Archive for the "Strategic Recognition & Company Values" Category

Compensation Cafe: It’s All About Finding Balance

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – Work styles and culture are more effective when they can each offer something unique, rather than being in full alignment.

Some interesting dynamics can be found in the ways that executive leadership styles and culture interact to influence firm performance.  In fact, there are two diametrically opposed ideas on the issue. One suggests that similarity or fit between culture and style is more beneficial, while another suggests the opposite- dissimilarity- might be better.

In this recent post on Compensation Cafe, I take a look at some research that weighs in on this debate. The evidence tends to support the latter idea, finding that companies performed better when the leadership style differed from the culture.

As I write in the post: “The results point to the value of seeking to create balance and complementarity instead of overemphasizing alignment (and at the extreme, redundancy).”

Research like this helps us to better understand dynamics at the top of the organization, and it also allows us to ask some interesting questions as we look further down into the organizational hierarchy. Here are just a few of the questions we can begin to examine:

Do we expect workers to perform better when their own style differs from the culture, or when there is greater alignment? Is the company culture or team culture going to play a larger role, and how might they even fit together? Where is that sweet spot and is it different across levels of the organization?

Knowing the answers to some of these questions can offer some practical insight into how best to motivate individuals, in light of their work styles and the culture of their teams and organizations. Until additional research can provide those answers, however, organizations are well-advised to pursue flexible solutions that begin to address a diversity of complementary styles. For example, as I elaborate in the full post:

On a practical level, one of the best techniques may be through a well-designed rewards and recognition program. Cast within the scope of the research cited above, effective rewards and recognition can help call attention to and motivate behaviors that add something different, yet complementary to the existing culture.

How have you seen your own style complement the culture of your organization?

Compensation Cafe: Superpower-based Compensation

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! – As work roles become more fluid, compensation needs to transform to include solutions that are more social, dynamic, and engaging.

I came across an interview with Tony Hsieh the other day, as I wrote recently in this post on Compensation Cafe, where he was describing the experiment of holocracy at Zappos and what the implications were for HR practices. One interesting comment stood out when he described his thinking on how compensation was being transformed.

In the interview, he describes “badging” in which “individuals could earn various ‘superpowers’ or badges which would represent the potential they bring to the organization and upon which their compensation would be based.”

That sounds pretty cutting edge! But if we reframe what this process really represents, perhaps the idea is less radical and the practice more accessible than one might think:

It may very well be less of an imposing idea when we think of it as social recognition, which provides many of the benefits of a self-managed workforce without the full risk of a holocratic structure.

Social recognition among peers empowers employees to catch the “superpowers” or instances of high performance and contribution of their coworkers.

Collections of these moments over time demonstrate an employee’s potential in living up to core values, and the breadth of contributions that employee can make across the organization. Because peer-based social recognition follows contributions and performance instead of roles, it is well suited to this notion of encouraging an entrepreneurial and engaged workforce.

You can read the entire post here, but in essence, social recognition offers companies a way to transform their compensation budgets and practices to more effective means, with the end result of a higher performing and more future-proof workforce.

What is your take on how compensation is or should be transforming?

Recognition, from Culture to Practice!

By Traci Pesch

Photographic light spiralRecognize This! – A sustainable culture of recognition starts with “why” to inform positive spirals between culture and practices.

Why does employee recognition matter? What elements make social recognition a success? How do we even define “success?” What types of significant results are achievable through social recognition?

These are a few of the most common questions I hear about social recognition. Beyond the obvious, “Yes, it’s important to say ‘thank you’ – to notice, acknowledge, and appreciate the efforts of those around you,” social recognition does have significant impact on how our people experience work. (So why not make it a more WorkHuman environment?)

So, why is recognition important?  More importantly why is creating a culture or recognition vs just implementing another program so important?  A culture of recognition contributes to success by creating a positive spiral effective, encouraging greater alignment with core values, and reinforcing key behaviors that drive businesses forward.

In turn, connections between employees are strengthened, leading to greater engagement and satisfaction, as well as improved trust and collaboration.  Employees who are recognized for their contributions are more likely to bring their whole self to work, resulting in a range of outcomes and results.  Essentially, recognition done right, drives top priorities and business results.

Illustration of culture spiral text

We’ve thought about this a lot. It’s our passion. We’ve been refining this with our customers for years, codified in our book The Power of Thanks.

Recognition BlueprintThis blueprint for social recognition success involves the elements illustrated here, starting with securing executive sponsorship and defining your goals and metrics for success, then continuing though creation of a strong program designed to reach all employees for that engaging recognition experience, and then offering a great choice of rewards in order to ensure every recognition moment has the longest emotional tail possible.

