Posts Tagged "recognition’

What’s the Value of Measuring Employee Satisfaction?

image of people celebrating in a shower of confettiRecognize This! – There is value in employee satisfaction surveys, when conducted and analyzed properly.

In various blog posts over the years (see here, here, and here), I’ve explained the difference between employee satisfaction and employee engagement. It could be easy to view some those posts as a “knock” on employee satisfaction. But when viewed through the proper lens (and not using satisfaction interchangeably with engagement), measuring and surveying on employee satisfaction can also be a useful tool.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on one such valuable survey on employee satisfaction as conducted by the Conference Board. As the WSJ explains:

“The survey, which the Conference Board has conducted every year since 1987, bears some resemblance to the ‘employee engagement’ surveys that companies and polling firms engage in regularly these days. The Board distinguishes its target by saying that satisfaction is focused instead on more measurable components such as pay and benefits and ‘does not explore the full range of emotional and behavioral ways employees interact with their workplaces.’”

That’s a good distinction between satisfaction and engagement, which also weighs how well employees understand what is needed from them to achieve strategic goals and their willingness to give discretionary effort to achieve it. Satisfaction measures none of this, reporting instead on just that – employee satisfaction.

On the Conference Board’s blog, Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research for the Conference Board, shared a summary of key findings from the full report, including this chart:

Adjusted Correlation of Determination (R²) In Predicting Job Satisfaction, By Explanatory Variable Bar chart showing factors important to job satisfaction Source: The Conference Board

Be sure to read this chart in terms of its title. It’s saying that for the majority of employees, growth potential, communication channels, interest in work, and recognition are the most important factors in determining their satisfaction with their jobs.

Contrast the chart above with this one, which shows nearly an inverse relationship in how satisfied people are with these individual factors that predict job satisfaction itself.

Post-recession satisfaction with specific job components 

Bar chart showing how satisfied employees are with the various factors of job satisfaction

Source: The Conference Board

Whereas employees clearly say recognition is a top 5 factor for job satisfaction, it’s also a bottom 5 factor for how well companies are, in fact, recognizing employees. That’s likely why Dr. Levanon offers as one of the key findings of the report:

“Employers would be wise to concentrate on those components considered highly important with low current levels of satisfaction. These include growth potential, communication channels, recognition, performance review, and wages.”

This isn’t all that dissimilar to the identified key drivers of employee engagement, either. Recognition is by far the number one driver of employee engagement, with career path, communication (which leads to trust) and fair pay commonly reported additional factors.

How satisfied are you with these job factors in your own workplace? How satisfied are you overall?

Bringing Joy to the Job – Overcoming Routine with Recognition

the word joy in several languagesRecognize This! – All jobs have their (important) routines. Appreciating those who do the job well can make the mundane meaningful again.

How much of your job has become routine? You know the value of doing it, but it’s almost fallen into habit. But you can’t stop doing it either; it’s part of your job.

If this routine element of your job cannot eliminated or revised for legitimate reasons, what could shake up that routine? What could help reinvigorate you in the process?

Why am I asking all of these questions? For a fun Friday post, let me share with you this video from the New York City subway system (email subscribers, click through):



What’s going on here? As I learned from the Now I Know blog, the zebra boards have been in place for over a century. Their purpose is to help conductors properly align the train so when the doors on all cars are opened, the passengers can step safely onto the platform. The conductors know they are properly aligned when they are positioned directly across from the zebra board.

But why do the conductors have to point at the board? After a subway accident caused by an inattentive conductor that resulted in dozens of injuries and five deaths, the process was established. From the blog:

“The MTA [New York Metro Transit Authority] says that the rule came into force in September of 1996 and has its origins in Japanese subway safety history — Japan’s operators have to point at a number of things to demonstrate and ensure that they’re paying attention. The MTA adopted the rule to ensure the same result. A failure to acknowledge the zebra sign is a failure to pay attention, and that’s really dangerous if you’re driving a train.”

So while pointing at the board – “at every single subway stop” – may have become routine for the conductors, it is still a vital and important step for the safety of all train passengers. The “point” is worthwhile, important, and… routine.

But the simple act of a few people holding up fun signs (and creating a video now viewed by millions) shows the conductors their work is noticed and they are appreciated for keeping passengers safe. Notice the reactions of the conductors – on every face a smile, a laugh.

Where can you inject a little fun into your daily routines? Perhaps more importantly, how can you express your appreciation to others to elevate their routines and bring a little more joy to their jobs?

