Archive for the "Power of Thanks" Category

Don’t Forget This Important Component in the Manager Toolkit

by Traci Pesch

Casual gathering of business colleaguesRecognize This! – Peer recognition serves a critical role, but managers must not abdicate their responsibility to notice and praise employees, too.

In my role as a consultant, one of my favorite job duties is traveling to client locations to lead and facilitate strategy sessions. Other than missing an occasional volleyball game or school event for my kids, it’s usually fairly easy to handle logistically – unless my road warrior husband also happens to be traveling at the same time. That’s when we bring in the support team – the grandparents.

We are blessed to have both sets of grandparents close by and ever willing to step in and help out when we travel for work. They do a great job and the kids love them. But, no matter how fun or how good their snickerdoodle cookies, grandparents aren’t Mom and Dad. Inevitably when we return, the kids race to us with big grins on their faces and saying, “You’re home! We missed you! Let me tell you about everything that happened when you were gone.”

What’s the connection to social recognition? Recognition and appreciation from peers and colleagues is undeniably important. Peers see and celebrate with us the great work we do every day. Our friends and colleagues at work are like our grandparents. They celebrate our accomplishments, cheer us on, and offer regular encouragement and celebration.

Parents – well, they’re more like managers. We parents have a responsibility to celebrate the good as well as lay down the law. It’s a balance that is profound and never easy. Similarly, managers have a responsibility to both praise employees and offer constructive criticism and redirection when necessary. That’s why the recognition lever is a powerful component of the manager’s toolkit. Recognition from managers is very different than recognition from peers. Recognition from managers signals acknowledgement of excellent work, growth, accomplishment. Recognition from managers carries weight with employees.

Peer recognition is and will always be an important way to add “eyes” to catch someone doing something good and recognize those we work with every day. But that doesn’t lessen the responsibility for managers to also pay attention and recognize, too.

From whom do you most often receive recognition – managers or peers? Which do you feel carries more impact?

Seeing the Full Spectrum of Recognition

By Derek Irvine

Several cards for saying "thanks"Recognize This! — There are people at work whose contributions we might miss. A culture of recognition helps to make sure we don’t.

I came across a recent New York Times Corner Office article with Walt Bettinger. He is the CEO of the Charles Schwab Corporation and shared a powerful lesson he learned as an undergraduate student.

He was enrolled in a business course in his senior year and was laser-focused on maintaining a perfect grade point average. It all came down to the final exam, for which he spent a great deal of time studying and memorizing. When the day of the exam came, everyone was handed a single sheet of paper. Here’s how Bettinger recounts what happened next:

“Both sides were blank. And the professor said, ‘I’ve taught you everything I can teach you about business in the last 10 weeks, but the most important message, the most important question, is this: What’s the name of the lady who cleans this building?’ And that had a powerful impact. It was the only test I ever failed, and I got the B I deserved. Her name was Dottie, and I didn’t know Dottie. I’d seen her, but I’d never taken the time to ask her name.”

Chances are that many of us have stories similar to this one, times where we “see” people but don’t often stop to recognize the important work they do.

I was sharing this story with a colleague whose wife is in the middle of interviewing for a clinical teaching position. These interviews are complex, with many different moving parts and doctors’ schedules to coordinate, all in a short timeframe. She shared with him an observation that I will share with you. Her experience as a candidate was as much shaped by the top-level leaders that she interviewed with, as it was by the hard work of the program and administrative coordinators that made the experience as seamless and polished as possible. You can be sure she took the time to personally thank everyone involved.

Together, these stories help us to see the impact and contribution of individuals that may not receive traditional recognition. They are not the star performers, winning contests and bonuses. But they are core to the success of the organization, from providing a clean workspace to the ability to attract top candidates and everything in between.

These examples help us to see the many different ways we can say Thank You, for the contributions and value we see in other people. By themselves, these small moments of recognition can be powerful; when they are scaled to the level of an entire culture of social recognition, the impact can be immense.

After all, taking the time to ask a name, appreciating the hard work behind the scenes- it’s about finding a way to WorkHuman and ultimately connect with and appreciate the people around us.

How does your organization help you recognize the impact that all your coworkers can have?

What Happens to Me When You are Recognized?

by Derek Irvine

Inspiring othersResearch is split on what happens to the motivation of people who see others get recognized. One solution is to simply recognize everyone.

There is quite the interesting debate shaping up among researchers looking into the motivational potential of recognition. The specific question under investigation focuses on the impact that recognition has not on recipients, but on the motivations of the people surrounding those recipients. Simply put, if I see you being recognized for excellent work, will I be motivated to step up my game or not?

In one camp researchers with the Centre for European Economic Research found data supporting the affirmative. In a controlled field experiment, participants were hired to complete a three-hour data-entry task. The researchers found that providing recognition to top performers drastically increased group performance, with the biggest gains driven by those who did not receive the recognition. It was hypothesized that these findings are largely attributable to a combination of conformity and reciprocity effects, as a “rising tide that floats all boats.”