These are the elements from which our best practices and benchmarks are derived.  These best practices and this approach, is proven with large, global companies across many verticals.

With these elements in mind, have a look at your employee recognition program and the current state against each key element of success.  Our vision for all of our clients is to truly build a culture of recognition and appreciation that lives, grows and is sustainable.  As a matter of fact, this year we’re celebrating 10 years of partnership with several clients, who transformed their thinking from “let’s have a recognition program” to “let’s build a sustainable culture of appreciation and recognition and have quantifiable results to back up the WHY.”

What are some of your company’s ambitions for establishing a culture of recognition?

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?

4 Steps to Build a Human Workplace

By Derek Irvine

Construction workerRecognize This! – Research points to the importance of a caring and purpose-driven culture, leadership support, and values-aligned recognition in creating a human workplace.

Globoforce’s WorkHuman Research Institute recently released a report on The ROI of Recognition in Building a Human Workplace. Below I outline several key findings from that report, and describe the steps that organizational leaders can take to create more human workplaces. In short, social recognition, along with support from leadership, can help create caring and purpose-driven cultures that in turn help employees to be both happier and more productive at work. Here’s how:

Put the Right Culture in Place

Our research suggests there are two attributes at the core of what it means to create a more human workplace. The biggest differentiators, between companies that are human-focused and those that are not, include a culture that is:

  • Caring – when employees believe their leaders are creating a human workplace, they’re almost three times more likely to feel their company cares about them as a person (89% compared to 31%).
  • Meaning and purpose – when employees believe their leaders are creating a human workplace, 90% feel their company provides meaning and purpose, compared to 64%.

A human workplace emphasizes the mutually reinforcing nature of these two attributes when combined into a unified culture. Employees not only feel psychologically safe to contribute their best selves, but are more likely to reciprocate the positive support they receive from the organization. When they also experience a sense of purpose and meaningfulness in their work, they are able to unleash that much more of their potential and productivity.

There are a couple of practices that organizations can implement to ensure that a unified culture is transmitted across the entire organization, amplifying the contributions of all employees.

Have Leaders Carry the Banner

As the data above illustrate, organizational leaders serve as important signals of the attention and importance being given to these ideas. When employees perceive that leaders care about and actively try to create a more human workplace, they are more likely to recommend the organization to friends or colleagues (93%), love their jobs (83%), and be motivated to work hard for the organization and co-workers (91%).

Recognize for Core Values (Appreciate + Give Purpose)

Another key practice is recognition that is tied to values. While tactical recognition programs (in 50% of human-centered companies) can begin to contribute to a culture of appreciation and caring, only a values-based, social recognition program can emphasize the dual importance of a caring culture alongside values-driven purpose (in 80% of human-centered companies).

Our research shows that when employees are recognized, they feel appreciated (92%), prouder of their work (86%), and more engaged (83%). Furthermore, they report that recognition makes them work harder (79%) and be more productive (78%). These outcomes tightly align employees to the caring and purpose-driven aspects of a human-centered culture described above.

Create Happier Employees

When leadership and recognition support the creation a more human workplace, our research has found that employees are happier. Employees that are engaged in the organization’s purpose and values, and feel that the organization cares about them, tend to be happier at work (97% and 96%, respectively, compared to 65% and 79%). Employees that feel their leaders care about a human-centered culture are also much happier (96%) than when they perceived their leaders as less caring (82%).

What other practices do you think contribute to building a more human workplace?

To learn more about these findings and how you can work towards creating a more human workplace, register for a webinar that Sharlyn Lauby and I will be giving on April 14th!

How to Encourage Everyday Innovation

By Derek Irvine

Woman holding post of innovation ideasRecognize This! – Important moments of innovation occur in the span of everyday work. Social recognition calls attention to these moments and creates a powerful culture of innovation.

Reacting to so-called “20% Time” policies made popular by Google and others, a recent article on Inc. argues that innovation rarely comes from protected time or spaces away from normal work. Rather, great ideas “come from busy people who had ideas while doing their day job, stayed late, and tried things.”

This remark got me thinking about the relationship between innovation, particularly as it occurs in the stream of everyday work, and a social recognition solution that can encourage more of it. The common thread is the ability to catch and call out great examples of everyday work that align to an organization’s core values. Considering how many companies include innovation as a core value and are focused on cascading those values throughout their organizations, recognition is ideally suited to that task.

