Archive for the "Reward Choice" Category

Premier Farnell Tells Their Story of Successful, Strategic Recognition

Recognize This! – Incorporating the 10 Tenets of strategic recognition is critical for success.

Just before the holidays, our client Premier Farnell joined us for a webinar: “Making the Most of Recognition: Premier Farnell’s Recognition Journey.” Located in 35 countries with headquarters in London, critical to Premier Farnell’s recognition journey was multi-lingual, global expertise in recognition and rewards that are appropriate and meaningful for a global audience of employees.

Amy Montefinese, VP of global total rewards and HR operations for Premier Farnell, shared an excellent story of what the firm was able to accomplish through their iCAN recognition program. By happenstance, Amy directly spoke to several of the 10 tenets for a successful strategic employee recognition program (as explained in detail in Winning with a Culture of Recognition). Below are just a few with quotations from Amy and my comments on importance.. The entire webinar is also available here or via the video below:

The Tempo Starts at the Top

“Our CEO is a big champion of the program, which has really helped our recognition program be successful. He really gets it. He knows how important recognition can be, and in fact has been one of the top 5 nominators in the program since it launched… He set the tone and really made recognition a priority for the organization.”

By his or her actions, your CEO signals to all employees very clearly what matters most. Securing CEO sponsorship – visibly and consistently – is the top tenet for successful strategic recognition.

Base Recognition on Your Values and Objectives

“Currently, we are in a brand transition, which includes ‘Our Elements’ showing who we are and what we value as an organization. This is a very critical ingredient we use in our recognition program as we link these values to every recognition moment to help us embed them in the organization as we go through change.  So, for example, our award reasons of Passion, Simple Structures & Systems, Flawless Execution, Totally Reliable and Resourceful, come straight from Our Elements.”

Whether your organization is in transition or not, linking employee recognition to what matters most to your organization (your values and objectives) is the most powerful way to bring these ideas to life for all employees.

Involve Program Participants and Invite Their Input

“We had a cross functional global team on this. I brought together stakeholders from across the globe, from line managers as well. We had definite buy-in at launch. This was a very important contributor to our success. This helped with line sponsorship and the program not being viewed as an ‘HR thing’ because we had input from across the organization.”

A culture of recognition is owned by all employees, not just HR or the recognition program champion. To get to a true culture of recognition, it’s critical to involve people from across the organization in program design and implementation.

Call All Managers to Training/Promote It or Perish

“As a partner, Globoforce brought in their expertise and their knowledge of implementing programs. Communication and training was big and I didn’t have a huge team to help me. So we leveraged the Globoforce team to help us develop a presentation that we used for a series of global webexes. We also recorded an on-demand training session available through the intranet. This really was key to a successful roll-out and implementation.”

To reach program adoption goals quickly, you must not only communicate the program through various vehicles, but train employees on why this new approach to recognition is critical to company and individual success. Use the resources available to you, and don’t shirk this critical tenet.

Touch as Many People as Possible, as Often as Possible

“In the environment today where organizations are hamstrung by sluggish sales and the need for efficiency gains, employees really are motivated by recognition. Feedback from a manager for doing a great job really does go a long way… Every quarter our team produces an HR dashboard and recognition metrics are highlighted. Employee reach is a big one – what percentage of employees in which groups were recognized. Our target this year is 80%. At the end of Q3 several divisions have already reached their goal and the rest are on track.”

Not only do you need a goal of 80-90% program participation, you need an easy yet detailed mechanism for measurement and metrics accumulation and reporting.

I encourage you to watch the full webinar, then come back and tell me what lessons you can apply in your own organization.

3 Lessons from Edward Deci on Why Cash Is Not King for Employee Motivation

Recognize This! – Cash is the currency of compensation, not motivation.

I’ve written often about why cash not a good method for motivating employees (including my post yesterday as well as these older ones on cash bonuses incenting employees to quit and even sue).

Edward Deci, a human motivation psychologist at University of Rochester, is one of the experts in the space who gives the evidenced-based reason for why. This recent article in CNBC includes several excellent points from Deci, which I’ve sorted.

3 Reasons Cash Fails as an Employee Motivator

1)      Employees feel like they’re being coerced or controlled, losing their self-motivation.

