Archive for the "Employee Recruiting & Onboarding" Category

Recognition is Key to Successful Socialization

By Derek Irvine

learning to waterskiRecognize This! – Social recognition can help new employees rapidly feel more connected, engaged, and aligned.

The transition to a new job, either at a new organization or just a new department, can be a stressful time. Although new employees are often prepared for the sheer amount of things to learn, they are often far less prepared for the time it takes to ramp up.

Part of the challenge is the level of enthusiasm and energy that new employees bring, which can be at odds with the downtime between the initial onboarding activities and achieving full utilization.

Filling in these moments with meaningful recognition can help keep the level of energy and motivation high, as well as provide useful feedback to the new employee that they are on the right track. Ultimately, it can provide a much stronger new employee experience.

There are a number of different ways you might get an employee started off on the right track, and even speed up the time it takes to get to that fully utilized state.

Immediately connect work with core values. As a part of the initial onboarding, new employees often learn about a company’s core values and culture. But it shouldn’t stop there, to be forgotten among the all of the packets and introductions. Instead, as new employees begin working on their key responsibilities, managers have ample opportunity to communicate how and why those tasks and behaviors align to core values. Recognition offers the new employee better insight into expectations and priorities, as well as a sense of the purpose.

Build social relationships. Although the direct manager is a crucial source of information and guidance, other members of the team can play an equally important role in the socialization and onboarding experience. They offer opportunities to build important relationships, both interpersonally and through collaborative work. Peer recognition from the team can reinforce these opportunities to create a greater sense of belonging, as well as more quickly increase knowledge of the skills and abilities across the team.

Encourage proactive participation and engagement. A crucial transition for new employees is the gradual transformation from a learner to a contributor. Ensuring that new employees are not only recognized, but have the opportunity to recognize others can speed up that shift. It creates a collective mentality where everyone is empowered to contribute and recognize the contributions of their colleagues.

Organizations that successfully leverage social recognition as a key solution within the onboarding and socialization process will not only minimize the time it takes for new employees to be brought up to speed, but perhaps more importantly, create a stronger and more connected employee experience right from the start.

How has your own company incorporated recognition in the socialization process?

It’s OK to Bring Your Whole Self to Work

By Derek Irvine

poster2Recognize This! – Implicit norms about being yourself at work are a large part of the power of working human.

Have you seen this post circulating on LinkedIn?

It’s about a poster that tells new employees with the UK’s Government Digital Service that “It’s ok to…” Some items on that list that are ok to do include: ask for more clarity, depend on the team, go somewhere else to concentrate, have off-days, and have days off. (The entire poster is available here.)

Many of the things on the list struck me as extraordinarily human parts of working, as well as the challenging process of learning a new role, team, and organization.

Many of us learn these types of things over time, all of the “unofficial stuff” as the post says. They are the norms and implicit expectations of how work gets done and the ways that employees behave and interact with one another. What’s the benefit of putting that all on a poster?

One reason is to improve the socialization process for new hires, especially for fast growing teams and companies. It helps those newcomers to quickly learn and adapt to the expectations that others have of them. It also helps the organization to maintain and transmit the importance of a human-oriented culture and core values. Especially as new hires begin to make up greater numbers within teams and departments, holding on to that culture and core values becomes increasingly important.

In a way, codifying these norms into an explicit and visible list is also a way to help re-affirm or reinforce the value of employee differences to the organization. Even for long-tenured employees, a reminder of what’s okay can be beneficial.

Another reason I like the idea behind this poster? The phrasing, telling employees “it’s ok” to put yourself out there (to “make mistakes”), to find a way of working that allows you to be as productive as you can be (have a “messy desk” or a “tidy desk”). It allows each employee to express their individuality at work.

The poster can easily be summed into a one-item list: “It’s ok to bring your whole self to work.”

Everyone enters the workplace with a set of unique preferences and styles of working, and the expression of all of that is ok to do. The poster is a strong signal to employees, both new and old, that an environment that supports those differences is important. It is also a signal that there are as many paths to successfully living up to a company’s core values and getting work done as there are people doing that work. Appreciating those differences is a crucial part of making work human.