Would You Buy from a Disengaged Retail Employee?

Image of book cover for "Pretending You Care"Recognize This! – Employee engagement with and deep understanding of brand values is especially critical in largely customer-facing industries.

Have you ever had a poor customer service experience while shopping? Think back on a recent poor service experience. What did that make you think about the company, that brand, and your future plans to purchase again from the retailer?

I’ve certainly had my fair share of bad experiences. While I don’t believe the axiom “the customer is always right,” the customer does expect a certain level of service based on how the company projects its brand values in the market. And the front line employees are the (literal) face of the brand to customers.

In retail (along with other largely customer-facing industries like hospitality), high levels of employee engagement are especially critical to success as nothing drives a customer away faster than a disengaged, disgruntled employee. Recent UK surveys published in Osney Media make this quite clear:

  • Employee disengagement costs the retail sector £628 million per year
  • A Maverick survey of retail employees found them among the most disengaged employees in Britain
  • An increase in employee engagement investment of 10% would result in an additional £2700 per employee per year in profits for UK businesses in all sectors (which equals 3% of current GDP)

Employees can’t project the brand values if they don’t know what they are.

Employees can’t engage with and demonstrate what they don’t know. As consumers, we expect a different experience if we’re shopping in Wal-mart or Macy’s Department Store or the Galeries Lafayette in Paris. As an example, these stores work hard to train their employees to meet and exceed customer needs and expectations for their environments. You wouldn’t walk into Wal-mart expecting a full-service perfume counter, for example.

Yet, the same survey referenced above revealed:

  • 77% of retail employees do not engage with their company’s brand values
  • 63% of those workers who do not engage with brand values have also never been trained on the importance of those values
  • 60% failed to understand how fundamental their employer’s values were to their own job roles

Think of the impact on Macy’s sales if a new employee, recently arrived from a career at Wal-mart, continues to deliver the service experience they were trained for at Wal-mart with no training or knowledge of Macy’s brand values and “how they do things.” The same negative impact on sales would be true if the situations were reversed. Look at the numbers in the first set of bullets. The upside is tremendous and immediate to an organization for properly training and educating employees on the company’s brand values and expectations on how each employee demonstrates those values in the daily work.

The article also points out:

“This only illustrates how in today’s challenging climate, the effective engagement of employees in the retail industry has become an increasingly vital requirement to maintain exemplary customer service levels and maximise sales. Making employees feel valued and striving to build genuine relationships with them can help retailers reduce staff turnover and build loyalty amongst employees, resulting in optimal performance – crucial to hitting requisite sales targets.”

The fastest, most effective and most immediate way of training employees on the importance of your brand values, including how those values are “fundamental to the employee’s own job” is through frequent, timely and very specific recognition of every employee every time he or she demonstrates a value in their work. That’s what makes the values come alive for employees in a way this memorable and meaningful to what they do each and every day.

What’s your favorite retail brand? How do you see their employees demonstrating the brand values?

Praising the Praiseworthy – Everywhere

Recognize This! – Sharing positivity increases happiness for ourselves and those around us.

Do you make it a habit to notice what others around you do? Do you see the random acts of kindness performed by others? If so, do you praise them for it?

Take a moment to start your week with this inspiring video from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.

In the video, Gretchen tells the story of her “nicest, kindest, most thoughtful person in the world” friend who went out of her way to be courteous and helpful to others in a situation not designed for goodwill – delayed flights. The point of Gretchen’s story isn’t the kindness shown by her friend to others, but the acknowledgment of a complete stranger of her friend for demonstrating that kindness in the first place.

What Gretchen describes is a continuous circle of positivity. Goodwill is catching. Sharing our appreciation for others when they go out of their way makes us all better and happier about the world we live and work in every day.

As I move into a week guaranteed to be busier than ever, I am making a commitment to intentionally notice those around me – in the office, on the street, at home – and appreciate them for who they are and what they do to bring a little happiness to others.

Will you join me?

Love at Work * 3 Ways to Get It Right

Heart with words "Thank You"Recognize This! – We should be encouraging love at work, particularly companionate love, to increase employee engagement and retention.

Love at work. If you’re in HR and reading that statement, likely you shuddered, even just a little. Usually, “love at work,” means some kind of relationship gone wrong, necessitating a new policy about relationships in the workplace, etc.