But what if this effect isn’t as universal as we might expect? This is the question posed by a recent study published in Psychological Science. A set of experiments involved grading peer assignments as part of a massive open online course (MOOC). In a phenomenon termed “exemplar discouragement,” the research team found that students who were given exemplary peer material to grade were much more likely to quit the course than students given typical peer material. The implication for recognition in organizational settings is that individuals may respond to the recognition of others with decreased rather than increased motivation, when they perceive an outcome as unattainable.

What do these findings and the larger debate tell us about designing recognition strategies and programs that will extend motivation beyond the recipients to the entire workforce?

In two simple words: include everyone! Here’s why:

  • To encourage positive spiraling of a “rising tide.” Those who witness recognition clearly step up their games, contributing higher levels of performance. Subsequently recognizing these individuals maintains those high levels, and encourages other sets of workers to perform better. Onwards and upwards the spiral goes.
  • To avoid exemplar discouragement. Instead of recognizing only the best performances, excellent contributions across all levels of your workforce can be recognized and reinforced, from stars to core performers. Everyone can see that higher performance is an attainable goal and is more likely to strive towards that goal (further reinforcing the above spiral effect).
  • To measure and develop a more robust impact. The recognition-performance effect is amplified across teams, units, and geographies in your company. With the help of data analytics, leaders can nurture emerging positive spirals and encourage breadth and depth of contributions.

This notion of inclusion provides a straightforward way to reconcile the seemingly disparate findings from the research cited above: by expanding the focus from a single recognition moment to many, and from a few recipients to many. When no one is left unrecognized, discouragement may be hard to come by.

What other kinds of strategies have you seen be successful in keeping a workforce motivated?

Creating a Culture that Recognizes “Originals”

by Derek Irvine

Person wearing bear claw shoesRecognize This! — Recognizing cultural contribution instead of cultural fit is a valuable way to reinforce the contributions of “Originals.”

I recently caught a piece on the Marketplace Morning radio program, interviewing Adam Grant (one of our WorkHuman speakers from 2015!). He was sharing some of the interesting findings from his new book, Originals.

I think like most of us, Adam initially expected that the nonconformists at the center of the book- the ones driving innovation and upturning the status quo- would be passionate and risk-taking types. What he found instead was that these people were often quite cautious, hedging their bets and thoroughly thinking through alternatives before moving forward.

When asked what these findings mean more broadly for organizations, Adam said something that really stuck with me. He recommended that companies need to move away from hiring for “cultural fit” and towards hiring for “cultural contribution.”

This was almost as counter-intuitive as his previous findings, especially given how many companies emphasize the importance of fit when hiring. I am paraphrasing, but Adam’s argument is that fit can only give you more of the same without really adding anything new. There will be a temporary boost in motivation and solidarity when new workers join, but that boost quickly dissipates. In its place is the danger that the organization will be susceptible to groupthink and ill-equipped to adapt to future changes.

Cultural contribution, on the other hand, seeks to find those new hires that can add something to the culture that already exists- to find the gaps, identify what is missing, and strive to strengthen it. This is a key take-away for me: helping companies identify, hire, and support these original thinkers, particularly when they may not look like what we commonly expect but can contribute to the health of a company’s bottom-line.

Extending this thinking beyond hiring, there is ample opportunity for organizations to encourage “Originals” in the scope of everyday work.

Simply put: we start recognizing for cultural contribution instead of just for cultural fit.

This means that senior leadership, managers, and employees are not only invested in reinforcing their culture, but doing so through strengthening and improving it. It means giving everyone the ability to recognize employees who may express contributions to a company’s culture in new and different ways, expanding the definition of what it means to work according to core values. Given the potential diversity in ways that individual employees may successfully enact a given cultural value, recognition is particularly impactful in communicating the value of that diversity.

Recognition provides a pathway for organizations to apply Adam’s latest findings and actually encourage the contributions of “non-conformity” as a way to enhance a shared notion of culture.

How does your organization recognize cultural contribution?

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?

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?

Many Thanks for 2015: Favorite Posts

by Derek Irvine

Best 2015 medallionRecognize This! — WorkHuman, The Power of Thanks, and many more exciting developments from 2015 lead to a promising 2016 to come.

2015 has been a whirlwind year of exciting launches and new beginnings. As we look forward to 2016, I’m pausing to look back at some favorite 2015 RecognizeThis! posts and the memories they spark.

WorkHuman – the highlight of my year. This movement marks a watershed in how we think and talk about people in the workplace. In a WorkHuman world, we focus more on the people doing the work, how they are organized and come together to achieve a shared mission, emphasizing the role of employee wellbeing, purpose, and happiness. As part of that, I had the privilege of serving as emcee of the first WorkHuman event, leading to this post:

 WorkHuman 2015: What’s the Opposite of Saying “Thanks?”

As I shared in the kick-off of WorkHuman, the opposite of saying “thanks” is saying nothing at all. It’s having the opportunity to communicate to someone how much they and their efforts are appreciated and valued, but choosing not to. Saying nothing when thanks are deserved is like carbon monoxide seeping through your home. What’s unseen and unheard can be deadly to your culture.

