Archive for the "Employee Motivation" Category

2 WorkHuman Lessons from the NFL

by Lynette Silva

Bennett BrothersRecognize This! – Working more human requires we allow our humans to be fully themselves, inside and outside work.

You could call me a football fan if, by “fan,” you mean I sit and a read book next to my husband while he watches the Patriots game. But I seem to have picked up more than I realized by this fan-through-proximity method. Being in Patriots country (and a communicator by nature), I’ve noticed how Patriots team members communicate with – or rather, don’t communicate with – the press. And that’s why I was intrigued by this story from ESPN on the Bennett brothers, the younger of whom (Martellus) is now a Patriots tight end. Let’s just say the Bennetts don’t hold back on their thoughts and opinions.

A couple of points in the wide-ranging article really struck home with me, especially from a context of making work more human. Reading the article, even a football neophyte like me can see that working in the NFL, especially as a player, isn’t really an experience of honoring the human at work. That’s why I particularly appreciated these two comments from elder-brother Michael Bennett (defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks).

When bosses “let you be you,” magic happens.

“The Bennetts maintain that, contrary to the beliefs of certain traditionalists, they play better when they’re given the freedom to improvise, both on and off the field. Michael found that equilibrium in Seattle. ‘A lot of white coaches want to be fathers to black players,’ he says. ‘Pete Carroll’s not like – “You gotta tuck in your shirt.”’ He shakes his head. ‘Do you know how much easier it is to work for somebody when you can be yourself? Why do you think Google, Apple and Facebook are so successful? When people can be who they really are, they do so much better.’ The Seahawks, he says, are the Google of the NFL. ‘They let you be you.’”

In a WorkHuman culture, it’s understood everyone can bring much more to the table when we don’t ask our people to pack up parts of themselves and leave it at the door on the way into the office. When we do, we’re often asking them to pack up exactly the parts we need most – their creativity, their passion, their desire to make a difference and an impact.

Making success about more than work makes work more successful.

“Michael says he doesn’t care about making it to the Hall of Fame. ‘Success is measured in so many different ways,’ he says. ‘To me, success is being super happy and enjoying your family. You look at these people who have so much money…and they can’t even be themselves… When I win, I watch a movie with my daughters when I get home. When I lose, I watch a movie with my daughters when I get home.’”

Clearly, I’m no athlete, not even on a casual level. Yet I’m sure when a pro athlete can keep a loss in perspective, rebounding to return and win is easier. Michael’s statement here is a tremendous example of achieving a good work-life balance. It’s all about perspective and remembering priorities. And having the team behind you to make it possible.

What makes work more human for you?

WorkHuman by Leaving Work – Why Vacations Matter

by Traci Pesch

beach sceneRecognize This! – We cannot create more human work cultures if we don’t honor the human need to rest, reflect, and breathe.

I’m just back from vacation – enjoying family and friends immersed in sun, sand, and ocean. The ability to step back, relax, and rest my mind certainly made it possible to bring a rejuvenated spirit to my work. And this experience reminded me of recent podcast from NPR’s Shankar Vedantam and Dan Pink (author of Drive): “What Science Says about Taking a Great Vacation.”

In the podcast, Shankar and Dan discuss research that shows three interesting findings:

  1. Relationships (or at least relatability matters), even while on vacation.
  2. Shorter but more frequent vacations may be the ticket to keeping the positive impact of vacation going.
  3. Experiencing awe may be the best vacation memento because it can “increase ethical decision making and generosity.”

From a WorkHuman perspective, we need to honor the very human need to rejuvenate the soul, the spirit and the mind. As Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator of Broadway sensation Hamilton) said on Twitter, “No accident that the best idea I ever had in my life (Maybe the best one I’ll ever have) happened on vacation. With a second to breathe.”