New research out of Wharton (and reported in Knowledge@Wharton) shows, rather, we should be encouraging love at work, particularly a form of love called “companionate love.” Wharton management professor Sigal Barsade defines companionate love as “when colleagues who are together day in and day out, ask and care about each other’s work and even non-work issues. They are careful of each other’s feelings. They show compassion when things don’t go well. And they also show affection and caring.”

Barsade and co-author Olivia O’Neill conducted a study on the effects of companionate love at work in what is often a tough work environment – long-term health care. Goals of the study were to see how companionate love impacted employees as well as patients and the patients’ family members. Finding showed a culture of companionate love (quoting):

  • Reduced employees’ withdrawal from work… Units with higher levels of companionate love had lower levels of absenteeism and employee burnout.
  • Led to higher levels of employee engagement with their work via greater teamwork and employee satisfaction.
  • Rippled out from staff to influence patients and their families… [Patients] would be in a better mood if the culture among the staff was more loving.

All that is well and good in a company in which one would hope the employees are more geared for compassion and caring. But what about other industries? The researchers asked the same question, performing a second study involving 3,201 employees in seven different industries (including real estate, finance and public utilities). Finding remained very similar, showing: “A culture of companionate love positively correlated with job satisfaction, commitment to the company and accountability for performance.”

What does this mean for us in our workplaces? Ask yourself:

  • What can I (as a manager, leader or HR professional) do to promote a culture of companionate love among my team members or those over whom I have direct influence?
  • What can I (as an individual) do to show companionate love to others, even if similar behaviors are not initially returned?

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Proactively seek ways you can encourage, support and recognize others for work well done. Where can you do a better job in looking up from your own hectic work schedule to notice the efforts of those around you and thank them for it?
  2. Offer small acts of service to others. If you’re going to the local café for a cup of coffee, offer to pick one up for a busy team member. (This is especially powerful if you are the person in power in the relationship.)
  3. Care about the other person’s life outside of work and beyond how it may impact their work effort. Make a habit of asking others about weekend plans, child sporting successes, or generally how their family members are doing.

What other ways can we show companionate love our colleagues? Has anyone shown companionate love to you? If so, how did it affect you?

3 Tips to Become an Exceptional Manager

3 tips graphicRecognize This! – Selflessness, good assumptions and recognition are the most powerful tools in the good manager’s arsenal.

In my most recent post on Compensation Café, I referenced a quote from Don Knauss, CEO of Clorox, about the “head” part of leadership. In Don’s terms, the “head” is focused on, well, focus – how you communicate to and reinforce for employees the tightly focused priorities need for organizational success. Today, I’m digging deeper into the same interview with Mr. Knauss to look at the “heart” part of leadership. He said:

“On the heart side, the lesson is that it’s all about your people. If you’re going to engage the best and the brightest and retain them, they’d better think that you care more about them than you care about yourself. They’re not about making you look good.  You’re about making them successful. If you really believe that and act on that, it gains you credibility and trust. You can run an organization based on fear for a short time. But trust is a much more powerful, long-term and sustainable way to drive an organization.

“The other thing I’ve learned is that you’ve got to assume the best intent of people, and that they’re really trying to do a good job. I’ve seen organizations that are based more on fear than trust because senior management really thinks people are trying to get one over on them, that they’re just punching a clock. People really are trying to do a good job, and they want to be proud of where they work. Understanding that helped make me a bit more patient.”

Once again, Mr. Knauss offers three essential lessons to be a good, effective manager:

1) Always put your people first. When digging deeper into the truism “People leave managers, not companies,” a constant refrain from employees is, “My manager took credit for my work or made me look bad so he/she could look good.” The mark of a truly good manager is the members of his or her team are universally successful in their individual roles.

Ask yourself – Are you leading your people to be the best they can be or to make you look the best you can look?

2) Assume good intent. People don’t start a new job with the goal of doing it poorly. Even those who are less than fully engaged still want to deliver against their goals. When managers assume good intent of those on their teams, it leads to looking for the impetus – the driving force, if you will – behind the action or result.

Ask yourself – When following up on a project status or meeting with your team, do you ask first why a task has not been completed or review all successes to date?

3) Tell people when they’re doing good work. People want to do a good job, but they need to know when the work produced is good in order to continue to deliver at that level. Besides, it’s obvious that if you want someone to continue doing something, let them know! It’s as simple as saying, “I notice what you do and am grateful for it.”

Ask yourself – Do you take the time, every day, to pause, notice and recognize your employees for contributions, efforts and results that achieve the bigger goals? Do you make your recognition specific, personal and meaningful so employees can be “proud of where they work?”

