Archive for the "Culture Management" Category

A Little More Conversation, Please

By Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – Building relationships through conversations, appreciation and feedback is fundamental to the human condition.

Sincere words have a profound impact on a life.With apologies to Elvis, we need a little more conversation. Conversing together, sharing with each other, is a hallmark of what it means to be human. And yet, many of the interactions we have at work are action-oriented, outcome-driven, or meeting-based (and very few meetings in my career have fostered true interpersonal conversations).

If we want to make work more human, we need to facilitate more and better conversations – along the full spectrum of what it means to engage with other humans in a supportive and developmentally relational way. This may not always be easy, but it is simple.

Simply do a little more in these three areas to make your relationships at work more meaningful and more productive.

  1. Talk More – Start building strong relationships by reaching out and talking with others – engaging with them in meaningful ways and, critically, in ways that are meaningful to them. My team just completed a very interesting communications styles profiling and training session in which we each learned our own communication style based on our dominant brain preference. More importantly, we learned how to engage others more effectively by communicating with them based on their dominant brain preference. That’s the essence of both powerful communication as well as powerful connection – approaching from the other perspective first, rather than your own.
  2. Thank More – Once even a tenuous relationship is built through simple communication, step it up by looking for opportunities to sincerely thank the other person for who they are and for what they do. This requires us to pick our heads up out of our own work and busyness to notice more fully those around us, their own busyness, the contributions they are making, and the impacts they are having on ourselves and on others. The need to be seen, to be noticed, to be valued, to be appreciated is also a fundamental human need. Sincerely, specifically and meaningfully saying “thank you” is a great gift to others as well as a sure path to deepen relationships.
  3. Ask More – A strong relational foundation of appreciation also creates a level of trust to ask for feedback on how to grow, learn, develop, and improve. We all have areas where we are strong as well as areas where we can do better. Imperfection is also a part of the human condition. Acknowledging that no one is perfect (and neither am I), gives us the freedom to ask others for the feedback we need. And when we step out first to ask others for feedback, we also give them the psychological safety they need to give us the feedback we need to hear.

Openness with others (and honesty with ourselves) leads to more meaningful relationships. And our relationships with co-workers is one of the strongest drivers of a positive employee experience and to our sense of belonging in an organization. Being more open requires that we talk more, thank more, and ask more.

With whom do you have solid relationships at work? Who do you talk with the most? Who are you most comfortable asking for the perhaps hard-to-hear feedback? And who comes to you when they need to hear the same?

3 Steps to Build a Positive Employee Experience

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe blog logoRecognize This! – With a thoughtful approach, positive organizational strategies contribute to a better employee experience.

The impact of positivity in the workplace is a subject of some debate. Some point to its tangible benefits, but others are somewhat more cynical. While the truth may take some time to uncover, the ultimate impact may be attributable to variability in how positive organizational strategies and initiatives have been implemented.

As I wrote in this post on Compensation Cafe, creating a positivity-driven workplace typically follows some variation on one of two potential paths: “At one end of the spectrum: a fad-like approach to tick a box off the list. At the other end, a holistic approach to integrate positivity into the fabric of the business.”

The closer an organization can get to the latter, the more benefits they are likely to see from building a positive employee experience.  With that in mind, there are three main things to consider to successfully build towards a more positive workplace:


1. Focus on drivers that lead to the outcome of positivity. Too often, positivity is treated like a driver instead of an outcome. In reality, organizational practices and norms are the drivers that lead to a positive employee experience. Keeping the two distinct allows leaders to think through the relationships between those practices and positivity, and why those relationships matter to business performance.

2. Focus on long-term practices that tap into enduring aspects of human motivation. Positivity fads focus on quick-fixes that only lead to momentary benefits or unsustainable behavior change. Instead, HR and business leaders need to consider practices that are more durable, tapping into attributes that make work meaningful and create a sense of belonging.

3. Focus on aligning multiple practices into a cohesive strategy. A single practice, no matter how effective, set against a company’s current culture is unlikely to be effective in creating lasting change. Creating a positive work experience requires a set of practices and norms that reinforce one another, gradually creating culture shift that influences everyday work experiences.


Click here to read more from my full post on Compensation Cafe. Together, these steps can help an organization to create a more positive employee experience.

What has been successful for your organization in creating a better work experience?

Compensation Cafe: Cultural Practices for a More Dynamic Workplace

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – Shifting away from too much hierarchy, organizations need to emphasize more dynamic and more human ways of working.

The pace of changes facing modern businesses is incredible. Many organizations are finding that those changes require an evolution in management philosophy- away from aspects that were successful during the Industrial Era and toward aspects that allow the organization to be more dynamic.

One of those groundswell transformations has played out in the very way that many businesses are organized. As Eric Mosely recent said in an interview with Forbes: “Organizations are changing. The way we work is changing. The top-down hierarchical approach is a dying legacy of the industrial era.”