“Employees need autonomy and respect in order to feel motivated. When money is used as bait, it can undermine empowerment. In those situations, Deci says that employees feel controlled and lose their self-motivation. An office that demands grueling hours in exchange for quarterly bonuses might convince employees to do the work, but it will likely be lower quality.”

2)      Employees begin to expect the reward as an entitlement.

Says Deci: “Unless you’re extremely careful with how you use rewards, you get people who are just working for the money… We need to compensate people fairly, but when we try to use money to motivate them to do tasks, it can very likely backfire on us.”

3)      If cash is the goal, employees often focus on the end result and not the means to get there.

“‘If the activity is an instrument to the reward, then they’ll try to do it as easily as they can,’ Deci said. At the extreme, think of Enron employees inflating stock prices or Wall Street brokers selling bad mortgages.”

Cash compensates, it doesn’t motivate. Because cash is the currency of compensation, when you use cash for anything else (especially at lower value levels), people quickly come to think of it as part of compensation – not a true “bonus.” That’s why this final piece of advice from the article is critical to understand:

“As a leader, emphasize the broader goals, such as the company’s mission, and pay attention to how your employees reach their goals. Reward the people who embody your values most fully, and be clear that those are the behaviors you want to reinforce.”

Does your organization use cash as a motivator? Do you see these three pitfalls? What others have I missed?

How to Recognize Employees during the Holidays

Recognize This! – Don’t recognize employees only at the holidays, but rather throughout the year.

During the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen several media articles and blog posts on this topic. None are worth pointing back to as the advice is the same stuff I’m sure you’ve all read again and again, year after year.

So what do I advise instead?

  1. Stop making recognition an annual spectacle! Make it ongoing throughout the year. Whether it’s the Winter Turkey or the Spring Employee Appreciation Day tchotchke, limiting recognition and reward to “special events” dilutes the power of recognition. When you wait for “a day” or “an event” to recognize someone for something amazing they did many months prior, they forget why they’re being recognized.  Instead, recognize people throughout the year in a timely way so they quickly begin to associate positive recognition and reinforcement with the values and behaviors you want them to demonstrate again and again in their daily work.
  2. Then at holiday celebrations, call attention to particular moments of greatness that occurred throughout the year across the organization. Once you’ve established the tradition of frequent, timely recognition throughout the year, you can highlight major accomplishments or specific recognition moments at the holiday celebration or gathering (or in any other mechanism you may have used in the past for your holiday rewards.)

It’s important to remember that going the extra distance at the holidays is fine if that’s part of your company’s culture. It’s leaving recognition to JUST the holidays that causes problems and dramatically reduces the ROI you could be realizing for your employee recognition and reward investment.

What’s the craziest holiday recognition or reward you’ve ever received?

Everyone Guesses Everyone Else’s Motivators Incorrectly

Recognize This! – Money does not motivate. It compensates.

What motivates us at work is ultimately a very personal and individual topic, though generalities do apply. That’s why I get a chuckle out of research study after research study showing we nearly always guess incorrectly what would motivate others.

Case in point, research out of Duke University and George Mason University discussed on the Blanchard LeaderChat blog:

“In research from Duke University subjects were asked to rate what motivates them individually, and what motivates peers and superiors at different levels in an organization. In most cases, the subjects rated their peers and superiors as more interested in external incentives than they said was true for themselves.

“Funny thing is, senior executives make the same mistake when trying to identify what motivates their direct reports.  In separate research, Facer points to studies at George Mason University where executives emphasize external factors such as compensation, job security, and promotions while employees point to inherent factors such as interesting work, being appreciated for making meaningful contributions, and a feeling of being involved in decisions.

“The assumed focus on purely external motivators keeps executives and employees looking in the wrong places when trying to identify cures to the lingering lack of engagement in today’s workplaces.”

The bottom line is as simple as this – we like to assume throwing money at people will motivate them, but we are wrong. Yes, people need to be paid fairly and compensated well for the work they do and the value they bring to the organization. But after a point, cash doesn’t motivate or engage us in our work.