What makes the top of your list for things that are ok to do?

Compensation Cafe: Have You Thought About Former Employees Recently?

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – Social recognition can help ensure that “alumni” employees turn prior positive experiences into benefits for their former companies.

Today’s employees will rarely spend their entire careers at a single organization. Instead, they will have multiple employers and potentially even multiple careers. One of the chief benefits of this trend is the expansion of professional networks that “alumni” of a company possess as they move throughout their careers.

The benefits of these networks are not restricted to the individual employee; organizations can benefit in a number of ways as well. Responding to some recent research along these lines in a post on Compensation Cafe, I make the argument that:

Compensation professionals can have extraordinary impact [on transitioning employees] through well designed total reward portfolios that drive positive financial and emotional experiences. The most powerful drivers, like moments of recognition, will be able to touch upon both simultaneously.

What are those financial and emotional experiences, exactly?

Financial, influenced by existing compensation levels, as well as additional inducements to retain the employee. To the extent that both are perceived as fair, transparent and authentic, employees are likely to perceive the relationships more positively.

Emotional, influenced by the interpersonal treatment leading up to the transition and whether the value and contributions of the employee have been acknowledged and communicated back. These messages, from bosses and colleagues, have a strong effect on the goodwill of former employees.

Through these positive experiences, former employees can serve a number of important roles for their past employers. They can serve as ambassadors, future customers, strategic partners, or even become “boomerang” employees. To achieve these benefits, recognition can be a powerful driving force:

Each moment of recognition communicates a financial investment in the form of an award, as well as an emotional investment in the accompanying message of the employee’s importance and value within the company. Moreover, these moments can be sourced from anywhere in the organization, amplifying the potential for a positive experience.

Click here to read the post in its entirety.

Does your company work to ensure that former employees leave with positive experiences?

Do You Miss Us Yet?

by Derek Irvine

Boomerang returning to handRecognize This!—Alumni employees are increasingly appearing in candidate pools.  Reminding them of the recognition they received for their contributions to meaningful work is powerful to recruit them back into the fold.

Former employees (often called “boomerangs,” but I prefer “alumni”) are joining the applicant pool to return to their prior companies at higher and higher rates.  Who left in good standing are already familiar with the organization’s culture, processes, and employees, making their onboarding and achievement of productivity faster. The recent Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. and surveyed more than 1,800 HR professionals, people managers and employees’ opinions on rehiring former employees.  In her blog post earlier this week, China Gorman highlighted the findings (quoted below):

  • Organizations and workers alike are coming around on rehiring former employees.
  • Boomerangs are creating increased – and unexpected – competition for job seekers as the hiring market continues to improve.
  • Familiarity, easier training, and knowledge of the former employer are benefits for boomerangs and organizations – yet some concerns still linger.
  • HR says it has a strategy for maintaining relationships with former employees, but workers and managers disagree.

The findings acknowledged the importance of alumni and desirability for alumni.  Gorman quoted Joyce Maroney, Director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos, driving the fourth bullet home:

“With this boomerang trend on the rise, it’s more important than ever for organizations to create a culture that engages employees – even long after they’ve gone – and organizations should consider how the boomerang employee factor should affect their off-boarding and alumni communications strategies for top performers.”

The survey, however, revealed conflicting findings between HR and alumni perception of the existence of relationship maintenance strategies.  HR said they used several channels to attract alumni, including email newsletters (45%), recruiters (30%), and alumni groups such as Facebook and LinkedIn (27%). Meanwhile, 67% of alumni, however did not think employers had strategies to maintain a relationship, and 80% of alumni said their former employers did not have strategies that encouraged them to return.

But what do you say when reaching out to alumni employees you want to attract back to the fold?  Remind them they left a culture not just a company.  If you’ve had a strong social recognition platform in place, you could easily pull some examples of appreciation they received while at your organization. Simply reminding them how they were appreciated and recognized for making specific impacts can be a powerful way to re-recruit your Alumni.  Show you had a positive history and relationship and you want to recognize their contributions again.

