Archive for the "Employee Engagement" Category

Why You Need to Revisit Maslow

by Derek Irvine

Balls in balance on fulcrumRecognize This! — The hierarchy of needs can have a lot of value, but only if we really understand how needs are fulfilled in the workplace.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has staying power. It may often be reduced to an oversimplified pyramid, as I’ve written about before, and has its share of critics, but there is a silver lining!

The longer a theory hangs around, the better the chances that folks can return to the original thinking, debunk common myths, and pick out the true value of the thing. So let’s re-evaluate how a needs hierarchy ties into notions of engagement and recognition in business settings.

Where do we stand right now?

There are three primary levers that organizations can use to fulfill employees’ needs, aligned to the traditional hierarchy. Two of those- base salary and benefits– mostly target basic needs like food, shelter, and safety. Once a certain threshold has been reached, though, the incremental value of continuing to fulfill these needs tends to have diminishing returns – especially as focus shifts to higher order needs.

The third lever- recognition– represents a much smaller slice of the overall compensation picture (typically around 1-2%), and yet has the larger potential impact in reaching across the higher values of belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. These dynamics are illustrated in the smaller of the two pyramids.

Reimagination of Maslow

What does recent research say about Maslow?

To understand the scope of the impact of recognition, we need to take a deeper look into how needs are actually fulfilled.

Recent research based on global data from Gallup finds support for a “tendency, but not a strong one” for needs to be achieved approximately in the order that Maslow theorized. It is important to be clear that this does not mean a person satisfies a need at one level before moving onto the next one in this linear and lockstep process. Nor does it mean that every person achieves each need in exactly the same order and timeframes as everyone else.

Instead, we can think of need profiles, where individuals can “simultaneously work on a number of needs regardless of the fulfillment of other needs.”

Moreover, individuals need profiles vary, ranging from a focus on a few needs to the full spectrum. The former most likely address only physiological and safety needs (influenced much more by the country one lives in than specific individual circumstances). Further along the spectrum, individuals expand their focus to a combination of basic and psychosocial needs (like belonging, esteem, and self-actualization), some trending towards Maslow’s order and others not.

What do need profiles mean for employee engagement?

A workforce is a collection of need profiles across the hierarchy. Each employee differs in terms of complexity (how many needs are simultaneously being focused on) and salience (how needs are personally ranked in terms of importance and impact). Furthermore, most employee need profiles will be focused on psychosocial aspects over which employees feel they have the most control. It just so happens these are also the aspects that are closely tied to engagement.

Practically, this suggests the pathway to engagement occurs through broad values-based initiatives focused on fulfilling a variety of different needs, appreciating their fluidity rather than a narrow focus on maxing out any particular level of the hierarchy. These dynamics are captured in the larger of the two pyramids.

Recognition works across need profiles!

The challenge is meeting people where they are in terms of their need profiles. Relationships will matter more to some employees, task mastery or esteem will matter more to others, while still others will prefer some balance between the three. Social recognition is powerful because it can raise the total level of fulfillment across this diverse set of need profiles, eventually resulting in greater employee engagement that is also aligned to core organizational values.

For example, recognition can focus on a full range of behaviors that contribute to achieving a value of quality. For those with strong needs for belonging, recognition can emphasize the key role that developing relationships had in helping a project team achieve its quality goals. For those with strong needs for esteem, recognition can focus on the specific achievements and contributions of the team. And for those with self-actualization needs, recognition can reinforce continually striving to enhance the processes of quality.

Think of how your own needs are met at work. What does your own profile look like and how do you meet those needs while delivering on company values?

Compensation Cafe: Keeping SCORE to Keep Employees

by Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! — No single approach to meeting employee needs serves all employees all the time.

Typically, I’m not the type of person to keep score. Then an article in Huffington Post about a SCORE acronym for what matters most to employees caught my eye.