(Did you miss the excitement? Join us for WorkHuman 2016.)

2015 also saw the launch of our newest book, The Power of Thanks. A guideline for structuring powerful, positive cultures of recognition, it also serves as a reminder of our own personal roles in promoting thankfulness – at work and at home. These two posts are excellent reminders of the power of thanks to us all.

The Power of Thanks Is in Us All, if We’re Willing to Share It

I’ve noticed that being immersed in a culture of recognition has turned me into a far more appreciative person in all aspects of my life, at work and at home. It’s impossible to train yourself to pick up your head out of your own little world to notice the efforts and contributions of others at work and then not do the same at home, too. Often, without realizing it, I’m far more complimentary of the people I interact with as I go about life – grocery store cashiers and personal friends, gas station attendants and family members – who they are doesn’t matter so much as the humanity they represent. We are all built needing to hear praise and appreciation from others. I’m just glad I’ve learned skills to do that better.

“Good Job” – 2 Most Harmful Words in the English Language?

This line did leave me wondering, though, about the words we use to recognize others. Despite being a fixture in our lexicon, “good job” alone hardly qualifies as bona fide recognition. So, while not the most harmful two words in the English language, maybe in the most literal and generic sense “good job” isn’t really quite good enough at all. Recognition should be impactful and memorable and leave the recipient with a positive connection between the words spoken or written and their own actions. Overused and vague phrases alone like “good job” or “thanks for everything” or “congrats on your success” with no substance don’t quite fit the bill.

And that’s the crux of the lessons from 2015 – it’s all about our relationships with others that make us more effective, happier and productive in what we do. These last posts bring that message forward powerfully.

Why Peer Relationships Matter at Work

Clearly, our peers are fundamental to how we get the work done. Yet all too often, peers and their observations are ignored or lessened in an employee recognition experience. Managers are given the opportunity to share their appreciation, which is valuable and very important, too, of course. But let’s not ignore both the power of peers and their more direct insight into their colleagues’ contributions and achievements.

Cultures of Recognition Don’t Create Themselves

A recent client scorecard on recognition program activity highlighted key learnings as they’ve achieved a milestone in social recognition availability. We see these key learnings across customers as they are fundamental for most any company to achieve their own ambitions for recognition. Here they are as reported by our customer along with my own additional comments.

  1. “Building a culture of daily recognition and appreciation doesn’t happen overnight. [Our recognition program] puts the power of thanks into the hands of our employees (or into their mobile devices).”
  2. “[Recognition program] adoption, as measured by unique nominators and unique recipients, is highest when senior leaders express, model, and reinforce the importance of recognition.  When senior leaders use [the recognition program] to recognize employees, we see increased usage.”
  3. “Senior leaders who have used [the recognition program] to recognize employees have been surprised and amazed to receive heartfelt thank-you responses.”
  4. Communication is key to success. When we use well-placed messaging, we see an immediate increase in [recognition program] usage.

And finally, my deepest appreciation and thanks to you, our readers of RecognizeThis!, for your added comments and thoughts that make this endeavour a two-way sharing of knowledge. My best wishes for a wonderful 2016 to all.

The Gift of Giving

by Lynette Silva

Recognize This! — What we choose to give to others Hand holding presentrebounds in positivity on ourselves.

I read a lot of blogs. This time of year, it seems as many that share the wonders of the season, just as many deplore how it all seems to be focused on “What can I get for myself?” Yet we all know the true power of giving is in the act of giving itself. For all the pleasure in the getting of the gift, the real, lasting impact is more on the giver than on the recipient.

With Christmas a mere two days away, this story touched my heart. Several dozen children ranging in age from 6-11, most who live in poverty, where given a choice:  Get the Christmas present of your dreams or give a gift to a parent. The children were presented with both gifts – an Xbox 360 for himself and a TV for Dad; a Barbie Dream House for herself and a ring for Mom (“because she’s never really had a ring.”)

But here’s the catch. Each child had to choose just one. Keep the toy for themselves or give the gift to their parent. We all know what happens next:

“In the end, they all chose to sacrifice what they wanted to make their parent happy… The parents were blown away that their kids chose to give to them and were so attuned to what they would want and enjoy.”

Not only did every single child make a sacrificial choice to give to someone they loved, the selected gifts also communicated how well the child knew, noticed, appreciated, and loved their parent. I’m not sure which aspect of the gift meant more to the parents (the story doesn’t say), but for children who naturally tend to be self-focused at that age, the gifts tell a powerful story of love.

Of course, in the end the kids got to keep their presents, too.

The point is, it’s the ability to give that has tremendous impact on the giver. As organizations and leaders, we must ensure we are empowering all employees with the ability to give to others through recognition, praise and appreciation. The ROI of such acts is doubled because of the impact it has on both the giver and the recipient.

Today, think about that special someone in your life. What does a gift you would give to them communicate? Would you sacrifice your own desires to give that gift?

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!).