Sadly, it seems workers hesitate on taking vacation. This survey found the top 5 reasons workers skip vacation:

  1. Fear of returning to a mountain of work(40%)
  2. The belief that nobody else can do the job (35%)
  3. Inability to afford taking time off (33%)
  4. Fear of being seen as replaceable (22%)
  5. To show greater dedication to the company and the job (28%)

And Americans seem to be worst about this. This article describe us as “a nation of vacation-deprived, work-obsessed, business casual-attired zombies.”

If our best ideas possible come when we give our brain a chance to officially switch off, and if our companies ostensibly support the idea of vacation, then how can we as leaders encourage the behavior of actually taking a real break? Because we must. Our people deserve it. Our humans need it.

Do you use all of your vacation days? If not, why not?

Compensation Cafe: How to Develop Consistent Performers

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – A combination of coaching and social recognition can help consistent performers to realize their potential and reach higher levels of performance.

It has become commonplace for businesses to differentiate between high performers, consistent performers, and those who need more development. A majority of programs tend to focus solely on high performers, as those who can bring the most value to the organization.

Effective organizations though also need to mobilize and develop the largest of these three groups: the consistent performers. As I write in this post on Compensation Cafe, a culture of reward and recognition can enable leaders to reach deeper into this group through smaller, more frequent moments. Doing so can motivate a greater proportion of that group, as well as keep the momentum of motivation high.

Another unique feature of this group is the variability across performance, owing in large part to the size of the group. Some individuals may be striving upwards, others content with the level of their effort, and still others for whom a change could derail their otherwise consistent showings. Taking these differences into account, two distinct strategies emerge that support a culture of recognition and performance.

As I write in the full post, they include the following:

Feedback or coaching conversations can be geared to help provide some insight … [empowering] employees to not only direct their own work, but also spend time thinking about the larger mission of the organization and how their work contributes to that.

The second strategy emphasizes building potential over time through social recognition. Each moment, where an employee has demonstrated a core value or contributed above and beyond to the team or colleagues, can be a launching point for a discussion about growth and expansion.

Taken together, these strategies can help a company develop its pool of consistent performers, delivering a collective impact that could rival that of the high performers.

What does your organization to do help develop those consistent performers?

What are your Core Projects?

By Derek Irvine

tools-1183374_960_720Recognize This! – Core projects can lead to greater happiness and achievement, especially when they are encouraged by the organization and aligned to core values.

Recently, more and more attention is being paid to the notion of happiness at work. Once considered too soft, a growing body of evidence from WorkHuman speakers, our own research and from leading academic scholars suggests real and tangible benefits that include greater performance and well-being.

This increased attention is also shining a spotlight on several interesting offshoots from the main body of academic research, which can provide some valuable insights for organizations. One such area out of Cambridge University was profiled in a recent article in the New Yorker and examines the concept of “personal projects.”

As it turns out, happiness at work may be achieved through these personal projects when they are both core to the individual and aligned to a company’s values. Reinforcing natural human tendencies toward core projects can help achieve both greater meaningfulness and productivity at work.

So what are personal projects, and what makes them core to an individual?

As research suggests, personal projects are a way to think about and group together the daily activities that people engage in, ranging from trivial goals to those that can span an entire lifetime. Most people have around 15 projects at any given time, and they can be peripheral and temporary or an essential component of one’s identity at work or at home. Core projects mostly fall into the latter category, giving meaningfulness and a sense of striving to our actions.

These core projects are a big part of what makes us human and motivate us. They are also what can drive greater happiness at work (in the form of eudaemonia, or “happiness as striving towards fulfillment”), in turn contributing toward more positive outcomes.

One of the goals for organizations seeking to make work more human is to encourage the types of core projects that align individual striving with organizational purpose and values. Doing so enables individuals to bring their whole selves to work, bringing the entirety of their unique skillsets, abilities and mindsets to bear on challenges or problems.

When core projects are aligned with the organization, mutual growth by the individual and the organization can occur.

On a practical level, there are a number of ways that organizations can encourage the core projects of individuals. Regular feedback from managers, recognition from peers, and developmental opportunities can all contribute to helping employees make progress towards the goals of their core projects.

How does your organization support some of your core projects?