First, it may be helpful to understand the rationale behind “20% Time”-type policies. A Wired article states the core idea rather succinctly: “knowledge workers are most valuable when granted protected space in which to tinker.” The idea often leads to informal programs with few ground rules; instead, employees are encouraged to make use of the time to work on projects that they think will most benefit their companies.

Unfortunately, rather than carve out time from daily work, employees devote extra nights and weekends to their projects, effectively resulting in 120% Time. The dynamics of such programs typically mean that relatively few employees will take part, especially in light of performance tracking metrics highly weighted towards everyday responsibilities.

Companies are thus faced with a dilemma, balancing the potential for radical innovation from a few working in protected isolation versus the cumulative effect of everyday and incremental innovation from the many seeking to improve upon their work. I would wager the importance of having innovation as a core value shared by everyone in the organization probably points to an emphasis on the latter. As such, it becomes increasingly important to implement a solution to help foster everyday innovation (alongside policies that capture the idea, if perhaps not the reality, of encouraging radical innovation).

Here is the point where I disagree with the Inc. article above, which goes on to suggest all that is needed for innovation to occur is to allow employees to try things without needing permission. While doing so may lower barriers for employees that are “ready” to innovate, it does nothing to encourage that same behavior from employees who are less ready. It does nothing to create a shared culture of regular innovation, where trial-and-error or learning from mistakes is valued. It does nothing to suggest which ideas are highly novel or useful, while being aligned to the organization.

Social recognition can accomplish these goals, allowing employees to notice others for their innovative contributions or process improvements. Leaders, both formal and informal, can identify and hold up examples of innovation across roles and teams, demonstrating the diversity of contributions that occur in the scope of everyday work, and aligning those contributions to the mission and direction of the organization. More importantly, these aspects combine to create a culture that is aligned to the core value of innovation alongside the company’s other core values.

What types of contributions have you made at work where you have been or could have been recognized for innovation?

As Organizational Design Evolves, Recognition is There to Help

by Derek Irvine

SkylineRecognize This! – Organizations increasingly benefit from designs centered on networks of small teams. These models are a natural fit for similarly flexible and empowered approaches to recognition.

One of the largest themes emerging from Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report is the need for companies to be much more agile. In the face of rapid change and frequent disruption, a full 92% of companies put responsive organizational design at the top of their priority lists.

With these types of designs, similarly responsive practices are required to achieve the full benefits. Social recognition is just one such practice that can enable organizational agility and individual performance.

What does the New Organization look like?

At the core of this shift is what Deloitte calls a “network of teams” model. Instead of traditional functional areas, companies are now increasingly organized around teams that are formed around specific needs, customers, products, or markets. They are flexibly deployed to match expertise with business needs, highly empowered, and networked via centers that facilitate the flow of information and knowledge.

According to the report, smaller teams are often better suited to achieving faster results, fostering more engagement, and maintaining a closer line-of-sight to the mission than traditional methods of organizing.

A network of teams essentially amounts to a structure-within-a-structure approach. These mission-driven teams are nested within more traditional administrative or “talent” structures. These structures help the organization to build the skills and capacity necessary to effectively form and re-form teams over time, as well as provide a “home” for team members to return to at the end of one team’s lifecycle and prior to joining the next one.

The parallel use of “mission” and “talent” structures in an organization also helps to maintain alignment between the various teams’ missions and the shared vision, culture, and strategy of the organization.

Effectively Linking Practices with Design

There is no doubt that these kind of designs can help organizations rapidly respond to changing conditions and compete more effectively, but certain challenges remain from the employee perspective.

Chief among them is perhaps the lack of a longitudinal and central picture of an employee’s performance, with contributions spread across ever-changing teams, under many different team leads, and spanning business units or geographies. By that same token, however, there are now potentially many more contributors to that performance picture than ever before. This challenge is at the heart of leveraging social technology that can capture how we work as humans.

Take social recognition for example, and the role it can play in the “mission” structures. During the course of working with a team, all team members can record performance contributed by any other team member. In fact, the informal leadership-by-expertise model may even lower traditional barriers to peer-to-peer recognition. In real-time, individuals are recognized and are motivated to continue contributing to the team at a high level. Recognition can amplify many of the benefits of small teams mentioned above, spanning results, engagement, and line-of-sight.

Social recognition also plays well with the “talent” structures, providing the employee’s “home” with a clear picture of the sum of that employee’s contributions to each and every team over time, in addition to the more traditional metrics of group performance and business results. Despite not always being able to observe the employee, a manager can “hear” from many different voices, and ideally leverage those voices into performance feedback and coaching. As a result of technology, moments of recognition are recorded and preserved, greatly expanding the impact on motivation as well as growth and development.