I was thinking of that quote as I was reading some recent research on the potential pitfalls of clinging to those hierarchies. Summarizing that research in this recent post on Compensation Café, those pitfalls can include: (a) skewed levels of participation between leaders and other team members, (b) a failure to hear from the most knowledgeable or able contributor, and (c) a rush to agreement at the expense of more effective decisions.

How can we avoid those pitfalls, as the role of traditional hierarchy is replaced with more dynamic structures?

I propose three cultural practices, which are excerpted from the full post below:

  1. Leaders as coaches. While it is important for leaders to provide a clear and motivating vision of the direction the company or team should take, it is equally important to provide employees the autonomy to determine the specific path to that goal.

  2. Crowdsourced performance. Teams and organizations are successful when there is a shared understanding of who knows what, and who has which skills and abilities.

  3. Recognition of differences and diversity. Constructive debate often comes from diverse perspectives and the ability to give voice to those perspectives. Greater participation and empowerment, as mentioned above, both help employees feel they have a voice.

Each of these practices are supported through technology solutions that amplify and reinforce relationships between all employees. Solutions like social recognition, for example, acknowledge the unique role that each employee can play in achieving greater performance, sharing knowledge of best practices and experiences, and encouraging greater diversity in how performance in achieved.

How is hierarchy being transformed at your organization?

Off to HR Tech 2016!

By Derek Irvine

international-conference-1597531_960_720I’m packing my bags and heading to Chicago for the 19th Annual HR Technology Conference and Expo. It’s a fantastic show for seeing what the future of HR holds and what the leaders of the field are thinking about today. I always come back to the office with a ton of energy and ideas.

If you’ll be at the conference, I hope that you can stop by a pre-conference session I am hosting alongside Jay Dorio of IBM (October 4th at 2:30 pm). We will be sharing the results from a new global study conducted by the WorkHuman Research Institute at Globoforce, and the IBM Smarter Workforce Institute. The session will introduce a new Index and set of leadership and organizational practices that help to make the workplace more human.

I am truly excited about this research because it provides HR and business leaders with actionable ways to give employees a better experience at work and demonstrates why that can drive results. What can our organizations become when we think about human potential in terms of “giving” rather than “taking” (and take Adam Grant’s work to heart)?

Later in the week, also be sure to catch Globoforce’s Eric Mosley and David Sparkman of UnitedHealth Group (October 7th at 9:30 am). They will share the story of UHG’s cultural transformation, based on core values of integrity and collaboration, and driven by social recognition. It is yet another great example of how organizations can emphasize giving to achieve positive results.

I hope to see you there!

How to Assess Your Company Culture in One Easy Step

by Lynette Silva

People First alwaysRecognize This! – How your employees experience recognition and appreciation for daily efforts and results can determine the success of your organization culture.

Is there an easy and quick way to judge the culture of a company and assess potential for future performance? According to David Novak, former CEO of Yum! Brands, yes. Simply look for telltale signs of a culture of recognition and appreciation at work. (Investor and portfolio manager James Dodson’s Parnassus Workplace Fund bears this out. Companies included in the fund are selected based on how well they care for their employees. The fund regularly outperforms the S&P 500 by 4%.)

How do you create a strong culture built on social recognition? Mr. Novak makes these recommendations:

  1. Put people first

“Focus on their capabilities and recognize what they do to satisfy more customers, build more business, make more money and drive results.”

  1. Tie recognition to what matters most for success

“Recognition can be a catalyst for results if it is directly tied to the important goals and objectives of your organization.”

  1. Make recognition frequent and timely

“One of the most important tasks for any leader is…to make people feel appreciated and respected in their daily work.”

  1. Make recognition meaningful and authentic

“The key is to champion recognition every day and make it meaningful and authentic.”

  1. Energize employees through recognition

“An astonishing 82% of employed Americans feel that their supervisors don’t recognize them enough. That lack of recognition takes a toll on morale, productivity, and ultimately, profitability. In fact, 40% of Americans say they’d put more energy into their work if they were recognized more often.”

This doesn’t mean you can toss off casual, “Hey, thanks. Great job!” comments as you race past a colleague in the hall. Following Mr. Novak’s points above, meaningful recognition makes for a much better understanding of the meaningfulness of work, an important driver of a more human workplace.

HR pro turned consultant Sharlyn Lauby expanded on this in her HR Bartender blog, discussing the need for quality recognition. People want and need acknowledgement of what they did that was deserving of the praise. And it needs to be given sincerely in a way that reflects how the recipient likes to receive recognition. (Please don’t embarrass people.)

