What Makes Giving Feedback So Difficult for Leaders?

Two magazines arrived on my desk within weeks of one another and both highlighted “feedback” on their cover articles. Then I received an email inviting me to attend an online presentation about moving from feedback to action. Looks like the topic of feedback was on my radar.

Some of us have a hard time giving feedback and even receiving feedback.

“Can I give you some feedback?” 

Do you cringe at that question? Or do you look forward to discussions following that question? You and I can react so differently depending on the source of the feedback, your current work and life status, and what exactly you are being critiqued about. 

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Can You Drive Real Engagement Through Recognition?

I heard Dr. Brad Shuck speak at Recognition Professionals Conference this past week in Atlanta, Georgia.

Brad’s presentation was about Driving Real Engagement Through Recognition: Applying the Core Principles of Behavioral Economics to Strategy Implementation. It’s a long mouthful of a presentation title but he had some great and valid principles we can all apply to what we do with employee recognition. 

What do you need to do now to prepare for giving recognition better tomorrow?

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Top 10 Ways to Measure the ROI of Incentive Programs

We need greater accountability for the success of our incentive programs. Planning to calculate the ROI of incentive programs from the start will help us focus on results. Following the Top 10 Ways to Measure the ROI of Incentive Programs will be a handy checklist to ensure the success and ROI of your incentive programs.

1. Identify the problem you want incentivized.Assess the current performance problem to determine the needs, conduct a gap analysis, and look for potential improvements you think could be incentivized. Too many accidents, not enough sales, losing too many people, or not reaching performance targets.

2. What are the costs of the problem?Analyze the direct and indirect costs currently associated with the identified performance problem or need. Like: What are salary and operational costs for a retail store? What are turnover costs? What is the number of lost-time days due to accidents? 

3. Determine the achievable objectives.Propose one or two key measurable objectives to be targeted by incentives. Example: percentage of reduced voluntary turnover; increased quarterly productivity indicators at retail stores; percentage of sales performance numbers; or, reduced number of annual accidents per year.

4. Figure out the best measures to use.Identify the specific behavioral measures you will use to determine the right program success measures. When you define the performance well enough you will know the behaviors you want more or less of. You’ll then know if the behaviors occur or not and how to measure them.

5. Calculate the costs of incentives.Project the overall costs associated with conducting an incentive plan to improve the performance problem. Determine the value of incentives, the frequency or number of behaviors required for an incentive, the time period of the incentive plan, and multiply to determine total costs.

6. Keep tabs on budget spend.Monitor the costs associated with producing the improved performance results along with implementing the incentive plan. ROI is about return on investment of monies spent, which includes administration costs, monitoring, data collecting, and analysis.

7. Gather the data you need.Collect baseline data of target performance results from the period before the incentive plan began as well as during the implementation period (e.g. year before versus current year). Do as much as you can before the incentive plan so you can deal more with data following implementation.

8. Create a before and after analysis.Analyze and calculate the costs of the targeted performance problem before and after the incentive plan. Here you monetizing as much of the data as you can. Make friends with the folks in finance to help you put a dollar figure on as many data points as is possible.

9. Consider reasons for the success, or not.Give a general interpretation of the results observed of performance outcomes achieved while using incentives. This is putting the human observation and deductive reasoning as to whether things worked or not. Your hypothesis can then be validated by the data collected.

10. Work out the ROI.Calculate the actual return on investment. The math is easy: It’s the estimated dollar amount of the impact made by the incentive plan minus the combination of the annual incentive payout costs plus administration costs, then divide the previous total by the impact dollar amount, and finally multiplied by 100. Previously published in Incentive Magazine

Previously published in Incentive Magazine

Taking a Quick Look at Career Milestone Awards

How are your career milestone or service award programs doing these days?

It seems the majority of organizations have tenure or long service award programs. According to WorldatWork’s 2017 Trends in Employee Recognition, length of service recognition remains the top ranked recognition program with 85 percent of organizations. 

Historically, and especially within the public sector, career milestone years were only acknowledged when an employee reached 25 years or longer. Today, most progressive organizations commence with at least 5 years and then celebrate every 5-year increment thereafter.

But when you look at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the average tenure for salaried employees is 4.2 years. That average drops to 2.8 years for the mobile 25 to 34 year old employees.

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Why You Have to Get Recognition Programs Right

There will always be horror stories around recognition programs if you don’t start off on the right foot. 