Think for a moment about the best manager you had the pleasure to work for. What made them good?

Compensation Cafe: 3 Steps to Get Even More Out of Compensation

Compensation Cafe Contributor buttonRecognize This! – In it’s most broad definition, “compensation” can encompass all of Total Rewards. How are you bringing the power of your Total Rewards to drive what is most important your organization’s success?

Today on Compensation Cafe, I use the insights of Clorox CEO Don Knauss to share a 3-step roadmap on how to get even more out of how you reward employees (in the “Total Rewards” sense of the word):

1) Focus – Nobody can focus on 10 critical priorities and give the same attention and excellence to all. Narrow down the priorities to no more than three things that can be easily understood by everyone.

2) Communicate – An annual goal-setting meeting or a pretty plaque on the wall are never enough to help all employees understand their role in achieving the mission. Of course, communication must happen specifically and often.

3) Reinforce – Use every instance of positive reinforcement, incentive, or recognition to drive home your key areas of focus.

Click over to Compensation Cafe to read more on what Mr. Knauss said as well as how to bring more focus, communications and reinforcement to your employees on what matters most for your organization’s success.

The Real Reason to Worry about Indicators of Employees Ready to Quit

Recognize This! – “I quit but forgot to tell you” employees are costing you more than you think.

Making the round of blogs lately is a Utah State University study of indicators an employee is about to leave your organization. Among the indicators are these behavioral changes people often make 1-2 months before leaving (quoting):

  • They offered fewer constructive contributions in meetings.
  • They were more reluctant to commit to long-term projects.
  • They become more reserved and quiet.
  • They became less interested in advancing in the organization.
  • They were less interested in pleasing their boss than before.
  • They avoided social interactions with their boss and other members of management.
  • They suggested fewer new ideas or innovative approaches.
  • They began doing the minimum amount of work needed and no longer went beyond the call of duty.
  • They were less interested in participating in training and development programs.
  • Their work productivity went down.

Looking at this list, I’m not as concerned about these as indicators of employees looking to leave but as classic indicators of “disengagement.” Remember, disengaged employees (and those looking to leave) are not delivering 100% at work – they are distracted with one foot already out the door.

Helping employees overcome these signs – re-engage at work, if you will – isn’t important only for retention, but also for the daily value and quality of the work being done. That’s why each of these items is also a timely reminder that helping employees engage at work is a daily effort.

How do you do that? Ask yourself:

  • Are you praising people for making constructive contributions in meetings (even if they disagree with you)?
  • Are you helping people understand how their individual tasks or deliverables contribute to advancing the organization?
  • Are social interactions with management geared to help employees build deeper personal relationships across hierarchical lines or do they only serve as obligatory parties at key holidays or the like?
  • Are you recognizing and rewarding people who bring new ideas or innovations, every time?
  • Are you making room in people’s work schedules for them to participate in training and development without adding burden?

I’ve only addressed a few of the indicators, but I believe my point is clear. You get the behaviors your recognize. Your employees give you the level of engagement you encourage. That’s why social recognition is such a powerful method to improve engagement (and the associated quality of work) as well as quickly reduce voluntary turnover. And we all know the cost savings of improving our retention and engagement scores.

Think back over your own career. When you were ready to leave a prior organization? What early indicators showed you were beginning to disengage? What was the “final straw?” Now think about that same organization and why you initially chose to join it. What could have been done differently (by your manager, by leadership, by colleagues) that might have kept you engaged and on their payroll?

Don’t Tame Your Workplace “Wild Ducks” – Avoid These 3 Creativity & Innovation Killers

Recognize This! – Creativity and innovation must be actively encouraged and supported or complacency can easily set in.

My recent post, “Millennials Leading Change at Work,” led to an invitation to join the “IBM Wild Ducks” group on LinkedIn. The name alone is intriguing, so I had to do some research. Apparently, the name comes from former IBM Chairman Thomas J. Watson, Jr., who said (emphasis mine):

“In IBM we frequently refer to our need for ‘wild ducks.’ The moral is drawn from a story by the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who told of a man who fed the wild ducks flying south in great flocks each fall. After a while some of the ducks no longer bothered to fly south; they wintered in Denmark on what he fed them. In time they flew less and less. After three or four years they grew so lazy and fat that they found difficulty in flying at all. Kierkegaard drew his point: you can make wild ducks tame, but you can never make tame ducks wild again. One might also add that the duck who is tamed will never go anywhere any more. We are convinced that any business needs its wild ducks. And in IBM we try not to tame them.”

