Posts tagged: employee recognition best practices

“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.

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 – http://onforb.es/1uWWibj, 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
www.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.

New SHRM study on Job Satisfaction and Employee Engagement – so what’s new?

By John Schaefer, May 14, 2014 9:08 pm

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently published the 2013 findings on the new trends in Employee Engagement and Job Satisfaction.  Some if it’s no surprise, but there are a few areas that should be important to HR executives tasked to optimize their human resources.

Here are a few facts from the study:

  1. Job satisfaction stayed at 81%, flat from 2012.  This is not a big surprise, as the economy and governmental uncertainty has not changes very much.
  2. 94% or respondents believe that positive feedback has an impact on improving performance, yet a full 19% of companies report no formal performance management program.  Here again, no surprises, as when the economy is tight, companies get a pass on recognition as fewer employees will leave for fear of not finding another job.  Sadly, when the economy turns, close to 70% of employees will be looking for a better opportunity. Kind of a chicken and the egg situation, and bad news for companies that aren’t taking care of their people now.
  3. Job security leads the list of employee concerns at 59% and that also makes a lot of sense.  With economic growth at close to a standstill and one of the lowest labor participation rates in history, employees are more worried than ever that there will.  Respondents showing compensation concerns are up from 50% to 60% aligning with higher job security worries.
  4. 73% shared that relationships with coworkers is the most important area in engagement. This may offer a clue as to why recognition programs with both Manager to Peer and Peer to Peer awards perform better than top down recognition alone.

Overall, there’s nothing surprising, new or unexpected.  It still all comes down to employee engagement, but herein lies the problem – what defines engagement in today’s workplace?  Some experts say that all you have to do is pat your people on the head regularly and show that you appreciate their work.  Others say that recognition for traditional measures like longevity, attendance, safety and wellness if the key.  Still others argue that it’s all about measurable behaviors, like sales, customer service, and client retention, and driving performance that yields ROI.

Wish it were that easy, but in reality, their all right.  If you truly value your people, you have to show it; and they have to believe your mean it.  It also makes sense to promote initiatives they reduce turnover, lower accident rates and keep insurance costs in check.  The folks in the C-suite want to know that the money invested in people is offering a return, so measuring improved behaviors drives the results.

We believe that it comes down to a balance of all of the above, tied in the a training-based approach to engage the management team first, then a realistic way for employees to feel the love while also sharing in the benefits of their improved productivity.  Sounds simple and makes a lot of sense, but it can be tricky.  Employees must trust you and believe that your motives are sound. Only then will they feel good about helping the company be all it can be.

Don’t be the last one to the party or it could be too late and your top performers will have found greener pastures.  Set a goal to improve top down communication, create a consistent believable message structured around realistic goals and objectives, then launch a balanced program through an enthusiastic team of supervisors that understand what’s in it for them and want to see it work.

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Is HR Ready For the Economic Recovery?

By John Schaefer, March 22, 2014 10:13 am

New study shows leadership changes, new approaches to retention and engagement and reskilling the HR function may be the keys to success.

In the lengthy, new Deloitte University Press report about Engaging the 21st-Century Workforce, there are over 150 pages of valuable information. I thought it would be helpful to break it down to what are most relevant and, more importantly, what it means to busy HR executives who may not have time to study it front to back.

The authors describe the young, Millennial worker as global, highly connected, technology-savvy, and demanding. Demanding…? Do Millennials think they’re demanding? Probably not, so while they may be by current management standards, we don’t want to appear as if we don’t understand them or worse yet, create and “us against them” scenario.  I submit that the first rule of engagement is inclusiveness.

Delloitte shares that as the world’s population grows, the global workforce is getting younger, older, and more urbanized. Millennials are projected to make up 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025, and they want to be creative, run their own businesses, expect an accelerated career and in the words of one manager: “They don’t want a career, they want an experience.” Add to that a growing number of Baby Boomers that for financial and professional satisfaction reasons are not leaving the workforce, we are seeing the most multi-generational workforce in history.

Next, you have to consider technology. It’s now possible for teams to work in remote locations, easily access experts within and outside the organization, and get information almost instantly.  The skills we need today and in the future are dramatically different

than what they were only five years ago; Millennials and Boomers react to this in somewhat different ways and at very different rates.

With all of these changes happening all at once and their impact on leadership, retention and engagement, learning and development, analytics— executives

recognize the need to take action, but express reservations about their team’s ability

to deliver results. Deloitte’s research suggests that today companies have to manage people differently – creating an imperative to innovate, transform, and reengineer human capital practices.

Researchers set out to identify the top 12 global business challenges in talent management, leadership and HR. They drew upon more than 15 years of research to examine the range of issues and the most effective solutions in the market, as well as surveyed 2,532 business and HR leaders in 94 countries around the world.

The findings show that as we exit the recession, the ways that organizations will grow may be dependent on skill sets and management styles that are quite different than traditional approaches.

The three biggest areas of change outlined in the Deloitte study are:

1. Leadership – 38% of survey respondents noted building leadership is important. This is the highest of all categories, showing that many companies acknowledge that they aren’t ready to embrace the necessary changes to their leadership style. The old, autocratic view that employees are lucky have a job should be glad to be here and are expected to simply well up a high level of morale and performance won’t work anymore.  As the economy turns, the best employees are looking for engaging career paths and challenges, not just a job.