Click over to Compensation Cafe for the full post and why I disagree with the author’s assertion that Stability and Compensation are less important to high-performing employees than Opportunity, Responsibility and Environment. As I say in the post:

I can see the argument that stability and compensation are particularly important to those new to the workforce, but the need for employees to believe they are fairly compensated for the work they do does not diminish throughout a career. Since in this author’s structure, recognition and incentives are included in compensation, this is particularly true. As an executive friend of mine once told me, “I’ve never been promoted to a level where I didn’t want to hear ‘thank you’ for my efforts to help others.”

Read the post for the rest, and tell me your take in comments.

What To Do With All These Trends?

by Derek Irvine

Arrows pointing opposite waysRecognize This! – Trends are often captivating, but it takes a unified vision to see how they all can fit together to work for you.

If you are anything like me, you enjoy the articles of trends to watch in 2016, what HR should look like in 2020, and what the blue chips are up to. There are so many interesting ideas, it can be hard to know what to pay attention to, let alone what might be a fit for your own organization’s style, culture, and strategy.

In a Perfect World…

Imagine you are given free rein as an HR professional for your company over the next year. You are free to develop and implement anything and everything you have dreamed. Where do you start and what do you do?

Now, and more importantly, how do you tie it all together into something cohesive? What’s your aligning vision or goal for everything you want to accomplish?

This is an especially important question to answer, but all too easy to miss. These forecasts can have an à-la-carte feel. Adopt this practice, tweak this system, analyze that data. This is possibly a symptom of the sheer complexity of what HR is tasked with these days.

Regardless, our goal should be to look for the connections between data points and trends, pressures from the external environment, and alignment between business needs and HR services. We must connect the items on any list into a cohesive perspective of business reality today and how we can improve in the future.

Bringing It All Together

Linda Mougalian’s TLNT article, “Top 4 Trends,”  is a powerful example of this approach. She identifies four crucial trends for HR professionals in the coming years. Among them are rethinking annual performance reviews, improving culture and engagement, adopting new talent sourcing methods, and refining analytics to drive better decisions.

In each, Linda focuses on a foundational concept that unites the set of trends: leveraging relationships and data through social technology. In our imagined scenario, this would be my aligning vision.

Here’s how it all fits together:

  • Building an engaged culture by connecting people to one another, a culture in which they can recognize the contributions of others in helping the team and the company deliver on its core values. Social technology provides the “virtual watercooler” – as well as the data and reporting capability – that makes it all work.

Everything else the business or HR does should flow from there:

  • Reviewing performance is grounded in these relationships, and the day-to-day work those relationships produce. Social technology provides more immediacy and frequent feedback, as well as the ability to track that relationship data.
  • Transmitting the value of your culture and relationships to the external talent market, leveraging social media channels to spread the word. In the words of Josh Bersin, “becoming irresistible.
  • Finally, leveraging data analytics about the social fabric of the organization in terms of ongoing collaboration, movement of key talent, and retention of high performers.

A culture of recognition is crucial in harnessing these trends towards more integration of relationships and data through social technologies. Whatever your specific unifying vision, it is highly likely that some part of the WorkHuman movement will be at its core.

What trends do you see as driving your company forward, and how are they all connected?

3 Challenges for Creating Authentic Engagement

by Derek Irvine

Woman in maskRecognize This! — Employees who engage their authentic selves at work contribute to unparalleled employee and customer experiences.

I was reading a recent Forbes article that discussed the distinction between employees’ authentic engagement versus scripted service in creating an unparalleled customer experience. One quote from that article really jumped out at me. “Of course, this [creating authentic engagement] is more challenging than doing things by rote: challenging for the employee and challenging for the manager.”

