Archive for the "Strategic Recognition & Company Values" Category

“Good Job” – 2 Most Harmful Words in the English Language?

by Brenda Pohlman

Recognize This! – Consider carefully the words we use to recognize others and whether go-to phrases like ”good job” have a place in our recognition vocabulary.

Poster Advert for Whiplash MovieIf you were among the millions of movie fans around the world who tuned in to the Oscars yesterday, you may know that the title of this post refers to a line from one of the films nominated for Best Picture. Whiplash involves a relentlessly cruel bandleader who takes extreme measures to encourage (or crush perhaps – it was hard to tell – therein lies the brilliance of the film) the hopes of a young student musician aspiring to become one of the jazz greats. The movie poses lots of questions about how far people will go to achieve their dreams, and the motivations of others who support those dreams.

In one of his misguided motivational attempts the bandleader declares to the student, “The two most harmful words in the English language are ‘good job.’” I envisioned talent management professionals in cinemas the world over gasping in reaction to the blasphemy. The leader’s point is that these words imply “good enough,” and only thwart any extra dedication to doing what it takes to achieve a goal. In other words, if talented people are told “good job,” they are likely to settle and miss an opportunity to become truly great at something. Conversely, the words “not good enough” are more effective in encouraging them to work harder, practice more, do better. The leader claimed that if history’s jazz legends had frequently heard “good job” versus “not good enough,” they likely wouldn’t have become legends at all.

Hmm. After the shock in hearing the line, which goes against the very premise of the work I do everyday, I considered the idea. There may be validity in it, but I suspect it’s only in rare situations involving exceptionally driven and exceptionally talented people in certain highly competitive pursuits – musical phenoms, world-class athletes, scientific masterminds, and the like. With uniquely specialized talent, where a high-achieving individual has the potential to become truly the best in their field, perhaps it could be detrimental to recognize using words that might lessen one’s expectations of themselves.

For the rest of us, however, “good job” works wonders.

The real power of workplace recognition is not in motivating the most elite levels of talent in the organization. It’s in mobilizing the mass majority – recognizing the vast middle tier that helps move the organization forward everyday. While recognition for a job well done may be demotivating to a rare few of the most talented among us, it’s exactly the thing that pushes the rest of us forward.

This line did leave me wondering, though, about the words we use to recognize others. Despite being a fixture in our lexicon, “good job” alone hardly qualifies as bona fide recognition. So, while not the most harmful two words in the English language, maybe in the most literal and generic sense “good job” isn’t really quite good enough at all.

Recognition should be impactful and memorable and leave the recipient with a positive connection between the words spoken or written and their own actions. Overused and vague phrases alone like “good job” or “thanks for everything” or “congrats on your success” with no substance don’t quite fit the bill. Here are five tips, which apply for both verbal and written recognition, that take the experience beyond shallow platitudes to meaningful, effective recognition moments:

  1. In order to reinforce the action that you’re acknowledging, ensure recognition is timely by acknowledging the contribution soon after it’s made.
  2. More than just a couple of words are required to show appreciation effectively. Be specific – go into some detail about how your colleague’s contribution made a difference.
  3. Make recognition feel sincere by using the words “thank you” (maybe the two most beneficial words in the English language!).
  4. Describe the personal characteristics that made this person’s action or achievement special.
  5. The words you use, and anything that accompanies those words in the form of an award, should be aligned with the level of result achieved by the person you’re recognizing.

Check out this 2014 Globoforce blog post on 101 Effective Recognition Words for more tips on conveying recognition in impactful ways.

What are your favorite words, phrases or tips you use to effectively recognize others? (Or perhaps our star-struck readers might prefer to weigh in on a more classically Oscar-oriented topic….who won Best Dressed?)

Compensation Cafe: Millennials on the Market

by Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! — Career advancement can be perceived as only possible by changing organizations. Good leaders — and good cultures — give employees reasons to stay.