Are you seeing some of your former top performers in your candidate pool?  How are you leveraging social recognition to attract even more?

What Do Employees Want Most? Appreciation and Good Relationships at Work

"thank you" translated into multiple languagesRecognize This! – Research from the Boston Consulting Group and The Network show employees around the world most need to know their work is valued and appreciated.

“They are different in [insert country other than your own.] They want different things than we do.”

How true do you believe that statement to be? Do you wonder if anyone’s recently tried to quantify those perceived differences or, better yet, find the commonalities?

This Fall, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Network did just that in their “Decoding Global Talent” report, which aggregated 200,000 survey responses on global mobility and employment preferences from employees in 189 countries. The survey primarily looked at what would make employees willing to work abroad, regardless of home country. But one particular finding struck me as most enlightening – regardless of desire to relocate, all respondents “are putting more emphasis on intrinsic rewards and less on compensation.”

Chart from BCG reportThis chart (Exhibit 8) from the report shows the most important job elements to survey respondents, with appreciation for work and relationships with others leading the list.

It’s no surprise “appreciation for your work” leads the list. We need to know our work matters. One survey respondent, a logistics supervisor in Morocco, put it best: “What you do is what you are and what you are is what you do. You must be appreciated.”

We invest so much of ourselves in our work. We need to know that others notice and appreciate our efforts. It’s more powerful validation than a paycheque alone, and a basic human need.

Good relationships with those with whom we spend the majority of our time is no less a need. That’s why it’s also not a surprise that good relationships with colleagues and supervisors also top the list. Indeed, the top two key findings of our most recent Fall 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker report found that (1) peer relationships are critical to the modern work experience because of amount of time we invest at work, and (2) having friends at increases commitment to the company.

The global study from BCG pointed to an additional finding on relationships at work I found fascinating. Level in the organizations determines, in part, the types of relationships I value most. That’s why peer recognition and appreciation programs are vital to employee happiness and engagement at work.

“Workers lower down on the hierarchy assign more importance to their relationships with colleagues than to their relationships with superiors—exactly the opposite of higher-level managers.”

And finally, the importance of these factors to recruiting and retaining employees cannot be underestimated. The BCG report summarizes this way:

“Even as employers have begun to modify the branding they use to recruit workers—correctly anticipating the shift to a postcrisis world in which money isn’t everything—companies have not really done much to push their reward systems toward new and compelling “total offers” that include many of the attributes relating to culture, relationships, and appreciation that employees covet these days. Instead, company rewards are still largely built around compensation, and the culture inside many companies remains hierarchical, with complex guidelines, limited flexibility, and highly political agendas. It’s the rare employer that has found a way to institutionalize appreciation—the attribute that workers, especially younger workers of Generation Y, now seem to crave…

“But there need to be other kinds of expertise, too. In particular, HR needs to find ways to get more involved in shaping corporate culture, in encouraging meaningful relationships between and among bosses and workers, and in ensuring that appreciation for a job well done gets the company-wide attention it deserves. Otherwise, the most talented employees will leave and companies will face a strategic disadvantage.”

There no more effective, efficient way to shape culture, encourage meaningful relationships, or ensure appreciation for a job well done than a social recognition program that encourages all employees to frequently, sincerely and specifically recognize and praise their colleagues for good work in line with company core values. This is what is proven to build cultures of recognition quickly across global organizations, big and small.

What is your most important job element?

If You Hire for Core Values, You Could be Missing Out

by Derek Irvine

Globoforce Values: Imagination, Determination, Innovation, RespectRecognize This! – Hiring for core values only gets you good people. You can make them great by reinforcing those values in the work they do every day.

This won’t be surprising to regular readers of this blog, but I am a firm believer in the importance of hiring people who personally reflect your organization’s core values. Why? Because it makes it that much easier to embed your values into the way they work every day. Of course, I’m not unique in my thinking. I’m sure many of you agree with the approach.