This immediately reminded me of a poignant example that we discuss in our book, The Power of Thanks. In one interaction at a Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Rocky Mountain property, a room attendant overheard the children of a guest ask about roasting marshmallows in the room’s fireplace. When the family returned to the room later in the day, they found a basket of s’more ingredients and a handwritten note from the employee saying, “Because we know how much you like marshmallows.” A quote from Fairmont’s executive leadership captures the challenge of developing that kind of behavior across the company: “You can’t engineer that kind of creativity.” Why is it so hard? Here are three reasons:

Challenge 1 (for Employees): Moving Beyond Scripted Service

It isn’t difficult to see how “doing things by rote” would be the easier path from the employee perspective – service that involves making sure that the room is clean and towels are stocked. But even if performed to the highest levels, these services wouldn’t have nearly the sticking power for this family or for the organization. Creating authentic engagement on the other hand, is much more impactful but also more difficult to achieve and sustain. For the employee, work becomes much more than the job being performed. It involves not only being open to opportunities like the one above and being prepared to engage the customer, but also in having the support of the organization to behave in those creative and authentic ways. In the case of the Fairmont room attendant, it was being attentive to the guests’ experience during their stay and being prepared to deliver a little extra to make the experience even better.

Challenge 2 (for Managers): Supporting Individual Creativity and Authenticity

As the executive notes above, management’s challenge lies in nurturing that kind of individual creativity and authenticity across the entire organization. There isn’t a policy or manual that will work for that or even other similar situations. The solution instead lies in developing a solution to recognize these types of moments, integrating them into the company culture and values over time. Managers also need to be sure they attract, select, and retain employees who want to make those types of moments happen. Still, the challenge may be somewhat easier in the hospitality and other customer-facing industries, where an employees-first mindset drives superior customer experiences through authentic engagement.

Challenge 3 (for Everyone): Enhancing the Impact of Work through Meaningful Interaction

So does this distinction matter for groups or companies that are not primarily customer-facing? As Adam Grant (of Give and Take fame) said in this Knowledge@Wharton article: “Everyone has an end user.” That brings us to a third, broader challenge to authentic engagement, which is identifying who that end user is and opening lines of communication and interaction between the two. Research summarized by the Wharton article mentioned above suggests that employees who know how their work is meaningful to the beneficiary of that work are both happier and more productive than employees who lack that line of sight.

Recognition really helps create these lines of sight on several fronts. Let address each challenge in turn, building from the bottom up. First, recognition allows beneficiaries to reach out directly to the people whose contributions were helpful to them, resulting in increased happiness and productivity. Second, the behaviors and ultimately data generated by employees recognizing each other gives managers a powerful tool to help sustain the types of creative behaviors that stem from authentic engagement. Finally, employees are able to see and learn from vivid examples of others’ engagement, expanding their own repertoires of creative behaviors, so that they are ready and supported when opportunity knocks.

Do you remember a time when you were on the giving or receiving end of an authentically engaged moment at work? How did you go about recognizing that moment?

Compensation Cafe: Time to Press Pause

by Derek Irvine

Pause button imageRecognize This! — Pressing pause gives employees time to reflect on their own work and the work of everyone around them. Social recognition brings power and frequency to those pauses.

A new year, a new chance to buckle down, focus on priorities and get to work – right? Actually, now may be a good time to pause, sit back and reflect instead. In my post today on Compensation cafe, I explain why. As I say in the post:

In addition to some amount of “where have I been,” pauses also offer the opportunity to reflect on “where am I now” and “where do I want to go.” If we think about our professional lives, the interrelationships between these questions is really about creating self-awareness, performance, and opportunity. These are the same principles behind everything from mindfulness to leadership and high-potential development. It turns out most activities that require improvement also require a pause that allow us to establish goals and develop plans.

Click over for the full story and more on the role social recognition plays in creating the habits to press pause at work.

How Social Recognition Impacts Diversity

by Derek Irvine

Diversity Quote: Healthy SocietyRecognize This! — More diverse workplaces will require all of us to expand our recognition repertoires.