Recognition and retention are inextricably linked with each other. There is extensive research showing employees who do not feel noticed or valued are far more likely to leave for a workplace where they are. Blend this with the seemingly endless reports that Millennials are particularly likely to jump ship if they don’t feel praised, and it can seem like a bit of a firestorm on the topic with Millennials potentially targeted unfairly.

Why do I say “unfairly?” Yesterday on Compensation Cafe, I shared a recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (reported in the Washington Post), that shows how much you earn in the first 10 years of your career is a primary factor in determining your lifetime earnings.

This should give us all pause to consider are we giving our early-career employees enough opportunities to grow and develop? Are we compensating them commensurate with their increasing duties? Are we giving them enough reason to stay and build their careers in your organization?

Read the full post on Compensation Cafe, then come back and tell me, what else are we doing or should we be doing to make the current workplace nearly impossible to leave?

Compensation Cafe: Instead of Employee of the Month…

by Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – Employee of the Month programs don’t deliver the recognition employees deserve.

My post this week on Compensation Cafe was inspired by the HR Capitalist, Kris Dunn. In his blog, he shared a couple ideas to revitalize “lame” Employee of the Month programs and asked for more ideas.

Read the full Compensation Cafe post for more on my two ideas for what to do about tired Employee of the Month programs:

  1. Get rid of them.
  2. Use the data in your social recognition program as the primary selection tool.

I’ve heard too many times that people think of Employee of the Month programs as “teacher’s pet” or “who’s turn is it this time?” Our employees deserve much better recognition than that for their efforts that help us achieve our success.

What do you think about Employee of the Month programs?

Core Values Leads to Increased Engagement Resulting in Bottom-line Results

by Derek Irvine

Road Sign Reading "Core Values"Recognize This! – Whatever underpins your company’s culture will impact your company’s success. Building a strong foundation on your core values is proven to increase employee engagement.

In the first chapter of The Power of Thanks, Eric Mosley and I introduce a very important concept that is a foundational principle of the book:

“At the heart of great corporate successes and failures is a single observable phenomenon: the behaviors and values that constitute a company’s culture largely determine its fate.”

Of course, we dive much more deeply into why this is true, but to summarize – the values underlying your culture are the defining factors for how all employees should behave to achieve the organizational objectives. They also give employees a sense of greater meaning and context of their work.

There’s no end of research supporting this assertion, and more keeps coming. Since the publication of The Power of Thanks, Don MacPherson, CEO of ModernSurvey, wrote about how employee understanding of their company’s core values impacts their own engagement:

“When someone says their organizational values are known and understood, that person is 51 times more likely to be ‘Fully Engaged’ than someone who works at an organization without values that are known…

“On Modern Survey’s twice annual study of the U.S. Workforce, we ask a very simple question: Does your organization have a clear set of Values that most employees know about and understand?

“Respondents are given three choices – Yes, No, Maybe. If you say ‘Yes’ to that question, there is nearly a 20% chance you will be ‘Fully Engaged.’ That’s a significant improvement compared to the 16% of ‘Fully Engaged’ employees across the entire U.S. workforce.

“On the other hand, if you say ‘No’ to the values question, it is next to impossible to be ‘Fully Engaged.’ In fact, just 1 in 260 people who responded ‘No’ are ‘Fully Engaged.’ That is less than one-half of one percent!” (all emphasis original)

That is a powerful finding. If you’re employees don’t know your core values, it’s nearly impossible for them to be fully engaged.

If you’re a skeptic asking, “so what?”, the research is equally powerful on the bottom line impact of employee engagement. One recent study from Aon Hewitt showed that every incremental percentage point increase in employee engagement resulted in 0.6% of sales growth. The example shared in that study was quite compelling:

“For example, a $5 billion organization with a gross margin of 55 percent and operating margins of 15 percent increased operating income by $20 million with just a 1 percent improvement in employee engagement. With a 5 percent improvement in employee engagement, operating income jumped to $102 million.”