Here’s two examples of CEOs who also hire to a set of values (though in very different ways). And yet, both also miss out on a final step that could help them realize far more benefit from these hiring efforts.

First, Rene Lecerte, CEO of, shared in an Inc. magazine article:

“In our neighborhood [Silicon Valley], we need to compete for talent with Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and dozens of other fast-growth companies with deep pockets. It’s the world’s most competitive market to hire top talent in. I won’t and can’t compete on budget.

“I compete on values…

“Every person who comes into the office is first greeted by our company values. The sign is big and bold. I love our product and service and have learned that I must invest heavily on developing an innovative and collaborative team in order to build an award-winning, successful service. This starts by hiring the type of person we strive to be as a company: humble, fun, authentic, passionate, and dedicated. We look for those who live these values every day and won’t hire them unless they do.”

That’s on-point. Mr. Lecerte goes on to say how he’s deliberately created a collaborative work environment and efforts to inspire passion. But something’s missing.

Next up, Logan LaHive, chief executive of Belly, a customer rewards company,New York Times “Corner Office” column.

“To be honest, I can’t stand walking into a company that has seven values on the wall that no one actually cares about or can remember. I’ve tried to actively avoid documenting or stating what we had to be and just tried to ensure that we maintain our authenticity.

“We do have employee guidelines that put we put on the wall and they would have to be highly censored to be made public. We use the same curse word in the middle of each of these sentences, but they’re about things like believing in yourself, working hard, working outside of your habits, educating yourself, trusting your gut and not forgetting to laugh. There’s some level of shock with it and it’s certainly been off-putting to a number of people that have come into the office and people who were applying for jobs.

“But we use these ‘who we are’ statements to filter out people who won’t fit. It really acts more as a tracker beam for the people who are going to be kind of core to who we are. We’re looking for people who take the work very seriously but not necessarily themselves. And we don’t do it just to be controversial. It’s just about who we are, and that either resonates with you or it doesn’t. I always like to say that in everything we do, I’d prefer us to be loved or hated. Apathy is the slow death of every company.”

I would argue Mr. LaHive is practicing a bit of semantics twisting. His “who we are statements” sound a lot like core values to me. And, like at, they are prominently displayed on the wall and a primary filter during the hiring process. Something is missing here, too.

Bring the Core Values Out of the Hiring Process and into the Daily Work

Have you spotted it? As much time, effort and commitment as these leaders invest in hiring the right people according to their core values (or “who we are” statements, or guiding principles – all are the same idea under different names), there doesn’t seem to be a process for daily, individual, personal reinforcement of these values once the employees are in the door.

I may be a very “authentic” person, but how that authenticity is displayed in interactions with colleagues vs. customers vs. friends can be different. If I were an employee of, think how much more benefit could be realized from the core values if I were told, “Derek, thank you for your work as part of the Project X team. You really demonstrated our value of ‘authenticity’ by both giving real, critical feedback that helped improve our product as well as how you onboarded feedback for your area of responsibility and made the project even more successful.”

Now that’s taking your core values to an entirely different level – deep embedding in the daily work of every employee.

What do you hire for in your organization? How do you ensure those elements are reinforced once the onboarding process is complete?


3 Tips for Recruiting Alumni Employees

by Derek Irvine

Recognize This! – Sometimes, the best employee for the job is “the one that got away.”

Who are the top candidates in your recruiting pool? The obvious answer is people who know your industry and business, already have deep experience in the role, and are a culture fit. Some recruiters call these candidates “Purple Squirrels” – highly desirable, perfect in every way, and therefore very hard to find.

That’s what makes alumni employees (a term I prefer to the more standard “boomerang” employees) strong recruiting targets. A recent article in The Boston Globe points out why:

“The benefits for any company are clear: The costs of training and immersing a new hire—which can often be quite high for somebody entirely unfamiliar with a new company—are significantly cut down when somebody is already familiar with the company. Beyond that, companies also perceive ‘boomerangs’ as known quantities, taking some of the risk from hiring. There’s also a chance the employee picked up new skills since leaving that they could not have gained in their former position.”