Recently, I was thinking about how employee recognition happens, particularly from the perspective of the one doing the nominating – a supervisor, a peer, or even a direct report. If we think a bit about that process, there are two things that will happen. The nominator first needs to recognize that the person behaved in a way that was fully and truly consistent with the company’s culture, values, and ambitions. The nominator then needs to provide recognition to that person, acknowledging the importance and value of that behavior.

The best practices of providing recognition are pretty well established (covered both on this blog and elsewhere). We know that recognition needs to be timely, social, and linked to key strategic goals and objectives.

The best practices of recognizing behavior are a little trickier, and tend to touch more upon the mental processes of each individual nominator. Employees must have a simultaneous understanding of the familiar behaviors that should be recognized (typically based on the core values), and be open to novel or creative behaviors that demonstrate those core values that should also be recognized. Sometimes it is easier to focus on the former because those behaviors are more of a known quantity – simply put, they are easier to recognize.

Research in cognitive science underscores this point and the difficulty we have in recognizing behaviors that don’t already fit into our known mental universe. Each of us have prototypes in our minds about what core values-aligned behaviors look like, and we are thus more likely to notice behaviors that match those prototypes. New, “out-of-the-box” behaviors, even if they embody those same core values, are much less likely to be recognized if they don’t match our prototypes and expectations.

This is where the power of social recognition comes into play! Rather than rely solely on traditional, top-down recognition, which involves one person’s expectations about what positive behaviors ought to look like, social recognition adds the input of the entire team to combine the unique contributions of everyone’s personal experiences and expectations. With input from anyone, the recognition program is more likely to catch these novel behaviors, and perhaps even catch more of the traditional behaviors.

So why does all of this matter? Organizations are becoming increasingly diverse, in terms of demography, ideas, and personal histories. Business problems are becoming increasingly complex, requiring similarly complex repertoires of behaviors to achieve success. Social recognition allows organizations to leverage the diversity of these individuals, catching in real-time behaviors that may have gone under the radar in the past, but have the potential to drive the company and its culture forward.

Think of your own organization. How are you working to ensure the recognition of the full spectrum of values-based behaviors, both in catching more of the traditional behaviors and taking advantage of the opportunities presented by those more creative, less familiar behaviors?

The next step? The continuous process of incorporating new behaviors into the repertoires of everyone in a positivity-driven learning culture (but that’s another post!).

Compensation Cafe: Top 5 Reasons for Bad Days at Work

by Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! — Bad days at work are inevitable, but can be reduced and impact lessened through support, recognition and positivity.

In my Compensation Cafe post earlier this week, I shared the results of a global employee survey conducted by Woohoo, Inc., on bad days a work – what causes them, who experiences them more, what can be done about it and why we should care.

Here are the top answers in response to the question, “The last time you had a bad day at work, which factors in the workplace made it bad?”

  1. A lack of help and support from my boss (40%)
  2. Negative coworkers (39%)
  3. Lack of praise or recognition for the work I do (37%)
  4. Uncertainty about the workplace’s vision and strategy (37%)
  5. Busyness / high work load (36%)

I’m not surprised by any of these statements, and we can’t ignore the impact of these sentiments. As I say in my post on Compensation Cafe:

“The ROI factor involved in reducing the number of “bad days” experienced by employees is not insignificant. Simply by helping employees balance their workload and recognizing them when their efforts contribute to achieving the company strategy and vision, bosses convey their support and help employees see the positive and important impact they have on organization success. Better yet, enable all employees to recognize and appreciate those they see doing great work. The act of recognition has as much positive impact on the giver as on the receiver and is a tremendous influence to overcome persistent negativity.”

I encourage you to read my full summary post as well as the full survey results from Woohoo.

You Can’t WorkHuman if You Can’t Communicate

by Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! — A fundamental skill for any manager of people is how to communicate clearly, honestly, and appropriately.

Understanding. Purpose. Meaning. Value. All are critical parts of a creating a WorkHuman environment in the workplace. All are elements of communication. I would argue every manager of people must be a proficient communicator or willing to  become so.

