Archive for May, 2011

How to Enjoy Going to Work Every Day

Recognize This! – Meaningful work, within context of greater need, is all that most desire to make work more enjoyable.


A couple of questions for you:

  1. Do you enjoy going to work every day?
  2. What would it take for you to enjoy going to work every day?

There’s a lot of research out there that just makes me chuckle. A Lumesse (formerly StepStone Solutions) survey reported in TLNT that only 37% of men and 24% of women enjoy going to work every day.

We could discuss all day various angles of this (Why fewer women than men? What if the question was “most days” and not “every day?”), but setting that aside – is this really surprising?

Then consider research from a Monster Workplace Survey:

  • 82% believe there is a dream job for them and 83% of them are actively seeking that dream job
  • 41% want to be challenged and inspired in their jobs (with a 17% subset that want to make a difference in that job)

It’s easy to roll our eyes at these expressions, especially in a recovering economy. But indications are numerous that employee productivity is at its limit and employers are going to have to start hiring again just to stay competitive.

And really, it’s not that hard to inspire employees in the jobs they have and help them see how they are making a difference. But it does take intentional effort on the part of leaders to do so. For me, I see the meaning in my work when I know that what I did today helped my company achieve its goals. And I know when I do that because my boss, the CEO, tells me so.

I firmly believe it is the same at all levels of the organization. If you are an intern, and your supervisor takes just a minute to tell you, “Thank you for your work on the McGuffin Project. The timeliness of your reports ensured the client was happy with our delivery” – then you know what you did contributed to the bigger picture. You understand the meaning and value of your work. And I’m sure you’d be like me – inspired to keep doing more.

Am I off-base here? Would such an approach make going to work more enjoyable for you every day?

Military Veterans * Thank You!

Recognize This! – Be sure to express your thanks and gratitude while those you appreciate can enjoy it!

Today is Memorial Day in the United States – a day of remembrance for those who died in service to the country.

In honor of this day and those who gave their lives for their country, I’d like to take just a moment to thank those who are serving today and veterans who are still with us. While remembering and honoring those who gave their lives for what they believe in is of great importance, we must not forget to express our thanks, appreciation and praise while they are with us.

Too often, we do not remember to express our appreciation to others – whether that be those who protect our country, family members, friends or colleagues – until it is too late for them to know how much we value them and their contributions.

Don’t wait for a Memorial Day to express your gratitude! Tell someone “thank you” today!

Generational Expectations for Retention in the Recovery

Recognize This! – Are our retention needs more determined by our life stage or our generation?

Considering we are in an economic recovery (slow though it may be) and companies are now at a point where hiring is becoming a necessity just to maintain productivity levels (never mind continue to compete in an improving economy), Deloitte’s research “Talent Edge 2020” is quite interesting on what employers must do to retain their employees.

According to the report, the top retention incentives across generations were:

1)      Promotion/job advancement (53%)

2)      Increased compensation (39%)

3)      Additional bonuses or other financial incentives (34%)

4)      Boosting employee support/recognition from their managers (30%)

The first three are clearly reflective of the actions taken by many organizations during the recession – promotions to account for the extra work so many shouldered, increased pay to offset pay freezes and even reductions, bonuses to acknowledge all that so many helped to achieve in tough times. The fourth, however, that one is a perennial requirement, regardless of economic environment.

Generational response is also very different. Abhishek Mittal, the excellent Mumblr blogger, from the report showing the different requirements of the various generations, and summarizing as:

“For the Gen Y (age under 30 yrs), the report says, non-financial aspects are critical. Company culture, flexi-work arrangements, training opportunities and managerial support & recognition are key factors which make these employees stay put in their organisations. For the Gen X (30-44 yrs), Baby Boomers (45-64 yrs) and Veterans (above 65 yrs), the retention drivers are centered more around the financial incentives. This is a very interesting finding, which contradicts the conception that Gen Y employees are only looking for better pay opportunities.”