Does your organization operate with networks of small teams? What other practices have you seen be effective?

Should You Make Everyone a “Winner”?

By Derek Irvine

Set of trophies with ribbonsRecognize This! – Social recognition is about creating “winners” who are strong contributors to the organization, not about creating “participation trophies.”

As recognition consultants, a question we sometimes hear is whether social recognition is just another flavor of the “everyone gets a trophy” or “participation medals” mentality. Questioners are often worried that these practices reward employees for just showing up, create an entitled rather than performance-driven workforce, or encourage other negative consequences.

On all points, my response is an emphatic “Not even remotely.” Social recognition is a valuable solution that, along with a comprehensive approach to the human experience at work, reinforces the positive contributions that everyone makes to the success of the organization. And it only makes sense to acknowledge and praise these accomplishments across the entire organization.

Although comparisons like the one above are tempting, they often fail to capture the fundamental ways that effective organizations motivate their employees across the performance spectrum. Where else does the “trophy” analogy fall down?

Unlike the playgrounds and youth sports leagues to which the mentality is most frequently ascribed, organizations have a say in who gets to “participate” through attraction and selection practices. The decision won’t be correct 100% of the time, but by and large, the employee base will be comprised mostly of individuals who can bring their talents, skills, and experience to bear on contributing to organizational success.

There are clear benefits when business leaders emphasize and recognize the ways that people apply particular attributes to accomplishing and improving their work and teams.

To be sure, all of this is not to imply that an organization will hire all top-performers. That’s simply unrealistic, and it may also not be effective even if it were theoretically possible. For every organization, there is a distribution of performance, and likewise, a distribution of the types of contributions individuals can make spanning many differentiated roles. Recognition can be tied to these many and varied contributions (using specific, timely, and frequent communication).

While everyone may contractually get a salary for “participating,” recognition serves as a differentiator to call attention to specific and impactful contributions.

The nature of performance within organizations is also a crucial distinction when we talk about “trophies.” Despite frequent sports analogies and metaphors, performance is a more nuanced phenomenon. One person’s successes do not necessarily take away from another’s chances for success, as it may in typical competitive contexts of “winners” and “losers.” Notice throughout this post that I have used the term contribution. If we compete to contribute rather than to win, our organizations can become more successful. With social recognition, there is simply more opportunity for recognition of those contributions to go around.

While many people do “win,” those accomplishments do not occur at the expense of others. Instead, others can join in and congratulate, raising the overall rate of “winning” over time through social sharing within the organization.

It simply makes strong business sense to spread recognition around socially, when that recognition is tied to contributions that align to core values and the mission or purpose of the organization. But like any other solution, the impact and ROI will depend on how the solution is implemented.

How have you seen social recognition contribute to winning performances at work?

Compensation Cafe: Employee Engagement and Incentives Compensation

by Derek Irvine

Compensation CafeRecognize This! – Employees choose to give more and behave in desired ways based on the environment they are being asked to engage in.

Employee Engagement Is Dead! Long Live Employee Engagement!

What sounds like a non-sequitur may not be. Last week on Compensation Cafe I blogged: “Is Employee Engagement Moot in Today’s High Stress Work Environments?” in which I reflected on the seeming stagnation of employee engagement stats in the research across many organizations. I argue:

No, the error lies in how we are pursuing employee engagement. Yes, employee engagement is a two-way street. Employees must themselves choose to engage in the work, but employers must also offer conditions in which employees would want to engage. That’s where we’ve fallen down.

What must change? It’s time to go back to basics. Why should employees choose to engage in the organization’s greater mission, purpose, and goals and give additional discretionary effort to achieve them if (1) compensation is not equal to market rates or is insufficient to cover basic living needs, (2) the work environment is itself unsupportive or downright abusive, and (3) essential human needs of rest, restoration and the ability to meet the needs of the whole person are ignored.

Read the post for more on the backing research and how to change those three factors to improve employee engagement.

Then today, I blogged “The Tricky Business of Incentive Compensation,” examining research on when and how incentives can motivate, given the typically low performance of such schemes. As I unpack in the post:

What they found was that incentives largely worked… but only for certain people and in certain circumstances… If companies are primarily concerned with behavior that aligns to performance, shifting focus away from pre-designated incentives structures towards “surprise” programs that can recognize and otherwise reinforce those behaviors may be a valuable path forward. For example, if managers are recognized and publicly celebrated for a willingness to take risks like those mentioned above, the signal may be that much stronger for others to overcome that initial sense of inertia.

Again, click over for the full post.

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?