Recognize Effectiveness and Minimize Bureaucracy

By Derek Irvine

stamp-114353_960_720Recognize This! – New mindsets that emphasize and recognize effectiveness over effort are needed to replace increasing bureaucracy.

Organizations are becoming flatter and more flexible, at least according to conventional wisdom.

But in a recent article in Harvard Business Review, Gary Hamel points to data that suggests exactly the opposite: bureaucracy is growing rather than shrinking. Much of that growth, he argues, comes as leaders attempt to address the complexity of the modern business environment.

As Gary notes in the article- reflective of the key theme from his WorkHuman 2016 keynote and a recent Q&A on the Globoforce blog (spanning Parts I, II, and III)- that chain of events is not inevitable. Instead, he argues for new ways of thinking that empowers human adaptability, creativity, and passion – rather than stifling them under levels upon levels of hierarchy.

What might that look like?

One option is to change the very mindset with which we approach the roles of managers. Historically, management has been guided by an implicit “effort bias” that equates time spent with work accomplished, according to this Huffington Post article. This mindset rewards employees who come in early and stay late, answer emails on weekends, and appear to be busy, regardless of the outcomes.

It’s easy to see how that type of mindset requires frequent oversight and control, contributing to much of felt need for bureaucracy that Gary identifies.

An alternative mindset is to approach work with a “effectiveness bias” – trusting individuals to deliver and holding them accountable for their contributions rather than time spent at a desk or tethered to a smartphone. Once expectations and effectiveness criteria are communicated, and processes for ongoing feedback are in place, minimal oversight is required.

Employees become self-managing, owning responsibility for delivering on their commitments. They are also free to adapt to changing circumstances, and creatively address both novelty and complexity. There is little need of extensive bureaucracy.

This notion of an “effectiveness bias” and empowered employees fully resonates with social recognition programs. Employees are viewed through the lens of their contributions to key values, overcoming challenges to get work done, and collaborative spirit to drive greater team outcomes.

Social recognition also has the added bonus of providing greater transparency within the organization, in terms of where expertise is developed and shared, as well as where the largest impact is being generated that helps to move the business forward. This transparency goes a long way in helping to manage complexity without adding more bureaucracy.

What could help remove some of the bureaucracy in your own company?

5 Lessons for Values-Based Leadership from Harry Kraemer

by Lynette Silva

Book Cover: From Values to ActionRecognize This! – You don’t have to be manager of people to be a leader of people. To lead, relate to other’s needs and always remember where you came from.

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Evanta Chicago CHRO summit. It was an honor to be a part of a tremendous roster of industry leaders and speakers. Case in point – Harry Kraemer who kicked off the event at the governing body dinner. Harry, former chairman and CEO of Baxter International and current professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management MBA program, shared insights on how to be a better leader from his new book From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership.

I took away 5 key lessons and reminders from both Harry’s talk and his book, summarized here.

1. Understand the Key Characteristics of Leaders

Leaders keep things simple, demonstrate common sense and start leading as soon as possible. To keep things simple, always ask two questions: “What’s the issue we’re trying to resolve?” or “What’s the opportunity we’re trying to take advantage of?” These questions help put things into perspective and expand thinking more globally outside of the narrow, immediate issue. Leaders also don’t wait until they have a team of direct reports to start leading. Leadership is all about the ability to influence people to do what they might not otherwise do. This requires honestly relating to people.

2. Identify and Avoid “Those Guys”

“Those guys” are the people in the organization we tend to point to when we say, “It’ll never work. ‘They’ already said no to a similar idea five years ago.” Leadership growth is slowed by spending too much time waiting on “those” guys or worrying too much about what “those guys” would say or do. To overcome “those guys” syndrome, ask people two questions: “Whatever your job is, are you one of ‘those guys’ who can actually do something?” and “Whatever your job is, are you watching the movie or are you in the movie?