There are many reasons why communication skills are important, but today I point you to my post on Compensation Cafe and a study of 71,000 employees completed by PayScale.

The bottom line – people’s perceptions of the fairness of their pay relative to the market far more dramatically affect their decisions to stay than the reality of their pay. If we simply communicate more clearly and honestly, people are more satisfied with their pay.

Bar chart illustration of pay fairness perceptions

Click through to my Compensation Cafe post for a summary of key observations of the full study.

Oracle Employees Say Recognition from Peers Most Powerful Means for Employee Engagement

by Derek Irvine

Say ThanksRecognize This! – Employees are telling us what would engage them more in their work. We simply need to listen.

Want to know how to engage employees? Perhaps the best (and obvious) answer is to ask the employees. Oracle did just that. Results of their survey were recently published in Personnel Today. Here are the key excerpts.

Who has greater influence on employee engagement:

  • 42% say peers
  • 21% say line managers
  • 7% say unit managers
  • 3% say HR

What would most drive employee engagement:

  • 53% say recognition for their achievements
  • 35% say greater understanding about their contribution to the company

Peers impact the engagement of others far more than even their own managers can. And knowing “what I do is noticed and matters to others” encourages me to increase productivity and serve customers better.

The good news is a strategically designed social recognition program accomplishes all of these goals. Peers are encouraged to notice and appreciate the great work of their colleagues, giving managers and HR many more “eyes” to catch someone doing something good and praise them for it. Recognition is designed to be detailed and specific, conveying to the recipient how he or she demonstrated a core value or desired behavior and how that effort hlped the giver, the company, or the customer.

Loïc Le Guisquet, president for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific regions, concurs:

“Employees feel engaged by their peers and HR can help encourage this by providing access to sharing and collaboration platforms and social tools. But employee expectations are also changing fast, particularly those of millennials.

“They want recognition and feedback and they want it consistently. HR can deliver this through technologies that provide managers with a more up-to-the minute view of their employees, which in turn encourages a more personalised, rewarding dynamic between them.”

The most effective way HR can support employee engagement is by helping employees recognize and appreciate each other’s efforts. Why would we hesitate in facilitating that kind of desirable behavior? Indeed, in her Data Point Tuesday post today, China Gorman pointed to a report from Interact Authentically that ended with this comment:

“We cannot forget our most basic core goal in business: to create connections and relationships. Today’s frontier is not the technology required to run a global company – it is applying technology while bringing along the nurturing, engaging aspect of human communication.”

What’s holding your organization back from facilitating easy yet meaningful recognition and appreciation, thereby building relationships and human connections in your workplace?

Compensation Cafe: What Irrational Humans Get Right

by Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe blog logoRecognize This! — By giving away to others, we reap far more for ourselves.

Did you know humans are irrational? Shocking, I know. (Seriously, a book I enjoy is Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational.)

I mention this today to point you to my post on Compensation Cafe where I unpack a powerful statement made by Harvard Business school professor Francesca Gino in a recent Harvard Business Review article. She references research that shows employees are happier and more productive when they “share their bonuses with coworkers and charities.”

I’m happier with the bonus I deserve for my hard work when I’m also empowered to share it colleagues and those in greater need than I. Truly powerful and profound, reinforcing (as I point out in the Cafe post):

  1. We succeed through the efforts, help and support of others.
  2. There’s always someone else in more need than we are.

If our own employees are telling us, “It makes me happier when I can share the economic benefits of the power of thanks with others,” why do we put barriers in their path to doing so? Perhaps we would be far better served to repurpose a portion of our bonus budgets for peer-to-peer recognition with economic value. Indeed, the results in terms of increased employee engagement, satisfaction, performance and productivity enjoyed by companies who do precisely this makes for a strong business case.

Check out the full Compensation Cafe post for more.