That’s a lot of money to leave on the table simply because your employees don’t know or understand your core values. And having employees carry your values on a wallet card or attached to their security badge isn’t the answer. At best, that means they might be able to recite your values when asked. No, the most effective way to deeply embed your company values into the hearts, minds and daily work of all employees is to recognize them – and have them recognize each other – every time they demonstrate one of your values in their work. That’s what makes your values real.

For example, “Integrity” is a common value at many companies, as it should be. But it can also be a bit philosophical for employees – “I know I’m a person of integrity, but what exactly does that mean in my day-to-day tasks?” If you were to recognize an employee with a specific, detailed message like this, think how it might encourage repeat behaviors and increase the employee’s engagement in their work and your company:

“Sean, I noticed your work on the Millersville project. The client contact came to you with a very difficult scenario, and they initially seemed unwilling to listen to our proposed solutions. The way you presented options to the customer, clearly outlining why some were more advantageous to them even to our own loss, showed how committed we are to the client’s success. That is a clear demonstration of our core value of ‘Integrity,’ and I and the team appreciate how you handled the situation. Thank you!”

That’s the power of thanks – and it can directly impact your bottom line.

What are your company’s core values? Are all employees in your organization aware of them and committed to living them out in their daily work?

What “Amazing” Did You Miss Today?

by Lynette Silva

Picture of man on his phone while a humpback whale breeches beside him.Recognize This! – Amazing work is being done by brilliant people around us every day, but it’s easy to miss unless we create more avenues for exceptional effort to be seen, acknowledged and appreciated.

Here’s a photo that encapsulates the world we live in today. (Email subscribers, click through.)

Eric Smith, the photographer who captured this image, said about the experience:

“The whales were breaching off Redondo (Beach) and this small sailboat maneuvered into the spot where the spout occurred. I was roughly 50 feet from the whale and her calf when they surfaced next to the sailboat. The guy never looked up from his phone throughout the entire breach. Two women at the front of the boat were taking pictures but he didn’t notice.”

Notice how Eric captioned the picture – “A sign of the times.” Indeed it is.

How much “amazing” do we miss because we’re distracted by the mundane? I have no scientific study to point to, but I have to imagine the percentage of “Missed Amazing” is quite high. And that’s not necessarily through any fault of our own, but the nature of the busy-ness of our world and our work.

2 Reasons We Miss Seeing the “Amazing” around Us

In thinking about it more, I think we miss out on the amazing people and occurrences around us for two key reasons: we’re distracted by other inputs or we ignore potential.

1) Distraction

The humpback whale photo is the perfect illustration of this phenomenon in the wild (pun intended), but it’s no less prevalent in the workplace. We are busy. We acknowledge the great work and contributions by others that we see, but how much do we miss? That’s why we so strongly encourage full peer recognition in true social recognition programs. As I’m known to say in strategy sessions I lead, “Even the very best manager can’t see all the good happening around them every day.”

By empowering all employees to recognize their colleagues for demonstrating your company’s core values in their work, you are adding far more “eyes” on the lookout for “amazing” every day. You are ensuring that good work is noticed, appreciated and praised, and that you are capturing the knowledge of those achievements in an actionable way.

2) Ignoring Potential

To illustrate this point, I, as a loyal New England Patriots football fan, must use the example of Malcolm Butler, the cornerback who made the game-winning play in the Super Bowl. Butler was an undrafted rookie free agent, which means no football team selected him prior to the start of the season. He had to fight for a position on a team. As I learned in this TLNT post:

“Butler played for West Alabama after starting in junior college. He got an assist from Chan Gailey, who coached Butler in the Medal of Honor Bowl and is the current New York Jets offensive coordinator. Gailey recommended that Butler pursue the Patriots given coach Bill Belichick’s willingness to look past draft status and assess raw talent.

“This ability to see talent without the typical indicators for future high potential status likely affected not only the Super Bowl, but both Butler’s and the Patriot’s legacy.”

Sometimes, we miss “amazing” because we’re too locked into what we think “amazing” should look like. Did a member of your team complete a project with an outcome or deliverable that was different than you expected? Too often, we discredit those “different” outcomes because it’s not what we would have done ourselves, even if it was actually a better end result.