Combining the advice, a much better recognition might read:

“Hey, thanks! Great job on the Simpson project. You went above and beyond by taking the time to pull in additional data points I didn’t even know to ask for. That extra detail really helped me out with the client by showing them the ‘proof in the pudding’ of how their own numbers stack up against others on a spectrum of success. Your efforts demonstrated perfectly what we mean when we say ‘Make Customers Happy’ is a core value. Thank you!”

If Mr. Novak walked into your offices, what would his assessment of your company culture likely be?

Productive, But at What Cost?

By Derek Irvine

business peopleRecognize This! – Failing to address disruptive behavior by high-performers can actually hurt overall productivity. Leaders should focus on creating a culture that encourages everyone to contribute instead.

What should a leader do when one of their most productive employees is also the most disruptive?

It’s a challenging question that gets at the costs versus benefits of retaining that employee. Many of the costs might be difficult to fully measure. For example, a disruptive employee can have a negative impact that is felt across the organization, reducing the productivity of the entire group.

In these instances, it becomes clear that organizational success is less about a small winner’s circle of highly-performing mavericks. Rather, it is about creating a culture and employee experience where everyone can work to their full potential.

Anecdotally, this was precisely the case at a high-tech manufacturing firm in Pennsylvania. As a local newspaper described the situation, the disruptive employee at this company was not only the most productive, but also a supervisor of the most productive team. The level of output was high enough that leadership continued to retain the employee despite poor behavior.

The situation deteriorated, both as attempts to coach the employee were unsuccessful and greater emphasis was placed aligning employees to the core values of the company. It got so bad that coworkers began to actively avoid this employee by changing their own schedules. At that stage, productivity was no longer enough justification and the employee was terminated along with his immediate team.

Then, a funny thing happened. Productivity actually increased overall, with the largest differences among those working in closest physical proximity to the terminated team.

This outcome points to the impact that emotional and behavioral contagion can have in the workplace, and the underlying costs associated with those dynamics. It’s well known that employees can “catch” the moods of others, which can easily spread disruption and take energy away from the work that needs to be done. Behaviors can be contagious as well, if employees perceive that disruptive employees are being rewarded by the company, and adjust accordingly.

Avoiding these negative forms of interaction, while promoting positive forms, is crucial for leaders and HR teams alike. There are a number of solutions to help maximize the productivity of each worker.

At one end of the spectrum, individual efforts like coaching and performance feedback can be effective in changing the behavior of disruptive employees or teams, as well as minimizing their spread. Such efforts can also be integrated alongside organizationally-focused initiatives, such as social recognition, to align all employees behind a singular culture based in a set of shared core values. At the extreme, termination may be the option of last resort.

Regardless of the path chosen, leaders can expect greater organizational success by creating a human culture for the entire workforce, instead of catering to a few disruptive high-performers.

How has your own organization handled disruptive employees?

Compensation Cafe: An Active Approach to Core Values

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – A social recognition solution aligned to core values helps ensure that those values are lived by all employees and actively managed by leaders.

Have you thought about where the core values at your company came from?

In all probability, they were developed as a way to successfully drive a specific culture and achieve organizational success. A senior leadership team spent a lot of time thinking through all of those relationships and what they wanted the company to be.

Far from a straightforward task, developing core values can be challenging. It all comes down to ensuring the right balance between aspirations and reality of how work gets done. As I wrote in a recent post on the Compensation Cafe, core values can often fall short of the goals for which they were developed.

This is especially true when “those core values aren’t embedded in the everyday experience of work, when they are unrelated to what drives success for the organization, or both.”

As I write in the full post, there are two ways that social recognition, when aligned to core values, can help avoid these problems and ultimately increase the effectiveness of the organization.

First, recognition allows colleagues to recognize each other on the basis of living core values through daily behavior and examples of positive performance. It takes advantage of top-down as well as bottom-up dynamics to spread an understanding of what the core values mean to the organization.

Second, social recognition provides a valuable feedback mechanism that allows leaders to actively manage and improve how core values are being lived. The data created by recognition moments can provide leaders and managers with insights into which core values are being recognized, how often, and how their definition may change over time or across locations.

Social recognition provides a way for companies to both ensure that their core values are being lived, and that they contribute to the success of the organization.

Does your company effectively leverage its employee recognition efforts to support core values?

A Mandate for Positivity?

By Derek Irvine

signature-962354_960_720Recognize This! – Encouraging positivity at work can be challenging, but is achievable through a strong culture of recognition and making work human.

It’s no surprise that positive workplaces can help contribute to a whole host of beneficial results, from better health to greater productivity. The challenge that many companies face is how to go about creating a more positive and human-centered workplace.

It’s often a goal that requires walking on a fine line between promoting a positive culture and ensuring that positivity remains authentic and unforced. For many leaders, it boils down to one of the core questions behind a recent piece in The New Yorker: “Can you actually create positivity by mandating it?”

The short answer, after reviewing the available research, is a qualified yes.