Recruiting alumni has its own unique needs, however. Keep these three tips in mind when pursuing “the one that got away.”

1) Remind alumni of the successes and key contributions of their time with your organization.

Who knows the kind of culture the alumnus walked into in their new organization? If you’ve built a strong culture of recognition in a positivity-dominated workplace, be sure to remind your target about the joy of working in that kind of culture. Draw on your recognition data and share explicit past messages of praise, commendation and appreciation the alumnus received while with your company. Of course, this is much easier with any easily mined recognition system of record in place.

2) Address the reasons why alumni may have left.

Take a hard look at yourself. The alumnus left for a reason. What was communicated in the exit interview? Lack of challenging work or no understanding of the deeper meaning of the work? No clear career path? A difficult relationship with a direct manager? Address these concerns honestly (as they likely affect more employees who remain, too), and be sure to tell the alumnus how you’ve done so.

3) Prepare a strong path for their return and re-integration.

When talking with the target alumnus, map out a clear path for their potential re-integration into the organization. Speak specifically to any remaining concerns, and lay out the advantages of rejoining your team. If the alumnus agrees to return, prepare teammates, too. Let them know, where appropriate, why the alumnus left, reasons for the return, and how remaining team members continue to play a critical role in ongoing success.

What other tips do you have for recruiting alumni employees?

Don’t Think Retention Is an Issue? Here’s Why You Should Reconsider

Recognize This! – Traditional approaches to retention may no longer be enough.

Granted, the recover from the recession has been mediocre at best. In this reality, many company leaders have become complacent in regards to talent, assuming employees don’t have good options elsewhere so they’ll continue to stay put.

Those days are rapidly coming to an end. John Hollon, editor of TLNT, offers a brilliant summary of survey results recently released by OI Partners. Just glance at the chart below and you can quickly see the changing dynamics of retention in the workplace.

Report Higher Turnover Today

Concerned about Turnover

Front-line workers






Senior executives



Middle managers



With numbers like this, it’s no surprise the same survey shows retaining talent (70%) is the top HR challenge this year, closely followed by recruiting the right talent (65%).

So, what do you do to find and retain these top people. Unsurprisingly, the survey also cites coaching as the primary retention strategy, followed by better compensation and benefits. I’m glad to hear the latter, as too many employees took a hit on their pay and benefits during the recession and have yet to see those values restored as the economy continues to improve.

Yet, I’m also concerned that improving employee recognition and appreciation isn’t discussed as a major means of improving retention and recruitment. Indeed, our own Workforce Mood Tracker Survey found that 60% of those who don’t feel appreciated plan to look for a new job (vs. only 20% of those who do feel appreciated). Recognizing employees for their valuable contributions helps them see how they contribute to achieving a greater mission, a key element of both retention and employee engagement.

On the recruitment front, I can do no better than to point you to today’s post on the Globoforce blog in which my colleague, Darcy Jacobsen, says in part:

“All the same, employer brands can’t be ignored. Different from a marketing brand, an employer brand is the impression candidates have of your company and what it might be like to work for you. They have become a critical differentiating tool for attracting candidates. In fact, according to a recent Monster/Unum study of job seekers, culture trumps all.  A full 87 percent of employees said they want a company that they believe “truly cares about the well-being of its employees.”  Only 66 percent of respondents rated a high base salary as very important. This is why creating a great culture, and a great employer brand as a reflection of that culture, matters so much. It lets you put your best foot forward, and attracts the best candidates to your company.”

Retention can no longer be relegated to the back burner. Look closely at what you’re doing to ensure your employees are highly valued, recognized and appreciated in your organization.

How concerned are you about retention of key employees? What are you doing about it?

Getting People Processes Right Drives the Bottom Line

Recognize This! – Companies that do people processes better also have better financial returns.

I’ve posted fairly often on research showing the connection between employee engagement or employee enablement and the bottom line. Thanks to a post on, I now know about research making the connection between people processes of all kinds and the bottom line impact.

