Category: Increase Productivity and Reduce Costs

Take Aim at the Heart of your Workforce for Maximum Engagement

By John Schaefer, March 8, 2017 10:08 pm

In order to maximize performance, it’s important to understand the cross-section of a typical work force. It’s common for a normal group to have 15% of its employees in a top, elite group. On the other hand, 15% may be disengaged or problem employees. This leaves the bulk of your work force, 70%, in the middle.
The group at the top consists of self-motivated, talented employees. Most of these people are experienced and take it upon themselves to do their jobs in the best way possible. This elite group produces outstanding results whatever the motivational factors may be.

On the reverse side, the bottom 15% is generally unmotivated and disengaged. This bottom percentile does not have experience and most likely will never obtain it as they bounce from one job to the next. These people more than likely will not be with you in the future.

The group that makes up the major portion of your work force is the middle 70%. The results, records, and bottom line of your organization are dependent on whether this middle percentile can be motivated and trained to improve. The individuals within this middle group must feel they have an attainable goal and will be recognized for improving their personal performance. It is unrealistic in their minds to strive to be better than the elite employees.

When structuring a performance recognition strategy, it’s important to focus on this middle 70%. Programs that only highlight the top 15% spend money on people who will probably accomplish similar results independently. The focus should be on the portion of the work force that will bring the biggest return. Every employee in the middle 70% should feel they have the ability and opportunity to achieve pre-set goals.

In many situations, we have found that incentive dollars and manager time are directed incorrectly. Most of the time and resources are spent with the low achievers who will not be with the organization in the future, while most of the incentive budget is spent on the high achievers who would have accomplished similar results independently. Focus on motivating and engaging the middle 70% and watch your performance improve.

You’ve heard this called “the 80-20 Rule”; I call it “the See-Saw Effect”. Give me a call or shoot me an email if you’d like to know more about how the See-Saw Effect may be costing you time, money and engagement levels.

To learn more about Awards, Rewards and the best ways to use them to optimize our investments in your people visit http://www.SchaeferRecogntionGroup.com or email me personally at john@SchaeferRecognitionGroup.com.

Five Steps to an Effective People Strategy

By John Schaefer, June 7, 2016 12:50 pm

In today’s economy there are few things a company can do that will have greater financial benefits over time than developing an well thought-out, comprehensive and compelling People Strategy. Here’s a five step plan that may help you get a sense of how easy this can be to implement at your organization:

Step1 – Know Who You Are
The trick to it is in first making sure that your strategy is in line with the company’s overriding Purpose, as well as your Mission, Values, Goals and Growth Plans. This is easier said than done, because many organizations find at this stage that they don’t yet have a good feel for why they exist and the best types of people to attract that will help them achieve their goals. I suggest going through this exercise before attempting a formal People Strategy.

Step 2 – Recruiting
Once you know why you exist and what you’re really about as an organization, it’s helpful to create a recruiting methodology that coincides with your Purpose, Culture and Style, so you attract people with a share vision and views. This will insure greater retention and reduce costly turnover of employees who don’t fit comfortably within the company. While we work with clients on a wide range of award and reward programs to improve employee engagement, performance and value, we can show that a small reduction in turnover alone will pay for the bulk of your investment in recognition; so this is a big deal!

Step 3 – Awards/Rewards and Incentives
A good strategy should combine all of the ways you touch employees. This includes everything from simple, no-cost day-to-day appreciation to periodic recognition that thanks people for their efforts, and then a series of well formulated performance management incentives. While this may take time to develop, as you don’t want to overwhelm people with too much too soon, we suggest picking the “low-hanging fruit”; the hand full of behavioral initiatives that when improved, will have the greatest impact on savings or profit. This will get things rolling in the right direction, so leadership will be open to adding more measurables to the platform and yield even more returns over time.

Step 4 – Training
Finally, it’s important to properly train your managers to understand both How and Why to use recognition effectively. If you launch your program with well-informed leadership, excited about the program and ready to use it, you have the best chance of coming across as believable, winning employee trust and launching a long term People Strategy that has high levels of participation, as well as provable ROI. You’d be surprised how many companies spend a ton of time creating the perfect program with a balance of all the right messaging and measurables, and then miss the mark by launching it with minimal gusto and low enthusiasm.