Steve Tobak weighed in on this discussion on CBS Moneywatch with this list of top 10 ways to motivate and retain staffand not a single one of them has anything to do with compensation structure.

What does motivate?

  1. Recognition for work well done.
  2. A sense of accomplishment and delivery of work that is meaningful within the bigger picture.
  3. Knowledge of progress made.

If you want to motivate and engage your staff, recognize them for meaningful work and progress. Let peers recognize each other for the same as well.

How does your organization primarily try to motivate employees?

You Do What’s Rewarding for You

Recognize This! – Intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are equally valuable and have equally strategic roles to play in employee reward and recognition.

One HR blogger I enjoy reading is Mike Haberman. He recently boiled down the entire discussion of employee rewards to this salient point:

“The whole concept of reward is to perpetuate behaviors that are desirable to the organization. This is the whole concept of motivation in all its numerous guises. The most recent version is Pink’s Motivation 2.0. Regardless of how you dress it up, behavior occurs because it is rewarded, whether it is some external reward or some internal reward. The bottom line is you get what you reward.

In just four sentences, Mike simplifies what many try to make so complicated – you do things you get rewarded for. Please note, those of you who immediately thought of Gen Y and their (false) reputation for wanting recognition and rewards at every turn, this isn’t a grab for more rewards. Indeed, Mike makes that clear. These rewards can be intrinsic as well as extrinsic.

You do things because you reward yourself. – This is the mark of truly intrinsic rewards. You’re self-motivated to achieve whatever task you have set before you, whether it’s a work related task or something personal like losing weight or exercising more. You engage in the activity and give it your best because of the personal reward you will give yourself in the form of self-satisfaction at a job well done.

You do things because others reward you. – This sounds harsh, but it really isn’t. We all do things because we want others to notice us, see our good work praise us for it. The “reward” can be in the form of simple acknowledgement and recognition of your achievement or it can be tangible in many different forms. The point is, for extrinsic rewards of this stripe, you’re likely giving it your all for the accolades you anticipate from others.

We need to stop thinking of extrinsic rewards in negative terms. Strategic employee recognition and rewards are largely extrinsic, but designed to reinforce the positive behaviors and outcomes you’ve codified in your company’s core values and strategic objectives. When giving extrinsic praise, recognition and – yes – rewards, you’re powerfully communicating to employees, “What you just did there – and how you did it – that was great! Keep doing more of that!”

And that’s a good thing.

Why do you do things?

3 Goblins of Employee Recognition


Recognize This! – Be sure to treat your employees with recognition and not trick them.

(In honour of Halloween, I’m reposting in full my blog that appeared on Compensation Cafe today.)

On this day of ghouls, goblins and other frightening beasties, let’s look at three of the most common goblins of employee recognition I hope never grace your organization’s doorstep.

1) Fake Praise Goblin

This goblin looks good at first, enticing you with superficial pretty words and phrases. But when you dig a little deeper, you discover nothing but poor intentions. Fake praise takes many forms, including the compliment sandwich that often sounds something like: “Great job on the MacGuffin project, but you could have done better with the primary deliverable. You do good work, so I’m confident you’ll do better next time.” Such fake praise only confuses the recipient, who is left wondering if they did a good job or not.

Other fake praise goblins include casual, passing “Thanks!” with no specifics around what you’re thanking the person for and praise followed by an “ask.”

Strip off the mask – Don’t let this goblin ruin your company culture and positive work environment. Make sure the praise you give is specific and detailed so the recipient understands fully why they’re being recognized and what they should do more of in the future. Keep your praise separate from requests or constructive criticism so employees can enjoy the celebration of their achievement without the cloud of more deliverables or expectations to come.

2) Limited Participation Goblin

Too often, I hear about organizations permitting recognition and reward programs for certain segments of employees (e.g., sales, corporate office only) or worse, launching a pilot program at headquarters and promising to eventually roll out the new recognition program to all employees everywhere. To those on the “inside team” this isn’t a goblin at all! They get to participate, recognizing and rewarding each other for their good work. For those on the outside, however, they are left feeling like second-class citizens. Worse yet is telling most employees you don’t trust them enough to recognize each other, and that’s a manager privilege only.