As with all such generational studies in the workplace, I wonder if generation is more the correct marker or life stage.  I tend to think that as Gen Y ages, their No. 1 concern may become additional financial incentives and bonuses. What’s important to us at work depends more on our greater selves — a single working parent of 25 will likely have the same motivators as a single working parent of 35 and that will be different from the motivators of a single 25-year-old employee with no children.

What’s your top retention driver? Do you think that driver is more tied to your generation or to the stage of life you find yourself in?

A 3 Step Process for Higher Performance?

Recognize This! – Playing to strengths enables success and engagement.

There’s a virtuous circle of employee engagement, described by the illustration at right. Gallup also puts it this way:

“To be engaged, you need to identify with the mission and purpose of your company. You’re great at some things and won’t ever be very good at others. If you have the materials and equipment you need to do your job right, you’ll care more about the fate of your organization. You are naturally inclined toward success at some things, and by adding skills, knowledge, and practice, you’ll be much better at them.”

I see a three step process to higher performance in that:

1)      Help employees understand the mission of the company and how their daily efforts help achieve that mission.

2)      Put people in positions that let them use their natural skills to their fullest.

3)      Give them what they need to do their job well.

Similarly, TLNT wrote recently on Steven Kerr’s “Folly of Rewarding A, While Hoping for B” (a favorite of mine as well), telling the story:

“A high school basketball player excels at passing the ball, which makes his teammates better. But because his coach and the colleges that might give him a scholarship credit only a player’s ability to score, the player passes less and shoots more — which actually hurts his team’s chances of winning.”

I’d say this basketball player understood the mission, but he wasn’t allowed to use his skills so he couldn’t do his job well.

What’s more important to your organization? Individual stats or group success? Each member of the team has different strengths – play to those so that the whole is greater than the individual parts.

Zappos Gets It Right – Again. How a Performance Appraisal Process Should Work

Recognize This! – Success is about much more than results and deadlines. It’s about delivering those results within the right context of values and mission.

If the performance appraisal as it stands today is broken, what should we consider instead? Whatever the outcome, be sure the focus of your appraisal process is based on the behaviors you want to encourage and not those you don’t.

Zappos has this nailed in terms of the performance appraisal process,  having recently switched from the traditional approach of results-based reviews to:

“Employees would no longer be rated on how well they accomplish tasks, such as meeting deadlines or being punctual. Instead, success would be determined by how well employees embody Zappos’ 10 core values, such as delivering “Wow” service or showing humility. … Under the new values-based system, managers document how many times they notice an employee exhibiting certain behaviors, such as expressing their personality or acting humble. Henry says while the behaviors are open to interpretation, managers must cite specific examples of how an employee displays them.”

That’s precisely the right approach in all but one facet – limiting feedback on behaviors demonstration to managers only. That’s why I advocate so strongly for strategic employee recognition solutions that let anyone recognize another colleague for demonstrating company values in their work – with a detailed message.

If Zappos did that, think how many more data points their review process would have. Think how much more motivated their (already highly motivated) employees would be.

Would you switch to a review process based on demonstration of your company values?

Overcoming Manager Reluctance/Inability to Give Recognition & Feedback

Recognize This! – Giving employees frequent and timely recognition and feedback is not an option. Those who get it right have a distinct competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

I’ve written about annual performance reviews being broken,  but I haven’t necessarily advocated trashing them all together. Kris Dunn, the HR Capitalist,  put a call out for solutions, pointing out that if managers can’t give good feedback, then it doesn’t matter how you deliver that feedback – by annual performance review or other means.

Agreed. But the status quo is not the solution in the face of statistics like these:

  • 70% of employees who were aware that their manager was unhappy with their performance couldn’t tell you what they were doing wrong or how they were going to change. (from Change Anything)
  • Only 17% of organizations know all of its top-performing employees and are looking to develop them for future roles. (This and following from SuccessFactors/Accenture)
  • Two-thirds of organizations have a pay-for-performance policy, but of those, only one in five always ensures that rewards are accurately aligned to contribution.
  • 18% say they are very good at converting corporate strategy into priorities and goals. Just 15% are very good at aligning employee activities to corporate strategy.

