Posts tagged: Articles on Employee Training and Development

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 or email me personally at

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 or email me personally at

What Organizations Need Now From Human Resources

By John Schaefer, August 20, 2014 9:34 am

Louis Efron has written a very timely, new article for his Forbes magazine column that it well worth your consideration, if you’re an HR executive. The changing landscape of HR has come a long way, but perhaps not yet far enough. Louis shares five keys to relevance in HR in today’s economy. It boils down to helping to define and harness corporate purpose, align with employee purpose, then measure key behaviors, skills and goals to prove ROI (Return on Investment) and ROE (Return on Engagement).

Employee Engagement is the key to everything productive in any sized company, no matter what you do, where you are or the demographic make up of your team. By first focusing on defining your corporate purpose, your organization is poised for success. By next aligning with employee who have complementary purpose, you will improve recruting effectiveness, reduce turnover costs and build the potential of a highly engaged team. Then, but identifying, tracking, measuring and reporting on the behaviors that support your purpose, mission, values, goals and objectives, your company is able to maximize ROI and ROE.

Sounds easy, but it requires a strategic approach and a comprehensive, all inclusive program. Together, Louis and I are working with clients to help them on the front end to define their purpose, plans and goals and educate their team. Then on the back end we work to coordinate all of the ways they touch employees with a single employee engagement, recognition and performance management strategy that saves money, improves results and proves both ROI and ROE.

Check out the article –, then feel free to contact Louis or I for more information on how may be able to help you optimize yo ur most important asset – people!

John Schaefer -America’s Employee Recognition Expert

Are Your Recognition Programs Stale or Stellar? Here are Some Ideas to Enhance Your Employee Engagement Initiatives that Will Reach Out to Today’s Employees.

By John Schaefer, December 9, 2013 12:46 am

I received a note on LinkedIn the other day from an HR professional that had heard me speak about Employee Engagement on a webinar event.  She felt that her company’s current recognition programs were “stale” and she was intrigued with some of the ideas I shared about new ways of relating to younger employees.  I explained that there are several reasons why corporate recognition programs can become stale and made a few suggestions on enhancements to make them more intriguing and increase perceived value.

There are three main reasons why HR people are hearing that their existing recognition programs are going “stale”:

1.  Younger employees don’t understand and prefer symbolic recognition like they used to (or so it appears).  Surveys show that they all want cash, cash equivalents (gift cards) or things they can use (lifestyle awards).  The problem, in my opinion, lack of trust and the nature of many surveys, leading employees to tell you what they think you want to hear. Add to that, nobody is going to admit that they earn enough money.  Armed with this potentially erroneous survey data, companies add more retail stuff to recognition programs, then employees shop the value on Amazon, Overstock, eBay, etc. and your intentions are then judged by the discount dollar value they find on line … what a turn off!  It’s really a perception and training problem, not a value problem, and it’s certainly not about money.

2. HR people are often reluctant to mess with established recognition and reward programs, because upper management thinks that everything is fine.  “Don’t rock the boat … we have bigger fish to fry right now… “. This leads to the situation that I described in the webinar, a series of siloed, disjointed programs that are bleeding money, with no way to accurately measure their participation rates, effectiveness, ROI or value to the bottom line. Nobody wants to look like they’re taking away employee benefits, but in today’s economy, they certainly can’t afford to fund programs that don’t show returns.

3. We have moved from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, so there are fewer workers doing the kind of labor that warrants and responds to the old Carrot and Stick approaches.  Gen Y workers will soon make up half of the workforce and they are driven by a different work ethic and are often motivated by very different things than their older coworkers; environmental concerns, teamwork and fairness, workplace flexibility, giving back, etc. They also want more regular and meaningful forms of recognition that share their personal values. Most of these new motivators and not included in traditional recognition programs and not well understood by older managers.

So how do you go from “stale” to “stellar” and reenergize your company’s recognition, employee engagement and performance management programs?  We suggest a three step approach:

Step 1 – Evaluation and Recommendations

Take an inventory of your current recognition and incentive programs.  We suggest you organize a committee for this and make sure it includes members from multiple generations. It’s also a good idea to do a quality Employee Engagement Survey to rate the morale and attitudes of your people.  This exercise will help you take the pulse of your organization, but also learn how many disjointed ways the money is trickling out the door, identify gaps, and see areas of overlap, weakness, entitlement and just plain waste.

Step 2 – Supervisor and Employee Training

Because of the importance of employee perception in regards to program results and ROI, it’s important that manager training is used during program transitions to help improve communications, energize managers, engage employees, and set the stage for a more strategic approach to recognition.  The types and amount of training will depend on the size, structure, current levels of employee engagement and your company culture.