Strip off the mask – If your goal is to create a culture of recognition and appreciation across your organization, then empower all employees (regardless of location, level or group) to recognize and reward each other from day one. Tell everyone the goal is to “catch someone doing something good” and turn them loose. You’ll be surprised how quickly this goblin turns into a gem.

3) Inappropriate Rewards Goblin

I’ve written several posts on Compensation Café and elsewhere on this particular goblin, relating stories of iPods given to deaf employees, forced dancing as a reward, self-congratulations, and rewards so bad you have to tie employees down to give it to them.

Strip off the mask – Always remember, just because you think something is a great reward doesn’t mean others will see it the same way. If you’re going to offer a truly strategic employee recognition and rewards program, then let the employees choose the rewards for themselves. That way, you’ll never have to worry about giving a vegan a gift card to a steakhouse.

What other goblins of employee recognition gone wrong have you seen or experienced?

Compensation Cafe Round-up: Recognition, Rewards & Compensation from Every Angle

Recognize This! – People need recognition, want good rewards, and hope for relief from overwork due to actions taken during the recession.

Today’s post is a round-up of my recent posts on Compensation Cafe.

You Can Never Give Too Much Recognition (August 20, 2012)

One question I’m often asked is, “Can’t you recognize too much or too often? Doesn’t that water down the effect and impact of recognition?” My answer is nearly always to ask another question, “Have you ever received too much recognition?” The answer is invariably, “No.” Find out why in this post (including why I can’t wait to see the new Wreck-It Ralph animated movie).

Employee Rewards: What Do They Want, Anyway? (September 7, 2012)

Occasionally, I like to share with you the horrible storiesI hear of employee recognition and rewards gone wrong. While my cache of stories is, sadly, fairly limitless, today I’ll share just two.

  1. If You Have to Tie Employees Down to Give Them Their Reward, It’s Not Rewarding
  2. If the Employee Has to Wait 30 Years to Be Appreciated, It’s not Rewarding

Read the details of these terrible stories on Compensation Cafe.

What to Do if Salaries Can’t Keep Pace with Economic Recovery (September 17, 2012)

Let me ask you something. During the worst of the recession, did your organization reduce headcount? Did people take on the tasks of those who were let go? Did you freeze salaries? If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions, you’re certainly not alone. But here comes the challenge. As the recovery continues to strengthen (if slowly), what are you doing now? In this post, I talk in more depth about the four options I see for companies as we move forward in the recovery:

  1. Continue as you have
  2. Don’t raise salaries but hire more workers
  3. Increase (or simply restore) salaries but do not hire more workers
  4. Increase salaries of your current workforce and hire more workers

Executive Compensation: What the Conversation Can Tell Us  (October 9, 2012)

A couple of influencers got me curious on when CEO pay and compensation became part of our lexicon. I look at the history of language around these terms, concluding with this. People notice. People question. People discuss. Yes, most understand CEOs bear more of the burden of decision making and more of the risk, but people also notice company results and pay are often disconnected. If your goal is to motivate and engage all employees to give their best every day, be sure you keep your finger firmly on the pulse of employee sentiment and discussion on this topic, too.

Cash Is Not the Currency of Employee Recognition

Recognize This! – Mixing cash with employee recognition confuses the intentions and outcomes of a recognition program.

Let me be clear. Cash is not the currency of employee recognition.

Let me be equally clear. Cash IS the currency of compensation. And unless you have your base pay and compensation structured appropriately, no amount of recognition, praise or feedback will ever be perceived as sufficient or good by employees.

Ann Bares, author of the Compensation Force blog (and editor of the Compensation Café blog where I am a contributor), makes this point well in a post earlier this week:

“We must get cash compensation right – and do the communication and information sharing necessary for employees to understand how this critical baseline of the relationship is set and managed.  If we fail this, if employees believe that there is a fundamental imbalance at the core of employment exchange, chances are good that our efforts to provide sound feedback and express genuine appreciation will fall on deaf (or at least highly skeptical) ears.”

What are the consequences of getting this wrong? Employees think, “Gee, I’m glad you appreciate what I do and I got a nice note, but I’m still paid25% less than my colleagues in the same role who I know for a fact slack off half the day.”

