really want to? What other “fun” or outside-of-work activities are our employees choosing to do with each other?

Read the full post at Compensation Cafe, then let me know: What alternative metrics do you see in your organization? Are they telling you a good story, or are they indicating an area of concern?

Trick or Treat! Your Work Superpower

by Lynette Silva

GloboGirlRecognize This! – We all have superpowers, if we choose to use them.

Trick or treat! Who’s ready for Halloween? Is your workplace one that encourages costumes? Yesterday, Globoforce hosted a party for the kids of our employees. As someone who tends to receive very few trick-or-treaters at my home, I loved seeing all the cute costumes and meeting the families of my colleagues. Today, however, is all about the adults. We are having a costume contest this afternoon and, yes, I am participating.

My costume, you ask? I am GloboGirl – fighting the injustice of ingratitude everywhere! I’ve always wanted to be a superhero and now’s my chance (cape, mask and all). Superheroes have fascinated me since I was child, especially these aspects:

  • Alter Ego – The mild mannered “Clark Kent” to “Superman.” To hide themselves in plain sight, superheroes adopt a personality diametrically opposed to their super selves. Yet, somehow, the alter ego still reflects the essence of the superhero inside. Clark Kent is a journalist in search of the truth.
  • Super Power – Some superheroes have their powers bestowed upon them in otherworldly fashion (Superman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman). Others create their own (Batman, Ironman). But all hone and develop those powers or abilities for the betterment of their communities.

Here’s my Halloween “treat” for you. We all have alter egos and superpowers. We all sometimes hide our best selves for various reasons. We all have talents or skills we can bring forward. The “trick” is in wanting to let our super-selves and our super powers shine.

Today, I’m bringing out GloboGirl. But in reality, I always have the ability to fight ingratitude by simply noticing others around me and pausing to sincerely appreciate them and their efforts. It sounds simple (and it is), but the impact is quite powerful. We all have the power to change someone’s perspective, to make their day brighter, to help others feel a greater sense of value and contribution.

The injustice of ingratitude is real. We “trick” our employees all too often by not giving them valuable, timely, authentic feedback and appreciation. Instead, we need to “treat” them with the gift of gratitude. We all need to treat each other with appreciation and recognition.

What’s your superpower at work?

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?

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?