So what should be done? To accompany the annual review process, create a new method for ongoing feedback and recognition – two very different things that are also the two lowest rated items in the Gallup Q12 for employee engagement.

You have three options for incorporating ongoing feedback and recognition in a management culture resistant to it:

1)      Train managers to help them give better feedback and recognition in a timely way.

2)      Make giving this feedback and recognition part of manager KPIs and MBOs to ensure they are done.

3)      Exit managers who do not comply with this.

Ideally, some combination of options 1 and 2 are enough. But if managers are unwilling to give the feedback and recognition proven to increase employee engagement, then perhaps those managers are better suited to a role as an individual contributor.

This is critical. As Gallup points out:

“Given the low ratings worldwide for feedback and recognition, organizations that implement — or countries that encourage — effective feedback and recognition systems could gain a competitive advantage.”

Can you afford to ignore such a simple solution that will yield a competitive advantage in this economy?

Why the Performance Appraisal Is Broken

Recognize This! – The traditional performance review process tries to accomplish too much.

Have you ever wanted to rip your performance appraisal (or the entire appraisal process) in half? The only thing people can seem to agree on about the performance appraisal process is that it is broken. What, precisely, is broken and how to fix it – now that sparks up endless arguments.

Can we all agree one major problem with the way performance appraisals are conducted today is the tight link between feedback and compensation? Knowledge@Wharton put it this way: 

“Reviews tend to have competing goals: Employees, for their part, are looking for frank, honest and helpful feedback, but know that if they don’t use the review time to pump up their performance, they might not get the top bonus or best raise. Meanwhile, organizations want to allocate rewards according to performance and merit, and they want to provide developmental feedback so that employees can improve. But organizations also have to make tough decisions about who ranks higher and what kinds of bonuses people get. If the organization — in trying to make everybody feel good — doesn’t allocate rewards according to performance, then it will be seen as an unfair process.”

Okay, maybe that’s three problems in one:

Feedback – All sources I’ve read lately (and conversations I’ve had) agree employees want and need more feedback, more frequently – both constructive and appreciative. I’ll discuss this angle in more depth in my next two posts.

Pay for Performance – But are employees even in the right state of mind to accept the value of constructive feedback – no matter how well communicated – if their focus is on showing themselves in as positive a light as possible to get the greatest raise? Of course not. This is why merit-based pay for performance structures have outlived their usefulness.

Fairness – Even the best of managers struggle with the question of what is fair within traditional pay for performance structures. My Compensation Café colleague, Laura Schroeder, summarized the challenge well in a post last week:  “He isn’t sure whether to pay for performance, potential or expertise with his meager 3% budget.”

The rest of this week, I’ll be tackling these issues in more depth. This is a controversial subject. I believe the only way we’ll arrive at a good solution is through conversation. Please chime in with your thoughts or approaches.

Employee Recognition Trends * More Color

Image: WorldatWork May 2011 Trends in Recognition Report

Recognize This! – Trends inform us of the past. Setting the future is up to us.

Yesterday on Compensation Cafe I blogged about the latest Trends in Employee Recognition report from WorldatWork.

Click over to the Cafe to get the full summary of trends, business benefits and areas for improvement, but below is a quick highlight of key points:

86% – Companies with recognition programs.

Programs to motivate specific behaviors is the fastest growing type of recognition program with a 9% growth rate. Thankfully, attendance programs are dropping the fastest. I never did see the point in recognizing someone for showing up — the bare minimum of the job requirement — or at worst, encouraging them to come to work while ill.