3. Establish Rules of the Game

The rules of the game all leaders should share with their teams are simple. Every problem or issue you bring to my attention = +1 point. Every solution you bring to my attention = +1,000 points. Whoever has the most points wins

4. Think Globally

Ask yourself, do you want to be a truly phenomenal head of ____ group? Or do you want to be head of the company who happens to know a lot about _____? (The blank can be filled by any function – HR, marketing, finance, etc.) Real leaders have their functional role, but their real job is helping the head run the company. Always look across functions to identify the global need and solution.

5. Apply 4 Principles of Leadership to Get People to Change and Lead

If you want to be a leader of others, you must first understand yourself. Applying these for principles (daily, if possible) will prepare you.

  • Practice self-reflection – Don’t confuse activity and productivity. Take time to turn off noise and ask yourself:
    • What are my values?
    • What do I stand for?
    • What is my purpose?
    • What am I going to do about it?
    • What did I do right today to advance of all of those?
    • Where did I miss and what can I do better tomorrow?
  • Seek balance – Understand ALL sides of the story (there’s generally more than two).
  • Develop true self-confidence – Know what you do know and what you don’t know (and who knows what you don’t know) and learn every day. Ask yourself: Are you comfortable admitting “I don’t know” and “I was wrong.”
  • Internalize genuine humility – Understand why you are really successful. It’s likely a mix of luck, timing (right place, right time), your team (other people who’ve helped you succeed), and the talents you were given. Always remember people don’t relate well to egomaniacs. Remember the cubicle and never forget what it was like for you when you started out.

Harry ended with this reminder: To lead at any level, know what you are really at and the people who know what you don’t know.

What additional leadership lessons have guided you?

Compensation Cafe: Are We Ready for Basic Income?

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – A guaranteed income could bring substantial changes to the world of work, from increased meaning, to crowdsourced compensation, to more freedom. But will it work?

Experiments in basic income are beginning to happen across the world, with the potential to change the way we work. When technology can increase productivity while lessening the need for human workers, observers question whether the former industrial model of employment will continue into the future. A major question remains: what will take the place of work, and what will people do?

Those questions can bring a lot of uncertainty around the promise of everyone receiving a guaranteed income regardless of employment. Proponents point to the ability to contribute to greater happiness and quality of life, as well as a greater emphasis on meaningful work. Opponents worry about the feasibility, as well as what the impact on motivation and productivity will be. The recent ‘nay’ vote in Switzerland suggests that these concerns still outweigh the potential benefits.

In a recent post on Compensation Cafe, I write about some of the changes that basic income could bring. First, however, it is important to understand the fundamental shift in the way we think about work.

Basic income is fascinating because it reshapes the core ideas that many of us hold about work, ideas that began largely with the Industrial Revolution. Barry Schwartz succinctly captured this very dynamic in his TED talk: “we created a factory system consistent with the false idea of human nature [of inherent laziness and the need for incentives in the form of pay]” and once in place, “there was really no other way for people to operate except in a way that was consistent with [that] vision.”

Those ideas can be hard to change, but if we can, there is a lot of potential upside to creating institutions that rely on meaning and relationships between people, instead of a paycheck. Here are just a few of the benefits I discuss throughout that post (read the whole thing here):

Work can become a much more human experience, designed in such a way that offers employees the ability to see and strive for meaning and value in the contributions they make. Perhaps even to follow their passion.

Employees may emerge as a source of crowdsourced compensation for their colleagues; not only seeking meaning for themselves, but giving meaning by recognizing the contributions that make a difference in their work.

The capability of technology to take over the mundane or repetitive tasks, as we have seen in manufacturing and may soon see in the knowledge economy. This represents yet another point of freedom to design work that is meaningful and aligned with one’s own values and mission.

It will be interesting to closely follow this trend as more small-scale experiments are carried out, and we begin to learn whether these benefits can truly outweigh the costs.

What are your thoughts on the benefits versus the costs of a basic income?

The Secret to a Happier Workplace

By Derek Irvine

Celebrating a winRecognize This! – Science has transformed workplace happiness from a nice-to-have to a compelling imperative, but it needs to start with alignment, positivity, and progress.

