Posts tagged: John Schaefer

“If you can’t say it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”

By John Schaefer, June 23, 2014 8:14 am

Just read a great new article in Forbes by my friend Larry Myler, it’s called -”You’ve Got .00193 Nanoseconds to Sell Me. Go”.  He’s using the 1979 Skylab Early Warning story as an example of just how little time we all have to get the attention of our customers in today’s busy business climate.  I tend to think he’s not far off!

One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein – “If you can’t say it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.  I keep this in mind whenever I’m developing content for my web site, a flyer, PowerPoint or any other materials that I’m hoping a potential client will read.  It’s got to be brief, imformative, unique, timely and relevant or you’ve lost them and it takes somewhere around .o0193 Nanoseconds or so.

In this time of social media, instant Tweets and the ability for your content to be found, copied, revised and repurposed immediately, it’s no wonder that everybody is using the same buzz words, soundling a lot the same and ultimately confusing the heck out of their prospects.  The challenge is in being fresh, catchy and quick.

If you’re lucky and you gain interest in the first few Nanoseconds, you might get the opportunity to make your case in 5 to 15 minutes or so, so keep it tight, make it strong, and be different!

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

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!

Enhanced by Zemanta

What makes us feel good about our work?

By John Schaefer, February 13, 2014 11:53 am

Do you ever wonder what motivates us all to work? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it isn’t just money (I think everybody really knows that). But it’s not exactly joy either. It seems that most of us thrive by making constant progress and achieving a sense of purpose.

In this TED video presentation, behavioral economist Dan Ariely presents two eye-opening experiments that reveal our unexpected and nuanced attitudes toward meaning in our work. (Filmed at TEDxRiodelaPlata.) It’s become increasingly obvious that the dismal and predictable science of economics is not as firmly grounded in actual behavior as was once supposed.  Dan Ariely tells us why in this intriguing presentation.

If you’re like me, and most other people I would assume, you will be surprised, yet find yourself nodding in approval when you see how small and subtle differences in the way management acknowledges employee work can have significant and lasting impact on morale, energy, creativity and overall job performance.  These interactions and the subsequent interactions of groups of employees that experience inappropriate management styles and nuances has a huge effect on productivity, turnover, achievement levels, cooperation, discretionary effort and ultimately profits.

Let me know if you agree and how you think we can work to change this common and debilitating problem. As I’ve said many times in this blog … it all comes down to employee perception and how much they trust management’s motives.

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

Panorama Theme by Themocracy