Giving people a chance to spread their wings and try new things helps overcome this tendency. In a well-structured social recognition program, peers can recognize cross functional colleagues or teams that might not be part of their own hierarchical structure. This can reveal a team member who contributed to a project and delivered an outcome outside of their “job description.” That might inform you about an avenue for career growth and development for that team member, a key need for loyalty and longevity.

What are other reasons we might miss “Amazing” around us?

Values Are Universal; Behaviors Are Local

by Derek Irvine

Text treatment of logo for "Think Global, Act Local" CampaignRecognize This! – Corporate values define how an organization will succeed in the marketplace, but the desirable behaviors underlying those values may change depending on local cultural or job-related needs.

In the consulting and strategy work I do with global organizations we strongly advise basing a global social recognition program on the organization’s core values such that all employees, wherever in the world they are located, are demonstrating the same values and associated behaviors that company leadership has determined are critical to organizational success.

And yet, it is also true that what works well in one country does not in another because the culture and the people are different with different expectations and needs. We do not advise changing the core values on a regional or local basis, however. Instead, consider the behaviors that underlie those values. Those behaviors should necessarily change in line with local culture or even job role and needs. How someone in R&D demonstrates the value of “Innovation” is necessarily different than how someone in Accounting might do so, for example.

Why is this important? Here are a couple of real-world stories on the impact.

First, from Raj Kaur-Hooper, HR Engagement Manager, Twinings, in an interview in HRZone:

“The values are a key part to knowing what kind of business you are and therefore what kind of people you want driving your business and in what way. They are up there with the company’s strategy, it’s no different to how we would set out an individual’s planning, development and review (PDR), the values are the ‘how’ in how we get to where we want to be…

“You need to have a clear view of what your values-led behaviours are and make sure that your senior team are role modelling them and are happy to be challenged or picked up on non-values-led behaviour.”

A key element here is having the senior team also demonstrating those values-based behaviors. Leadership must come from the top.

Second, S. Chris Edmonds shared the story of a plant’s efforts to transform from the lowest-performing group within the company to the highest:

“One client came to us because of low employee engagement survey scores. They scored 32 out of 100 possible points, the worst score of the eight business units owned by their corporate parent. This plant’s senior leadership team embraced our culture process fully and promptly.

“They defined values with observable behaviors so everyone – leaders and employees – understood what the rules were for effective daily interactions. They increased performance accountability across their production lines. They measured how well leaders lived the organization’s new valued behaviors. They praised leaders who modeled their values, coached leaders who struggled, and redirected leaders who didn’t model or manage to the new values.

“Within six months, conflicts, absenteeism, re-work, and grievances dropped by 60 percent. Within twelve months, efficiency had improved by over 40 percent. Customers reported amazement at the “new service attitude” that company staff displayed.

“When the next ‘all company’ employee engagement survey came around twelve months later, their plant scored 62 out of 100 points! Theirs was the biggest gain in engagement scores of any of business unit in their company system. And, their plant earned the top score across the organization. At the eighteen-month mark, employee engagement had grown 45 percent, customer service rankings had grown 45 percent, and hard dollar profits gains surpassed 35 percent.”

Values matter. The behaviors underlying those values are equally important. But those underlying behaviors may change based on location, region, or even job function. And that’s good. The over-arching, defining values do not change. How we behave in our jobs to demonstrate those values should flex to our local culture and situation.

What are your organization’s core values? Are the desirable behaviors underlying those values different based on factors such as region or job function? What does that look like in your organization?

Who Should You Recognize at Work?

by Lynette Silva

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

How do you view Maslow’s Hierarchy?

Have a Plan for an Appreciative and Grateful 2015

by Derek Irvine

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

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

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

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

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

1) Pay attention

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

2) Intentionally acknowledge

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

3) Review and track

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

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

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

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

by Derek Irvine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who do you need to sincerely appreciate this holiday season?