What comes to mind when you imagine what a happy workplace might look like?

A company full of optimists who are always smiling no matter what’s going on around them. A bunch of employees enjoying a game of pool or lounging in fun spaces. Or is it a group of workers that are driven by meaningful work and are always ready to positively contribute to those around them.

Unfortunately, many companies think mostly in terms of the first two examples when they think of bringing happiness into the workplace – as either something that is untenable or a luxury. But, as science has given us a greater understanding of happiness, it has become less of a luxury and more of a business imperative, leading to a range of positive outcomes.

First, we need to start with what it means to be happy and how that impacts behavior at work. Although there is a component of seeking pleasure, thinking solely in those terms tends to limit the richness of what it means to be happy. In fact, WorkHuman speaker Shawn Achor suggests happiness is much more about “the joy you feel striving toward your potential” and your ability to have a positive impact on those around you.

In more philosophical terms, this utilitarianism perspective emphasizes finding happiness by bringing the most good to the widest number of people. Happiness shifts from seeking pleasure for its own sake to finding pleasure in meaningful contributions. Who wouldn’t want to have more of that at work?

Organizations also benefit from the happiness of employees. A whitepaper on the science of happiness summarizes research that has found happy employees are 85% more efficient, 50% more purposeful in accomplishing their goals, and are 10X less likely to take sick leave. Bottom line: happy workers tend to be more productive, hard-working, and resilient.

To realize these benefits, organizations must first focus on strengthening the alignment between the work that individual employees do and the broader purpose and mission of the organization. Alignment, alongside the cultivation of a more positive outlook and opportunities to make progress, can establish a strong foundation for employee happiness.

Strategies and programs that can touch upon all three drivers will be most successful in encouraging a happy workforce, by increasing alignment and by building positivity. A social recognition solution is one example, where employees’ successes can be celebrated in a timely and frequent manner and a wider culture of appreciation can be built over time. A recent report from the WorkHuman Research Institute found that recognition makes 86% of employees both happier and also more proud of the work that they do.

What strategies do you think will help contribute to a happier workplace?

Top 3 Drivers of Employee Satisfaction (and Salary Isn’t One of Them)

by Traci Pesch

Rabbit on a benchRecognize This! – Company culture, career opportunities and trust in senior leaders drive employee satisfaction far more than salary.

Have you ever gone down rabbit holes on the web, where you start reading one article, then click an embedded link that seems intriguing, and then do it again in the next article? The next thing you realize, three hours have passed, you missed a phone call with a colleague, and worst, you missed your regular infusion of Diet Coke (okay, maybe that last part is just me).

I have Glassdoor to thank for my latest trip down the rabbit hole through the innocent entry point of their list of the 25 highest paying companies in America. Unsurprisingly, all 25 spots are held by consulting and high-tech firms. Far more interesting to me was this paragraph at the end of the article:

“While the companies on this list pay handsomely and a Glassdoor survey shows salary and compensation are among peoples’ top considerations before accepting a job, Glassdoor research also shows that salary is not among the leading factors tied to long-term employee satisfaction. In contrast, culture and values, career opportunities, and trust in senior leadership are the biggest drivers of long-term employee satisfaction.”

It’s that second link that proved my undoing. As a passionate believer in the importance of core-values-driven cultures, especially those reinforced through recognition, I had to click. It took me to this report from June 2015, which included several thought provoking statements: (largely quoting below, emphasis mine):

“A 10% increase in employee pay is associated with a 1 point increase in overall company satisfaction on a 0-100 scale, controlling for all other factors. In other words, if an employee making $40,000 per year were given a raise to $44,000 per year, his or her overall employee satisfaction would increase from 77 percent to 78 percent. And it’s important to note that there is a diminishing return to happiness for every extra $1,000 in earnings.”