The Boston Consulting Group and the World Federation of People Management Associations published “From Capability to Profitability: Realizing the Value of People Management” in July. Key take-aways:

Significant Bottom-Line Impact from Getting People Processes Right

“Companies that are highly capable in 22 key HR topics consistently enjoyed better economic performance than those less capable. In several topics, this correlation was striking – up to 3.5 times the revenue growth and as much as 2.1 times the average profit margin. The high performers differentiated themselves dramatically in three of the most important topics: leadership development, talent management, and performance management and rewards… And unlike their less-successful peers, they clearly define performance norms and standards and adopt them enterprisewide.”

Leadership Differentiators

Linking performance and expectations to your core values makes better leaders. And those better leaders are promoted into positions of leadership based on how well they live the values. Doing so makes your company more profitable.

[High performing companies] are 1.5 times more likely to have in place a leadership model that describes expected contributions and behavior that is grounded in company values. Such models go beyond clichés, offering actionable guidelines that inspire leaders – and that leaders aspire to – daily. Their leadership model guides talent selection and promotion decisions – 1.7 times as often as low-performing companies.”

Performance Management Differentiators

People clearly understand what is expected of them, daily. And these are standard across the globe for one-company focus on acceptable behaviors and outcomes.

“High-performing companies understand the importance of a well-constructed, balanced performance-management system in motivating and developing employees… They have clear norms that drive performance – 2.6 times as often as low-performing companies. Employees understand clearly what constitutes superior performance and, just as clearly, what is unacceptable… High-performing companies have global performance management standards in place 2.2 times as often as low-performing ones.”

Recognize the “How,” not Just the “What”

This is a central best practice for truly strategic, social employee recognition based on core values. It doesn’t matter what you accomplish if you do so in a way that violates core values.

“In all the activities we studied, high performing companies reward behavior, not just results, to a greater degree than low-performing companies.”

Where would you score on “people practices?”  Are you driving as much value to the bottom line as you should?

3 Tips to Build and Sustain a Strong Company Culture

Recognize This! – Creating a strong culture requires careful focus and intention.

What’s your ambition for the culture of your organization? If you intend to create and preserve a strong company culture of recognition – one that drives engagement, productivity and performance – how do you that?

1) Focus on Your Culture

If culture is to be central to how the people who make up your organization work and behave every day, then culture cannot be an afterthought. It must be a primary area of focus. Kyle Zimmer, president, chief executive and co-founder of the nonprofit First Book, put it this way in a recent New York Times “Corner Office” column:

“It became very real to me that you have to really focus on the culture of the organization. You can work very hard to build the culture of an organization, and it’s a fragile thing — it’s much easier to lose it than it is to build it.”

The fragility of your culture is something I regularly speak to, comparing it to a bonsai tree. It takes many years of careful attention and focus to prune and bend a bonsai tree into the desired shape, but only one chop to kill it entirely. The same is true of your culture.

2) Hire Intentionally

One important factor to ensure you don’t destroy your culture over time is to hire intentionally. Ms. Zimmer offers this advice:

“If somebody comes in, and has had a 30-year career where they’ve been the boss, and they are not used to being questioned or having their ideas kicked around and challenged, it’s not going to be a fit. It’s also important to avoid hiring those people, because if we do, it’s going to change who comes to the organization.”

Additionally, this article offers some good tips for hiring for cultural fit, including how to get around a candidate’s tendency to say anything to get hired.

3) Make the Values behind Your Culture Real

Part of hiring intentionally is hiring to your values. But it’s not enough to stop focusing on values during the recruiting process. Your values must become central to the daily, ongoing work of all employees. Another CEO featured in the “Corner Office” column, Chris Barbin of Appirio, suggests:

“We have three values that we hire against and three that we run it against. The three that we hire against are trust, professionalism and gray matter — as in, how smart are you? The three we run it against are customers, team and fun.”

This is an interesting approach. Once you know the people you hire have the core personal values you desire, you can then refocus their efforts through daily values focused on organizational success.

What are your recommendations for creating a preserving a strong company culture?