Step 5 – Rinse and Repeat
The most overlooked part of most programs we review is the Measurement & Analysis. If you don’t actively track, measure, tweak and work to optimize your program content and communications on a regular basis, it will likely to lose momentum and the results will slow. We see a lot of situations where elements of an initially vibrant recognition program have decended to nothing more than entitlements, being dangled to entice activity, not properly rewarding positive growth. A support team that monitors and manages your program to keep it fresh, relevant and engaging is key to getting the most out of your People Strategy.

We call this entire process an Umbrella Recognition Solution. When you’re ready to embark on this project for your company, we would be happy to offer some thoughts and ideas that may help you make it the best it can be.

To learn more about Awards, Rewards and the best ways to use them to optimize our investments in your people visit http://www.SchaeferRecogntionGroup.com or email me personally at john@SchaeferRecognitionGroup.com.

Cash Just Isn’t Enough When it Comes to Recognition and Engagement!

By John Schaefer, October 5, 2015 12:27 pm

Ask your employees what they want for recognition and you’ll tend to hear some from of these answers:

1. Cash
2. Time off
3. Something I can use

Interestingly, these answers are all a form of cash; none of them hitting on what research shows employees actually need to become more engaged, productive and fulfilled – to be Loved and Respected.

Why? I think it has to do with the question. Nothing against surveys, but most employees, when asked how they prefer to be recognized, don’t fully trust the question, tend to offer the answer they think you want to hear and won’t ever admit they earn enough money. In a way, this is a set up question and not likely to ever get answered honestly with the secret to what employees want from their leaders.

This article may help better explain the place for cash in recognition and offer you some things to consider as you strive to optimize your most important resource – people! http://www.schaeferrecognitiongroup.com/vocationalblog/?p=61

If you have any questions about recognition, employee engagement and performance management, feel free to email or call and I’ll share what I’ve learned over the past 27 years as a passionate student of what makes your employees want to become all they can be.

To learn more about Awards, Rewards and the best ways to use them to optimize our investments in your people visit http://www.SchaeferRecogntionGroup.com or email me personally at john@SchaeferRecognitionGroup.com.

“How to Get Twice the Productivity Out of Your Employees . . . and They’ll Thank You for it!”

By John Schaefer, November 4, 2014 10:49 am

Employee Engagement and Performance Management are challenges that every company executive agrees are important to their organization’s growth and profitability. But with past Downsizing, continued Outsourcing, continuous New Technology and a Younger, more Diverse Workforce, many of their traditional Recognition and Performance Improvement programs are proving to be ineffective – and they want to know why!

The psychological studies of Maslow, Gallup, Dr. Ken Kovach, Walker Information and Great Place to Work Institute agree on the benefits of focusing on the emotional aspects of the work experience, rather than the logical. Yet, more and more companies are moving to more cash-equivalent recognition programs, believing they’re giving their people “What They Want”. While the response seems valid, it usually yields less than satisfying results.

Why the discrepancy between what the experts have proven and what employees respond in company surveys? A 2004 University of Chicago Study may offer part of the answer.

For their study, the University of Chicago selected two groups of people and had them play a word game with the goal of improving performance. One team was offered cash as an incentive and the other was offered non-cash rewards of the same value. When the scores were totaled, the performance increase of the non-cash group was more than twice that of the cash group (39% vs. 15%), not an insignificant difference. However, as the rewards were about to be presented, they asked the non-cash group if they would prefer to receive the cash value instead of the reward item. Amazingly, almost 80% said they’d prefer the cash.

Why did this happen? It has to do with the answer given to another question – “Would you likely purchase the reward item offered if you did not win it here?” Surprisingly, the people who answered that they were least likely to buy the item with their own money, correlated highest with the “I’ll take the money!” answer. The study supports the ineffectiveness of cash, but also points to the benefits of offering unique, luxury or experiential items that employees are not likely to buy for themselves.