Leaders can create positivity, but not through generalized policies or broad directives. Instead, it needs to be fostered through calling attention to authentic and specific examples of leaders and coworkers bringing positivity to their own work and work relationships.

The cumulative power of these moments, amplified through social recognition, can help drive a culture of positivity and ultimately, working human.

What makes this approach successful is striking the right balance between establishing expectations while allowing for individual flexibility in how to meet those expectations. Past research, for example, has found that rules or norms in this middle area are optimally effective – neither too vague to hamper action nor too prescriptive to be demotivating.

Social recognition hits that sweet spot. At a company-wide level, it provides a shared framework that aligns expectations behind a set of core values. Within each unit or location, leaders and coworkers are empowered to recognize the specific behaviors that are locally relevant but still deliver upon those shared expectations. The combination captures the unique way each person can contribute to the purpose of the overall organization and find meaning in their work.

An additional benefit stems from the collective awareness that is created by those recognition moments, of the number of different ways that employees have brought positivity into the workplace and been recognized for their contributions. Rather than forcing a single exemplar that may not fit everyone’s personality or style, employees can see how their own personal approaches to positive work can fit into the same culture.

Finally, social recognition can help connect this positivity to the bottom-line, ensuring that employees are motivated and energized to contribute their best selves at work, living the core values that drive the organization forward.

What does your organization do to help you bring more positivity to work?

Compensation Cafe: Focus on the Contribution, not the Hours

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe blog logoRecognize This! – Companies that emphasize cultures of contribution rather than hours spent at a desk are better positioned to achieve success.

Everyone seems to be much busier these days, rushing between meetings or from project to project, with even less time being spent away from work. It can seem like being busy has become a competition.

Recent data has started to confirm some of these perceptions, that the number of hours worked has become a symbol of status and prestige. As I wrote recently on Compensation Cafe, this data is largely in opposition to conventional wisdom where a sense of status should be associated with having more leisure time and not less.

Indicative of a culture of long hours and face-time, it’s time for a shift towards a culture of contribution instead. What exactly is that?

Within a culture of contribution, organizations strive for the promises of a better workforce where efficiency leads to flexibility and greater life balance are normal. A culture is built that empowers employees to work in ways that allow them to be productive contributors, regardless of time and place. As a result, employees are more likely to ask themselves “What value can I bring?” and not “How many more hours should I work?”

To get there, companies need to focus on greater humanity in the workplace. They need to build interpersonal trust and strong relationships to ignite collective energy and motivation. They need to invest in social technologies that can reinforce those dynamics and help people to share ideas, connect on deeper levels, and be more productive.

As I write in the full post:

Together, these types of solutions can go a long way in creating more productive and also more flexible workplaces through a culture of contribution.

So, how does your own company emphasize your contributions instead of the hours you’ve put in?

The Future of Worker Productivity

By Derek Irvine

future stock tickerRecognize This! – Less pure output and more holistic wellbeing, productivity is driven by the employee experience and technologies that can give leaders greater insight.

Last week, I wrote about worker productivity from the perspective of economists and the figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In that post, a decline in productivity appears to reflect deep transformations in the employee experience, alongside lower levels of technology and people investments.

A recent article on Quartz also looks into the question of worker productivity, but offers a distinctly different perspective. That article captures the ways several companies are using wearable sensors and other continuous methods to help measure and understand productivity at a micro, rather than macro level.

The benefit of doing so appears to be a more complex picture of productivity, not only as output, but also as an amalgamation of happiness, health, and wellbeing – and the opportunity to capture much more of the employee experience-productivity relationship.

Data from badge-based sensors or pulse surveys can provide company leadership with real-time data on areas for improvement: linking movement to worker happiness and productivity, proactively addressing motivation that appears as career development concerns, or understanding the impact of culture policies on efficiency.

The ultimate goal of collecting this data is to better equip organizations to align employees and work or project roles, increasing the employee experience and productivity simultaneously.

One example of what that could look like in the future: “an intelligent system to analyze the project, break it into smaller tasks, generate job roles, and recommend team members who are best suited to tackle certain portions of the project based on insights stemming from their personal data.”

Although this kind of technology might still be years away from mainstream adoption, there are solutions and investments that companies can make today to achieve many of those same goals.

At the intersection of culture and technology, solutions like social recognition and ongoing performance discussions provide rich data on the networks of relationships that employees share and the work that is produced from those relationships.

Viewing the organization through these dual networks – employees and work – allows leaders to be more proactive and data-driven on which roles can contribute value, how those roles should be arranged, and who might be best to place in those roles.

Culture can amplify this employee experience by addressing the human aspects of that work, linking people to a set of core values, offering opportunities for growth, and lending meaning and purpose. Taken together, these attributes contribute to a holistic view of the employee experience and worker productivity.

How is your organization looking into the employee experience and productivity?