Once you do get your cash compensation right, then why can’t cash also be the currency of recognition? It’s simple. Because cash is the currency of compensation, it quickly becomes an expectation and entitlement when used for recognition. That’s why we see the tremendous disconnect with annual bonus programs and people threatening to quit or even sue if they don’t get their expected annual bonus.

Instead, the currency of recognition is tangible and of economic value, but not cash. Strong recognition requires timely and specific messages of thanks and praise, along with a means to choose a reward for oneself that is personal, meaningful and culturally appropriate. But it is not cash.

What “currency” does your organization use for employee recognition and reward?

Recognition Gone Wrong: Gaming Recognition

Recognize This! – Showing each other appreciation for work well done and in alignment with company values and objectives is not a game.

On a near daily basis, I read lots of examples of employee recognition and reward practices, some good and some bad. And then some days, I see examples of the very good and the very bad.

One the very bad scale of things is this example advocating for gamification out of the UK:

“By linking your reward scheme to a game of chance, not only do you have the right to reward at a much lower level, but you also have the right not to reward when the agent ‘loses’.

“Employing this type of gaming psychology in your reward scheme you will find that you can suddenly afford to be really generous with your cash rewards. This is because you are using a game of chance and your actual cash cost is much lower than by handing out cash rewards which are not linked to a game of chance.”

This is a very poor plan for recognition for at least two reasons:

  1. It turns recognition into a game of chance, automatically creating losers. The response in employees’ minds is confusion: “Wait a minute. I thought I was being recognized for something good I did. Why am I now a loser?”
  2. It’s cash-based. The author of this article is clearly trying to come up with a lower cost way for recognizing employees. If she simply converted her program away from cash rewards – which do nothing but create a sense of entitlement and can never satisfy employee needs for self-actualization and esteem – she could save 50% of costs easily.

Recognition gone right instead focuses on reinforcing in the daily work of all employees what is most important to your organization (your core values and strategic objectives). And there are countless low-cost ways of doing so that don’t involve gaming the system or creating “losers” out of what should be a celebratory moment.

For 10 low-cost ideas that really work, check out this article, which includes timeless and proven advice including this idea:”

“Tell them: An often overlooked gesture, telling your staff specifically what you value in them is important. Seemingly small things are fair game to be called out – always on time for meetings, or making deadlines. ‘Thank you’ isn’t enough. Instead, fill in the blanks of ‘I value xxxx about you because xxx.’”

Have you ever had a recognition moment turn into a loser in a “game”?

Recognition: Why Do You Do It That Way?

Recognize This! – Until you can answer the strategic questions about your employee recognition program, the tactical questions don’t matter.

Ann Bares, author of the Compensation Force blog (and editor of Compensation Café), recently posted about year-end questions concerning incentive programs. The points she raises are quite similar to the questions I often receive from clients in the early stages of thinking about their employee rewards and recognition programs.

As Ann points out, people often ask the wrong questions, focusing on the details of the current program with questions like (quoting from Ann’s blog):

  • Should we extend our incentive plan lower in the organization?  And if we do, do we need to make changes to the plan?
  • Are our current payouts appropriate?  Should we make them higher … or lower?
  • Should we go from annual to quarterly awards … or from quarterly to annual awards?

Instead, you need to start with the bigger picture (again, quoting):

  • Why do we have this plan in the first place?
  • For what purpose was the plan created?  What objectives is it designed to achieve?
  • Is the plan working?
  • Are the original purpose and objectives still relevant given where the function/business unit/organization is today?  Or is there another purpose and another set of objectives that is more pressing and important today?

The same is true when considering your recognition and reward practices. I and members of my team are often asked by clients to take a look at their current (often overly  complex) reward program structures and tell them what to tweak.

Often, I find myself advising them to go back to the drawing board entirely and ask the very fundamental “why” questions:

  • Why are we doing this in the first place?
  • What are we hoping to accomplish?
  • What’s the bottom-line business benefits we can derive from doing this better or differently?
  • (And many more)

If you can’t answer the fundamental strategic questions, the answers to your tactical questions don’t really matter.

What questions are you asking about your employee recognition and rewards program?