This is all well and good, but if you were to sit down with all of your employees and ask them the open-ended question, “What do you want us to provide for recognition”, the top three answers would be the same as they have been for decades:

1. Cash
2. A Day Off
3. Something that I can use (a cash-equivalent retail reward).

This shouldn’t be that big of a surprise, because it’s like asking the Third Grade Class what they want for lunch and assuming they’ll say broccoli, not ice cream. Maybe it has something to do with the question? Perhaps employees are reluctant to admit they are satisfied with their pay. Maybe they just don’t trust your motives behind the question.

Asking employees what they want tends to imply that you don’t know and really don’t care all that much. The moment they think that you are using recognition more out of obligation than desire, they will emotionally disengage, feel a bit insulted, and give you the answer they think you want to hear –
“ . . . Aw, what the heck, just give me a gift card!”

Bottom line, you don’t have a recognition or awards problem, you have a communications problem. The reason that this is so prevalent in many organizations, is because employees just don’t believe you really mean it. Overworked supervisors don’t need anymore “to do’s” on their already full plates, so they’ll prioritize your requests to recognize employees based on their personal beliefs and styles. When under pressure, that style is all too often a version of the old, autocratic view – “yea, I recognize ‘em, every two weeks with a paycheck; now quit whining and get back to work!”

Sure, that’s a bit over the top, but I’ll bet it’s not too far from how the message is perceived by many of your employees during the hustle of a normal work day. And because it’s a habit, your well-meaning supervisors aren’t even aware that they come across that way.
It’s all about perception, Making it Real, and being Genuine in the eyes of your people. When that happens, and they believe you Truly Care, they’ll bring their “A” Game to work (and all of the productivity, creativity, profitability, teamwork and cost savings that entails) . . . and you get it for free!

This is one of the secrets of today’s great companies, and the best part is, it’s easier to make it happen in your organization than you think!

To learn more about Awards, Rewards and the best ways to use them to optimize our investments in your people visit http://www.SchaeferRecogntionGroup.com or email me personally at john@SchaeferRecognitionGroup.com.

New Article Highlights 11 Things You May Not Know about Employee Recognition

By John Schaefer, July 23, 2014 10:57 am

Officevibe, the employee engagement company from Montreal, Canada says there are 11 things you don’t know about employee recognition. Perhaps there are more, but for now, let’s evaluate what Jacob Shriar, Officevibe’s in house oracle has to say:

The biggest reason that most Americans leave their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated. Can’t argue with that one, but why is this so prevalent? If you ask managers and supervisors about their employee who have left, many times they are surprised, stating that they didn’t even know anything was wrong and that the employee appeared happy and engaged. That means that it’s a communications and trust problem, not a company policy issue. Employees must feel like they can trust and count on their leaders. Then, all you have to do is give them the direction and tools they need and get out of the way. Small doses of acknowledgement (Peer to Peer) recognition along with rewards for meeting measurable standards (Performance Management) will fan the flames and optimize employee morale, engagement and profitable results. Consider these 11 facts:

1 – Jacob claims that 41% of companies that use Peer to Peer recognition have seen increases in customer satisfaction. I can’t confirm the percentage, but I agree with the trend. Peer to Peer recognition creates a simple, clean and trackable way for employees and supervisors to catch people doing something right. If you ask employees, many will say that they only hear from their boss when the mess up, so a well-designed and accessible Peer to Peer program makes is easy to catch people doing something right!

2 – 46% of senior managers view recognition programs as an investment rather than an expense. That sounds pretty good, but it leads to the realization that 54% of managers see recognition as an expense, which can get trimmed, cut or marginalized during cost cutting times … the exact opposite of what the company needs to be doing when things get tight. The reason recognition is seen as an expense is when it is disjointed, poorly measured and viewed by employees as an entitlement. Small trickles of money going out with no way to measure if it’s worth spending … sound like an expense or an investment? Organizing recognition into a comprehensive strategy using technology to make it easy to educate and share among employees and managers will give you a track to run on, so you can compare costs with results and see true ROI. Otherwise, why bother?