The three most popular rewards, by far, are certificates and plaques (77%), gift certificates for product purchases and personal services (65%), and cash (62%). This tells me employers are beginning to get the message that gift cards and certificates offer the variability and fungability of cash in terms of vast choice of reward option, while avoiding the hazards of cash rewards.

International/global employees lose out on the opportunity to participate in the wider organizational culture. Only 39% of global employees participate in the same programs as their North American colleagues. This disturbs me. Think of the message conveyed to these international employees – “you and your efforts aren’t as important as those at headquarters.”

Only 14% train managers on recognition practices. That’s just setting yourself up for failure.

What other trends are you seeing? What surprised you in this trends report?



3 Tips for Onboarding the Right Way


Recognize This! – It can take weeks to recruit the perfect employee, but just 1 day to disengage them.


An impressive recruit wants to work for you. You’re quite impressed with the recruit’s achievements, personality and seeming fit with your organization. Then they show up at work the first day, experience your onboarding process, and are ready to beg for their old job back after two days.

What happened? This story in TLNT (and more awful examples in the comments) tells the story of “Herb” who had long wanted to work at a financial institution, was quite excited to move through the interview and selection process quickly, and started to a first day of nothing but disappointment. No one knew he was starting. No workstation and accompanying materials were ready for him. No one welcomed him, trained him, or offered him any kind of onboarding experience.

If you’re going to go to the trouble and expense of recruiting and hiring, doesn’t it make sense to be sure the new employee actually wants to stay once they start? Three tips to make sure that happens:

  1. Be ready and welcoming – Inform reception of the new hire’s name, expected time and who to call. Be sure the on-site manager is ready to welcome the person with a complete workstation (including all necessary computer equipment, working telephone, etc.) and introduce him/her around the office. Have someone lined up to take the new person to lunch.
  2. Introduce them to your culture on day 1 – Don’t just hand the new hire the employee handbook, which typically reads as guidebook to what NOT to do. Also introduce the new hire to everything that makes your company a great place to work. If you have a strategic recognition program, show the employee how it works. Make it clear your company is all about working hard and praising hard work.
  3. Have meaningful work ready for the first day – Too often the first day on a job is spent dealing with minutiae, forms, etc. Give the employee an introduction to the valuable contributions they will be making to the company. Have a project ready they can begin on day 1 to give them a flavor of the work they will be doing, but also set realistic expectations on delivery and completion based on training needs, etc.

Do you have a first day on the job horror story? What do you wish had happened instead? What onboarding process do you follow in your organization? How well does it work?

Employee Recognition and Recruiting in the Recovery

Recognize This! – Your reputation as a company precedes you as recruiting picks up. Make sure it’s a help, not a hindrance.

In the last three years of blogging, I’ve tended to focus primarily on employee recognition as part of the performance management process and employee engagement, with occasional posts on other elements of the talent management spectrum. With my new blog, I plan to address more regularly all areas of talent management and how employee recognition can play a crucial role. This week I’ll attempt to do just that.

Two articles in the news recently seemed to have conflicting points about the state of the job market. CNNMoney points to the best three-month gain in private-sector employment in five years as proof that employers have pushed whatever employees are left after layoffs to the limit on productivity and therefore need to start hiring again.

USA Today, on the other hand, argues it’s precisely those productivity gains that are now stifling job creation.

My take? Both are right. Yes, companies weeded out the poorest workers and wrung maximum productivity out of the remainder. But it can’t last. Employees are at their limit, and jobs are being created as demand increases.

That’s the opportunity for recruiters in the recovery. IF your company has managed to treat employees with respect, and give them the recognition and appreciation they deserve even when raises, bonuses or other actions were impossible, then you’re well positioned to sell your company to highly desirable recruits as one that follows through on the employment value proposition.

As you recruit, are you operating from a deficit position as you try to overcome the bad reputation your company may have earned in the recession? Or are you constantly closing where your competitors only fail because recruits want to work for your company where they know they will be recognized and appreciated for meaningful work?