And the irony of it all is the challenges most often come with the misnomer of calling these problematic programs “recognition programs”. Problems with errant programs usually lies when using rewards, be they tangible merchandise, cash, or near cash rewards.

So, get recognition programs right so there is equity and fairness with non-monetary and intangible recognition and tangible and monetary rewards accompanying these recognition programs.

There is also a need for authenticity and inclusiveness with the expressions of recognition given to people through your programs, whether this is by text, spoken word, or video. Recognition must be genuine and sincere in both intent and how it is communicated to a person. We should give regard to all employees who contribute day in and day out and not focus solely on the rising stars whose performance always exceeds the standards of most employees.

Recognition is for everyone.

You must make sure you get your recognition programs right.

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How To Transfer Recognition Skills Back on the Job

An area of concern when conducting workshops around learning recognition-giving skills is ensuring learners will apply the learned skills back on the job.

Below are my recommendations I use with participants in my learning sessions. 

Set up your workshop or seminar session so that attendees sit in table groups with fellow learners. Where possible, try to get a diversity of attendees at each table so they’re not sitting with everyone they know from their own department or work team.

Towards the end of the training session the final activity is choosing a realistic and manageable goal to implement a recognition specific skill or principle learned from the session over the next 30-days. The expectation is that you will follow up with each group’s participants to gather team results and compile a transfer of learning report.

This is the best way to get people to apply the recognition skills they learn in training into their jobs. Consider the following steps in making a transfer of learning a success.

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How To Use “I” Talk Versus “You” Talk in Your Recognition

Bad things can happen when you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Take the scenario of a young man I knew in his twenties making a quick purchase of snack foods and a pop at the local convenience store in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. Another man walks in to the store. But this man’s intent is to rob the convenience store of cash from the till.

This second man’s weapon of choice was a screwdriver. He stabbed the young man in the head because he was in the way. The stabbing penetrated his skull and brain resulting in motor brain damage as far as walking and use of his arm. But now he could not talk.

All he could say were approximations of consonant-vowel sounds like, “ma”, “ba”, “do”, or “to”.

This young man’s horrific life experience led me to learn how to give more meaningful recognition expressions using “I” talk language. I’ll explain.

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Let Your Leaders Know What It’s Like To Be Unrecognized

Sometimes they just don’t get it, do they?

You’ll hear a comment from a leader questioning the import of your wanting to create a recognition strategy. Another leader glosses over the latest engagement survey results and states that 56% percent on the recognition questions is good, isn’t it? These are all real scenarios.

Now I am well aware this does not describe all leaders. But there are enough to cause concern.

A few of them don’t understand why some employees are complaining about a lack of recognition. They think they pay their employees well and they have good jobs. What more can they want?

Sounds like it’s time to let your leaders know what it feels like to be unrecognized.

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How to Increase the Impact of Your Formal Award Programs

What impact are your formal recognition programs having on your people and their performance? Are you designing your best-of-the-best and above-and-beyond award programs to make a difference?

According to the World at Work 2017 Trends in Employee Recognition Survey, 77% of organizations have above-and-beyond performance programs, and only 17% of them have what they termed as formal programs. They did not delineate or define well what they meant by formal recognition.

The Conference Board of Canada in their 2017 report on recognition found that 50% of corporations have formal company-wide recognition programs in place. Organizations that have these programs recognize outstanding individual achievement as their main purpose and organize large-scale celebration events to accompany these awards.

But neither study pursued whether these formal award programs had achieved their objectives or if they considered the award programs effective or not.

Look at the following seven ideas for building greater impact into your existing formal award programs.

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Improving the Quality of Your Formal Award Programs

Most organizations have a formal award programs that are their pinnacle of excellence for all their employees to aspire to.

You might have these kinds of formal programs where you work, too. They’re often called by a prestigious leadership position the company wants to associate with the award. You’ll hear awards named the President’s Award, Chairman’s or CEO’s Award. Or they may go for a more branded name appeal such as Bravo Award, Excellence Award, or Pinnacle Award. 

Both position title or brand named awards, are usually appended with various award categories the company wants people to focus on. They attach qualities or values like Leadership, Innovation, Customer Service, or Citizenship, etc. to the award name.

But for all the time, effort, and energy put into these formal award programs you are likely only awarding around 1% to 2% of your employee base. In larger organizations this percentage is even less.

What can you do to elevate the quality of your existing formal award programs?

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