3 – 14% of companies feature their recognition programs as a part of the recruiting process. Not a bad idea, because recruiting is about attracting employees whose personal purpose is in line with the company’s purpose. In other words, you need to find folks who will blend with your organizations culture … that’s even more important than experience and qualifications. If you have a good recognition strategy that promotes what you’re all about, it’s a great idea to mention it during interviews. If people aren’t intrigued by what you expect and recognize, they may not be a good culture fit.

4 – Companies that have a strategic approach to recognition report a 23% lower turnover rate. That’s huge! If you consider that the cost of recruiting, hiring, training and then losing an employee is estimated to be about 300% of their salary, a reduction of 20+% in turnover could easily pay for most, if not all of the cost of a formal recognition program all by itself. The big question is – “why do they stay?” That gets right back to trust, which is based on having a consistent culture of Love, Respect and Transparent Communication. It really makes good common sense and is nothing more than the Golden Rule applied to your business. Treat others as you’d like them to treat you will go a long way toward developing a winning culture of trust that will immediately impact turnover rates.

5 – Recognizing Employee Performance increases Engagement by almost 60%. That’s an interesting statistic, but considers this; behaviors that are measured are perceived to have value. As Elton Mayo discovered back in the mid 20’s at Western Electric’s Hawthorne Works – “The need for recognition, security and sense of belonging is more important in determining workers’ morale and productivity than the physical conditions under which he works.” The very fact that you acknowledge your understanding and value of an employee’s work is actually more effective that the level of performance itself. Just noticing people and thanking them for their work and will go a long way towards improving overall engagement.

6 – A well run recognition program can lower frustration levels by as much as 28%. Why? It has to do with the comfort of knowing what’s expected of them and having the tools and support to get the job done. The One Minute Manager talks about the importance of not micromanaging. Ken Blanchard suggests that you hire good people, train them well, and then get out of their way! Most employees that know what to do and have the resources to do it, will give you more than a basic day’s work and be happier to do it than employees that are over managed and limited in their flexibility.

7 – Peer to Peer is 35% more likely to have a positive impact than Manager-only programs. While Peer to Peer is just one small slice of the total recognition pie, this added component empowers employees and makes it easy for them to point out what’s going on in real time. By making it easy for everyone, from leadership to management to supervision to employees, to show appreciation, say “thanks” and point out when others are going above and beyond, everybody get a lift and it’s contagious!

8 – 85% of companies that spend 1% or more of payroll on recognition see a positive impact on engagement. Statistics show that most organizations spend between 1 and 2% of payroll on all of their recognition, employee engagement and performance management budgets. They’re not doing it because they have extra cash. Sure, they could just give everyone a 1 or 2% raise, but the best companies realize that a formalized, well-structured program that focuses on supporting the organization’s Purpose, Culture, Mission, Values and Goals is a far better use of their money and the ROI they get from a well-designed program proved it year after year.

9 – Organizations that recognize both individual employees and teams see results approximately 14% higher than companies where recognition is not consistently used. Today’s younger employees prefer frequent and honest recognition. They also like to see everyone on their team share in the glory, so using team recognition, then singling out individual super-stars as well, makes a lot of sense to your Gen Y employees and will get them more engaged.

10 – Organizations with a serious approach to recognition are 12 times more likely to have strong business results. Wow, that’s a lot! Think about it – Recognition drives Culture, a good Culture improves Behaviors and better Behaviors directly impacts Results. But, none of the Results will happen if you don’t have both managers and employees trusting your leaders and believing that your motives are sound. We call it, “Making it Real”, and it makes all the difference!

11 – 31% lower voluntary turnover is reported by companies using effective recognition programs. Sure, you’re going to mis-hire from time to time and have to fire some under-achievers, but voluntary turnover is much more dangerous. Often those employees who leave on their own are your better performers, so they not only hurt productivity immediately, but when they wind up with your competitors, it’s a double whammy to your organization.
Quality recognition is about tying together all of the ways you touch employees, doing in a manner that gains and maintains their trust, and consistently letting everyone know what’s expected. When you do it right, you are well on your way to optimizing your most valuable asset – people!

To learn more about Awards, Rewards and the best ways to use them to optimize our investments in your people visit http://www.SchaeferRecogntionGroup.com or email me personally at john@SchaeferRecognitionGroup.com.

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