Skipping this important step can lead to lower initial enthusiasm, misunderstanding of program goals, lack of trust and insufficient participation. Any of these will cost you some money, but more importantly could lead to the total failure of the program to gain traction and yield the financial benefits you have in mind.

Step 3 – Recognition Solutions

At Schaefer Recognition Group we use the term Umbrella Recognition Solution to describe a goal of orchestrating all of the ways you reach out to employees within a single, comprehensive strategy that supports your organizations Mission, Values, Goals and Growth Objectives.  This can include all forms of Communications, Training, Recognition, Employee Engagement and Performance Management.

The goal is to simplify your approach, engage all stakeholders and be seen as relevant to the current market conditions and your organizations impact on your industry, the community and the world around you (that will appeal to your growing base of Gen Y employees). If you do this right, you will minimize costs, optimize results, turn current expenses into profits and be able to share the good news with your CFO!

Once you decide to consider a more comprehensive and creative approach to employee recognition, you will want to look at a wide range of awards and rewards that will hit all of your necessary price points and appeal to your specific employee base.  You’ll want to think about including awards that are up to date, fresh, unique, flexible and relatable to your audience.  Once you get people engaged in the process, they must be able to win stuff that they really want, wouldn’t normally buy for themselves and be able to earn these awards with improved behaviors over a realistic period of time.

We are beginning to see a resurgence of custom awards, due to the increasing shoppability of retail items. One reward option that is becoming popular and is expected to see significant of growth in the future is custom travel and unique personal experiences. Travel and Experiences resonate with a younger workforce, as well as older workers who are looking to travel, see unique places and do things that are a bit out of the norm.

Properly combining custom awards with traditionally valued recognition items, some new and unique award and reward ideas and low or no cost Peer to Peer options, will allow you to engage that elusive 60% middle group of employees that will help make your program pay for itself.  A well designed, properly developed, well launched and effectively monitored program will realize maximum Discretionary Effort and the productivity, savings and profit that goes with it.  Recognition done right will help you optimize your most important asset – people!

To learn more about Awards, Rewards and the best ways to use them to optimize our investments in your people visit or email me personally at

Creative Ways to Engage Your Multi-Generational Workforce

By John Schaefer, September 16, 2013 2:40 pm

Remember when recognition used to be easy and straightforward? Baby boomers were content with traditional, logged awards and annual congratulatory events. Generation X brought in an interest in flex time and unique benefits such as work from home, office-based exercise options, and childcare benefits. Now we have a growing team of Generation Y workers intrigued with new technology, adventure travel, work/life balance and unique group recognition opportunities.  It’s getting a bit challenging, isn’t it?

I recently came across a couple of recognition ideas that I think will make a lot of sense with your younger employees. The trick is figuring out creative ways to tie these kinds of rewards in with your current recognition strategies and budgets.

There are three ways that we communicate with employees:

  1. Recognition awards engage the Right Brain (the emotional side) and tells them you Love and Care about them as people.
  2. Performance Management rewards engage the Left Brain (the logical side) and show them how improving certain behaviors will allow them to personally share in the company’s success.
  3. Acknowledgement can appeal to either side of the brain; sometimes both, and shows specific achievers how much you appreciate their unique accomplishments.  This is probably where these ideas would fit best within a total recognition strategy.

The Surf Office –

Michal Kostal, cofounder of the surf office is a lifetime surfing enthusiast. Fed up with his desk job, and looking for ways to combine work with his surfing passion, Michal and his partner founded The Surf Office on the coast of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands.  “Our project is an uncommon “coworcation” place”, says Kostal.  It’s a simple idea, really. Employees who able to work remotely can combine business and leisure time in a unique environment. The property provides private and shared space, a bed, a desk and high-speed Wi-Fi. For the right type of employee, this sure sounds like the ultimate performance award, doesn’t it? Check it out at

Go Moment –

This one is a bit more customize, but intriguing.  Go Moment will create incredible one-of-a-kind experiences to motivate and engage your employees; each with a personal touch.

LA rep Emilee Wilson shared it with me this way… “Personally, when people ask me what I do, I tell them ‘I sell success’ and it’s true!” They offer unique, unforgettable experiences that are not usually offered to the public, such as skydiving in active volcanoes, luxury yacht cruise experiences in Newport Beach and San Francisco, and extreme storm chasing!  These ideas are sure to intrigue you highest achieving Gen Y folks! Learn more at

I see these two reward ideas as somewhat “the frosting” on you Total Recognition cake. You still have to get your management team educated on how to build trust with their people, show them you genuinely care about them as human beings, and offer them ways to share in the glory. Then, you can dangle crazy stuff like The Surf Office and Go Motion opportunities for those top folks that really rock and roll!

It’s all part of a balance approach to employee optimization we call an Umbrella Recognition Solution.  To find out how your organization can get the most out of your investments in people, visit us at .

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