The line in bold is the crux of the story – “You can make wild ducks tame, but you can never make tame ducks wild again.”

How do you tame wild ducks in the workplace? There are several ways:

1) Punish failure – Failure is often the inspiration to success. Post-it Notes, WD-40 and many other popular consumer brands wouldn’t exist without investment in failures. Critical lessons are learned through failure. Winning organizations know they must allow room for their “wild ducks” to experiment and sometimes fail to come up with innovations that change the market. Punishing failure is one of the surest ways to tame your wild ducks and encourage them to never innovate again.

2) Recognize only the “big wins” and not important progress along the way – It takes time to arrive at a new, marketable product or service. In some industries (most notably, bio-pharmaceuticals or bio-technology), it can take years to bring a new product to market. To sustain motivation and keep the wild ducks flying, it’s important to recognize small successes along the way.

3) Permitting a stagnant culture – Complacency can sneak up on anyone. Success today does not necessarily herald success tomorrow. Creating a culture that encourages forward thinking and risk taking is critical to ongoing success. Recognizing and rewarding those who take calculated risks helps avoid taming your best wild ducks.

For more on the IBM Wild Ducks culture, watch the video below (or available here). Created as part of the IBM Centennial celebration, the video shares insight from four IBM customers who are themselves Wild Ducks. I particularly appreciated these points:

  • From Howard-Yana Shapiro, chief agricultural officer of Mars, Inc.: “Any movement begins with absurd gestures.”
  • From Carolyn McGregor, PhD SMIEEE, Canada Research Chair in Health Informatics, University of Ontario Institute of Technology: “Any time you try and change the way something is done, you come against resistance.”

How does your organization keep your Wild Ducks flying? What absurd gestures are you recognizing? What resistance are you helping overcome?

Millennials Leading Change at Work * Shouldn’t Ethical, Meaningful Impact Matter to Us All?

Recognize This! – Don’t dismiss Millennial needs as “entitled generation requests.” Their need to make a greater impact on the world can teach us all.

In 10 years, Millennials (also known as Gen Y) will make up 75% of the global workforce. With that reality staring us in the face, it’s time to stop marginalizing Millennials and their needs in the workplace. We can no longer say, “They were coddled too much as kids and now expect recognition for every little achievement” as we dismiss the need for feedback on their work.

Besides, this is all a fallacy anyway. Millennials aren’t asking for praise and appreciation at every turn. They are saying, “I’m new in this job and in the workplace in general. I don’t know if what I’m doing are the right things to do. I need you to give me more feedback on the value and importance of what I do.”

Let’s be honest, weren’t all of us (regardless of generation) in need of the same thing when we were new in the workplace? That said, Millennials are asking for more than their elders – but not what you think. This article (along with others) makes a strong case for the Millennial employee need for the work they do to have greater impact and meaning.

“According to the Engagement Guide, Millennials value corporate citizenship more than salary, job flexibility, and even corporate culture. And with Millennials representing the fastest growing demographic in the workplace – and turnover costing an average $24,000 per employee – companies have needed to become more competitive as ever in the labor market.

“The solution? Well, there are a few. Adopting responsible business practices might be enough for some companies to stay in the game. But be wary; most leading thinkers on this topic agree that Millennials are not easily fooled by empty PR stunts. And while responsible practices are certainly a good start, a smart company likely realizes that a reputation as ‘not-unethical’ is probably the bare minimum.

“Employees, especially Millennials, thrive when they are engaged in the workplace and developing as professionals.”

This is another reason why strong, vibrant, “living” core values are critical to engaging employees in their work and thereby driving company success (because engaged employees are far more productive and less costly to the organization). Your company values, however, can’t be merely lip service or pretty art on your walls. They must be real and lived by every employee, every day. More to the point, every employee must see just how these core values are – well, valued – by the organization’s leaders.

That’s where social recognition comes in. Recognize employees regularly (and encourage them to recognize each other) for living the core values. Make sure every recognition is very specific, detailing how the actions, behaviors or results demonstrated a core value and the impact those efforts had on the person giving the recognition, the team involved, the client or the company itself. Give your employees – of every generation – the context they need to see the impact of their work within a bigger picture and, critically, how those efforts uphold the values the organization operates under.

How are you serving your Millennial employees?