2. Retention and Engagement – 26% responded that redefining their engagement strategy is key to attracting and keeping key people. Perhaps this is due in part to a lack of understanding of the terms.  In reality, no company can make people stay; retention is the result of a number of both emotional and logical engagement initiatives.  The danger is when management does things to “Satisfy” employees rather than “Engage” them.  As Bob Kelleher, founder of The Employee Engagement Group puts it, “Satisfied employees are her to GET … Engaged employees are her to GIVE”. The distinction between those two characteristics is huge, and it’s all based on your employee’s perception of your management, recognition, retention and engagement style as well as the overall company culture.  Everything must be cohesive and management has to all be on the same page to make this work.  Sadly, most company cultures are far from ready to embrace this challenge effectively.

3.  Reskilling the HR Function – The third largest response, at 25%, suggests that HR talent functions are in need of transformation. We’ve come a long way from the good old “Personnel Department”. Employee demographics, higher diversity, new technology and economic concerns are rapidly changing the demands on traditional HR.  Over 36% of respondents feel that they are not ready, so we have a major education and training issue before us.  The good news is that this may offer the opportunity to simplify HR’s approach to people and keep an eye on what employees think more than just rules and policy.

So, what do you do now to solve your Engagement and Retention Issues?

There are a few very simple steps that will facilitate the path to the solution.

1.  They’ve got to Believe your Motives. When it comes to your employees, it’s all about perception.  Whether Boomer, Gen X or Millennial, employees base everything about your organization on how much they believe what you say.  When you garner trust, show consistency, exhibit transparency in communication and engage them emotionally prior to logically, you will gain higher levels of discretionary effort.  Employees want to trade a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, but only when they like, trust and believe in management.  When that combination of feelings and opportunities is made available, most employees will excel and you’ll get the benefits; all you have to do is set the path and get out of the way.

2. Get Organized. Most companies already have a number of recognition, employee engagement and performance management programs in place. The problem is that they were started at different times, by different people in different departments, so while they may be working, they are highly disjointed, politically protected and impossible to measure.  Every HR team I meet with is asking pretty much the same question … “How can I do more with less?”  In other words, how can we rein in these multiple trickles of money that are, in many cases, outdated entitlement programs, make better use of the money and prove that what we’re spending is yielding financial results?  Our Umbrella Recognition Solution is all about doing this and turning current expenses into profits, by making recognition part of your company culture, not just a bunch of inconsistent methods of throwing your employees a bone now and then.

3. Transcend the Four Generations. Earlier I shared a quote about today’s employees from the Deloitte study …“They don’t want a career, they want an experience.”  Perhaps this trend correlates with a growing dissatisfaction with many of the traditional forms of recognition awards and performance management rewards being used today. Employee awards used to be custom, symbolic and presented in meaningful ceremonies by highly engaged upper managers.  Today, recognition could easily be nothing more than a gift card delivered in an email link, by a faceless manager within the company’s computer network.  Any wonder why trust, believability and engagement is waning in many organizations?  We’ve seen a steady movement from true recognition to manipulative motivation, due to several corresponding factors:

a. companies are not happy with current recognition programs, so conduct employee surveys to find out what employees really want.

b. employees don’t trust the motives of the survey, so tell you what they think you want to hear; most ask for cash or cash equivalents.

c. gift cards are everywhere; you can grab one at the grocery store on the way to work, so appeasing employees is easy and everybody wins, right?  Dead wrong, and engagement studies show it!

Well known and respected research from Maslow to Gallup overwhelmingly demonstrate that you must engage employees emotionally by showing Love and Respect, before asking for behavior change to benefit the company.  When you jump right to “what have you done for me lately” thinking, employees feel manipulated and see your attempts to improve their work as more beneficial to you them to them.  In other words, they see the company winning more them the employees and they are left feeling a bit used. That comes across as unfair and feeds an “us against them” culture.

Here’s how we view the proper use of balanced recognition –

Recognition ð Culture

Culture ð Behaviors

Behaviors ð Results

Every company is unique and different, but people are surprisingly similar in how they respond to management.  The best companies use a simple, comprehensive, and consistent approach to recognition based on their Culture, Mission, Values, and Current Goals.  Then, they work from the employee’s Right Brain (where emotional messages such as Love and Respect are processed) to Left Brain (where logical calculations of fairness and value are determined).

When you create a proper balance of emotional and logical engagement and implement them in the right order, your build trust, confidence and believability, which make your performance management initiatives come across as meaningful, valuable and fair for both the company and the employees.  This leads to the high levels of cooperation, teamwork and morale, which directly impacts longevity, training compliance, safety, creativity, teamwork, productivity and ultimately profits.

In this new world of high technology where everybody is tossing around the same buzzwords, but not necessarily with the same meanings, it’s important to get back to basics, organize your tools and then measure your progress. So here are the steps in order:

1.  Organize all of your employee communications, recognition, employee engagement and performance management in to single, comprehensive strategy that makes is easy to understand that teach to both employees and supervisors.

2.  Engage your management team prior to program launch, so they are solidly and enthusiastically behind your program; then they’ll come across as believable to your employees.

3. Track, measure and report on the results, so you minimize costs, improve your results and can show provable ROI to your CFO.  Use the Three R’s – Recognize, Reward, and Reinforce; that’s the key to a program that will turn expenses into profits and optimize your most important asset – people!

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