Posts tagged: John Schaefer

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!

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 or email me personally at

Why is Employee Engagement Such a Hot Topic with HR Leaders?

By John Schaefer, June 12, 2015 6:30 pm

Employee Engagement seems to be front of mind with most HR Executives I meet lately. Not surprising, as dealing with an increasingly diverse workforce, challenging economy and more aggressive competitive business environment appears to be the new normal. In my 27 years helping clients improve their recognition, employee engagement and performance management programs, I continue to find that getting high engagement trickles down to a couple of key issues:

1. It’s all about perception. The effectiveness of any awards or rewards program will be directly related to how much your employees believe in your motives. In other words, the level of employee trust and belief they have in management’s genuine concern for them as human beings will grease the skids to higher levels of program acceptance, participation, results and ultimately ROI.

2. Every annual report features a letter from the CEO raving about how much he or she values their employees; “… couldn’t have done it with you you! ” language is the norm in every one of these enthusiastic messages. Unfortunately, in the hectic day to day process of running the company, this message rarely trickles down to mid and front line management, where every employee’s view of the company and their culture is formed. A short, honest and concise explanation to managers about both How and Why to use recognition is helpful in launching a program that will successfully engage the majority of your people. Email me for a copy of my Supervisor Training Program – Why Should Supervisors Care? Getting to the bottom of what they’re really thinking … What’s in it for me? We call this Making it Real!

3. Most companies use a variety of disjointed programs to recognize and reward employees. While these initiatives may be working, it’s difficult to measure costs, participation and results. A more integrated, simplified and relevant strategy will make sense to your people and be easier to manage, track and measure. This KISS method of getting the most out of your employee recognition investments will pay immediate and lasting dividends.

The attached article Rethinking Employee Engagement, prepared by Incentive Services University, will give you some things to think about regarding Employee Engagement within your organization and how an enhanced Recognition and Rewards strategy may be helpful in meeting your financial goals. Our Umbrella approach can give you some ways to better utilize your current award and reward budgets and turn what are now seen as expenses into profits.

If you have any comments, thoughts or questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Thanks for your continued interest in learning how to optimize your most important resource – 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

How To Thrive Now That Work-Life Balance Is Dead

By John Schaefer, January 20, 2015 10:00 am

I just read this new article by Louis Efron ( in Forbes and wanted to share it with you all. It really hits right to the core of what our lives are all about and whether we think about it or not, it is a big part of how happy and fulfilled we will be.

The constant corporate buzz and push for work-life balance is well intentioned, but the concept no longer exists. In the olden days – before smart phones, email, text and voicemail – it was possible to draw a line between work and personal time. You could leave an office at 5PM on Friday and not physically or mentally return to work until Monday at 8AM.
I work a lot because I love what I do. But because I love what I do, I don’t consider it work. This is both good and bad. It is good because I am living my purpose in life. It is bad because I sometimes don’t know when to shift focus elsewhere.
In today’s world, your conversation needs to focus simply on life balance. That is, how you balance and integrate everything you need and want to do each day, week, month and year. This includes making a living, time with your family, friends plus time for you and time for anything else you want to accomplish. Even the traditional concept of retirement is different. There is no escaping our connected world.
The whole idea of balance in life can appear elusive or even unimportant. When it comes to equilibrium, a number of studies discovered poor physical balance is significantly linked to an increased risk of sports injuries. Not surprisingly, the same applies to your personal life balance and health risk. Study after study confirms poor life balance is directly related to both physical and mental sickness and unhappiness.

Reminders To Recalibrate Life Balance
A recent New York Daily News interview with seventy-two-year-old X-Men actor Patrick Stewart drove the importance of life balance home for me yet again. Like so many people in today’s busy world, Stewart, revealed during his third marriage that he regretted focusing on his career at the expense of his family. This is not uncommon. Many people feel the same way late in life. I have worked with countless executives who lament on similar regrets approaching retirement.
Of course there are days when I let my career pursuit steal more focus than it should from my family and other important and enjoyable activities in my life. Stories like Stewart’s remind me what I need to do next. You won’t have to look hard to find other examples which will relate to your situation in life.
Signs Your Life Balance Is Off
When your life lacks balance, it is painfully obvious from the outside looking in. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees when in a rut.
Luckily, self-diagnosing your life balance is easy. Just pause to take inventory of what is going right and wrong in your life.
In this short pause, identify if you are experiencing any of the following challenges:
• Frequently tired or sick
• Difficulty sleeping or waking
• Hearing frequent complaints or jokes about the attention family and friends receive from you
• Feeling guilty about time allocation
• Regularly distracted from your current task
• Making simple mistakes
• Generally unhappy with your life
Many of the circumstances on this list can also result from depression. However, the question still remains as to the root of the problem. Depression can be and frequently is brought on by poor life balance.
Six Questions About Life Balance
Access to effective tools is helpful in all human endeavors, including achieving life balance. When my life is out-of-sync with the balance, success and happiness I desire I ask myself the below six questions to recalibrate. If I can’t answer, “yes” to all six, I investigate why. Then I work towards a solution to solve that issue.
1. Does my life balance contribute to the career and personal success I desire?
2. Does my life balance give me more energy in my day?
3. Do I sleep well and wake up refreshed?
4. Do important people in my life feel they get the attention they deserve from me?
5. Am I able to fully focus on a task at hand?
6. Does my life balance make me happy?
How many of the six questions did you answer yes to?
At the end of the day, life balance is about a commitment to more success and happiness. As the self-help guru Tony Robbins says, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” Commit to your six yeses now. Start realizing your true potential in life. You will be amazed at the positive life transformation which will follow.
For more information on Life Balance and how it impacts Recognition, Employee Engagement and Performance Management visit

“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 or email me personally at

Great Article on the Four, Soon to be Five, Generations in the Workplace

By John Schaefer, October 31, 2014 12:00 pm

I was recently sent a new white paper on Managing the Multigenerational Workplace by Dan Bursch, Program Director at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. What I anticipated to be an other recap of what I already knew, was anything but. Burch does an excellent job of not only defining and simplifying the five generations, but showing clear and concise recruiting and recognition ideas for each. I think that you will find, as I did, that this is a balanced, complete and accurate view of where the workplace is going and how companies that embrace intergenerational communications will have a distinct advantage in the future. You can view and download the article here –

Throughout my 26 years involved in recognition, employee engagement and performance management I’ve seen a growing interest in the challenges of the multiple generations in the workplace. The fact that Millennials now out number Baby Boomers and are well on their way to representing half of the entire workforce (46% by 2020), as well as the pending influx of the new Gen Z will continue to make HR’s interest in effectively dealing with generational issues an area of growing opportunity for many years to come. Knowledge is king, so we can all benefit from understanding and embracing the differences, rather than fighting and lamenting them.

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

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