Glassdoor then dug further into the findings to find out, if money isn’t the main driver of employee satisfaction, then what is? They went back to their employer review survey (another link!) to add controls for employee ratings on business outlook, career opportunities, culture and values, compensation and benefits, senior leadership and work-life balance. The results:

“In this regression, all of these control variables were statistically significant predictors of workplace satisfaction. And the model predicts overall satisfaction pretty well, explaining about 76% of variation in employee satisfaction. From this model, we find an employee’s culture and values rating for the company has the biggest impact on job satisfaction. And not surprising given the findings above, we find an employee’s compensation and benefits rating has the second smallest effect on overall satisfaction, ahead of business outlook rating.”

[Tweet “Employee perception of company culture and core values has highest impact on #EmployeeEngagement” @WorkHuman]

Company Culture ImportanceWondering why the culture and values rating is so influential, Glassdoor determined, “An employee’s culture and values rating probably represents a combination of factors that contribute to overall well-being such as company morale, employee recognition, and transparency within the organization.”

Why did this fascinate me so greatly? Culture matters. And every employee in your organization owns, influences and benefits from the culture – whether it’s the culture you want or the one allowed to “just happen.” And let’s not ignore the statement in the original quotation above about the importance of trust in senior leaders. Don’t forget the findings from the latest WorkHuman Research Institute employee survey showing the dramatic impact of recognition on trust for leaders.

Recognition Impact on Trust

What most drives your satisfaction and engagement in your work?

How Recognition Makes WorkHuman

by Lynette Silva

Coffe mug with foam in shape of a smileRecognize This! – We all have the ability to create more human workplaces for ourselves and those around us, simply by saying thank you.

Recently we released our WorkHuman Research Institute Spring 2016 report, The ROI of Recognition in building a More Human Workplace,” assessing the attitudes and expectations of those fully employed from their workplaces today. (Be sure to tune in Thursday, April 14, for Derek Irvine’s discussion with Sharlyn Lauby of the findings of the report. You can register for the webinar here.)

The report is quite detailed, offering “a blueprint for what practices will drive employee behavior, attitudes, and business results. Specifically, [how] employee recognition is a foundational element of building a human workplace.” To me, the greatest value in the report is in the questions it answers, which I’ve highlighted here.

Why is recognition such a foundational element for building a human workplace?

A human workplace is one that fosters a culture of recognition and appreciation while empowering individuals, strengthening relationships, and providing a clear purpose aligned with achievable goals. Social recognition is vital for many reasons, especially for:

  1. What it communicates – Recognition lets people know, “You are noticed. You and your work have value and meaning.” The research reveals the WorkHuman connection – when employees believe organization leaders care about creating a more human workplace:
    • 90% say work they do has meaning and purpose
    • 78% feel like opinions, voice and ideas matter to leaders
  2. How it helps build relationships – The act of appreciating others naturally connects people more closely, at work and at home. In the survey, 70% of employees say recognition makes them feel emotionally connected to peers while another 70% say recognition makes them happier at home. Timeliness of the recognition matters, though. When recognized in the last month, 86% of employees say they trust one another, another 86% say they trust the boss, and 82% say they trust senior leaders. Again, the WorkHuman connection is clear – when employees believe their leaders care about creating a more human workplace:
    • 93% feel they fit in and belong in the organization
    • 91% say they are motivated to work hard for my organization and colleagues
  3. How it boosts performance and productivity – Knowing our work is valued and appreciated by others naturally makes us want to contribute more. 79% of employees say recognition makes them work harder, and 78% say recognition makes them more productive. Interestingly, recognition also helps employees feel better equipped to handle the constant change common in today’s workplaces, which is often a detriment to productivity. When recognized in the last month, 69% of employees say they are excited or confident about change, vs. 41% saying the same who had never been recognized. What’s the WorkHuman connection? When employees believe their leaders care about creating a more human workplace, 90% say they are able to find a solution to any challenge.

Perception is reality. How our employees perceive their own recognition and their leaders’ commitment to human workplaces dramatically impacts the bottom line.


And a final bonus question – do you work in a human workplace today, and if not, what would need to change?