Get Solid Data Fluency for Strong Recognition Programs

Not sure how you did with learning a foreign language at high school, if you needed to do that. When I was trying to learn French growing up in England, it was a matter of rote grammar drills, writing out the different verb tenses, and very little conversational practice.

I cannot speak French today so can never claim to be fluent.

I also spent two years in my early twenties living in Belgium and gained some Flemish language skills. However, upon returning to Canada and many years absent with speaking Flemish, I have found out that if you don’t use a language, you lose it.

That’s why being fluent with the data gleaned from your recognition programs is such a necessary skill for you as a recognition manager or program administrator. If you don’t use it you’ll lose it.

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Why Senior Leaders in The Room Change Everything

Female business executive standing alone in boardroom

Whether it is a strategy meeting, planning meeting, or procurement meeting, there is something special that happens when you have your executive champion present in the room with the rest of your recognition committee.

Managing, administering, monitoring, and planning the day-to-day aspects of recognition practices and programs, requires constant vigilance, self-discipline, and persistence on your part with supporting recognition throughout the organization.

The reason you periodically want a senior leader in a recognition strategy or steering committee meeting, is because they can help you align recognition with the business strategy and give you the vision of where they see recognition supporting organizational strategic initiatives.

Consider some of the following benefits of having a senior leader in your meetings.

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Take Time To Find Out What Is Meaningful To People

Some people raise the concern that to expect their managers to recognize their employees is too much on top of everything else they are doing.

However, since it is employees or associates who provide the goods and services that produce satisfied customers, appreciating your people is the very least you can do.

What they need to do is to raise managers’ level of intrinsic motivation for recognizing, praising, and rewarding staff, so they can become proficient at giving recognition and willing to do so every chance they get.

One way for people to give better and more meaningful recognition is to first find out what is meaningful to each of their employees.

I will review with your key ways to teach and help supervisors and managers to practice this needed skill.

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Top 10 Unconventional Ways to Lead Your Recognition Initiatives

Now is a time for unconventional leadership and innovation with recognition and reward programs. Analytics and AI are blossoming in the HR technology world. We need these same tools in the recognition space. This requires a certain type of leader – an unconventional leader. Look out for people who demonstrate these Top 10 Unconventional Ways to Lead Your Recognition Initiatives. They’ll advance the cause of recognition into the future.

1. Unconventional leaders have courage to do the right thing. If a recognition and reward program hasn’t shown any benefit these leaders are prepared to shut it down. But they’ll also expect you to replace it with something better that will work.

2. Unconventional leaders demonstrate impeccable integrity. They’ll want inclusion and fairness with all programs, especially with rewards. They’ll advocate for the receptionist and janitor the same as they would for any senior executive.

3. Unconventional leaders are wise stewards over everything. They’re willing to invest funds and resources for recognition programs over the long term. No one will be expected to do more, or work longer, than is right and respectful of home needs.

4. Unconventional leaders are humble enough to be working for others. You’ll find great leaders are willing to go to bat for you and work with you. They’ll want a strong business case presented and clear rationale for the programs you want.

5. Unconventional leaders simply care for others. Recognition programs are about caring and appreciating others. Besides praise and acknowledgment, they’ll want care shown for the positive and tough things that happen to their employees.

6. Unconventional leaders take on challenges. Why not boldly declare that all employees will feel valued and appreciated for their contributions on the job. It may not be easy to do but they will enlist every company leader to make sure it happens.

7. Unconventional leaders ignore what everyone else is doing. If a majority of companies are using points-based reward programs that doesn’t mean these leaders will follow. They will create the best vision and processes right for their employees.

8. Unconventional leaders lead with leading indicators. Forget about lagging indicators like recognition program usage and participation statistics. These leaders are looking to measure whatever behaviors precede every recognition experience.

9. Unconventional leaders are always dependable. They will lead recognition by example. You can count on them to consistently use your recognition programs. And your employees will always be proud to receive a thank you card from them.

10. Unconventional leaders use persuasion for power. They will never usurp control over your managing of recognition and reward programs. Instead, they will gently steer you in a direction that eventually makes sense and that you fully adopt.

Previously published in Incentive Magazine by the author.

New Ways To Learn How To Give Recognition

Instructor led training (ILT) has always been the mainstay for helping people to learn the soft and hard skills that organizations need for many years.

In fact, I recall how when I first started providing education and training on effective employee recognition skills twenty years ago, that I was being asked to design and develop 1 and 2-day training programs. These days you’re lucky to get access to managers and leaders for even half a day.

But as Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte and global research analyst says, “learning in the flow of work is one of the most powerful levers available to business leaders today.”

That is what we should do with learning. Learning happens at work when the learner is ready to learn.

What are some new ways that managers and employees can learn to give better recognition to others?

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How Do You Know What and When To Reward

One of the questions I am often asked when it comes to rewards is what to reward people with as well as when are you supposed to give those rewards.

It’s important to remember that rewards can be tangible, monetary, or experiential in nature. This opens the door to all kinds of creative options and ideas for what to give to people or give them access to choose.

And broadly you give rewards to individuals or teams whenever they reach pre-set goals, a significant achievement, or a special service was performed.

Now let’s dig a little deeper so you can better understand these elements.

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Inspiring Your People To Do Great Things

One element of recognition often overlooked is encouraging people to do worthwhile things that lead to valuing and recognizing someone.

Being able to inspire people to great accomplishments is an ability we should all strive to learn. But it’s an essential skill to have when you are a leader.

Inspiration is all about filling up people with rousing emotions that you feel about a particular cause or action that you want other people to take on. Interestingly, the Latin root for the word “inspire”, means to breathe upon or into, like the pulmonary meaning of inspiration.

However, to inspire an individual or team to action is not a set of behaviors you may naturally have. Sure, some people you know can make this look easy. Yet, inspiring people requires specific skills that all of us can learn.

Consider the following qualities and behaviors to inspire people.

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Appreciating People for Who They Are and Their Personal Qualities

When you get involved in a specific discipline and area of practice like employee recognition, you end up grappling with how to define things that fit your frame of reference.

At the same time you hope you can engage others is seeing things as you do and accepting the definitions you develop.

Such was the case with defining recognition when I first began speaking and training on the topic in the mid-nineties.  

A leading industrial company in Canada invited me to meet with them because they had just reviewed their employee engagement survey results. As is often the case, the responses to the questions addressing employee recognition were not so good.

In the first consultative meeting together I asked the leaders responsible for employee recognition what they were doing regarding recognizing employees. Following hearing about their existing programs and their total rewards strategy, I asked them if what they were doing was real recognition.

That’s when one of them sincerely asked me, what is “real recognition”?

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How to Solve the Recognition Famine at Work

It seems there is a massive absence of recognition in the workplace.

In fact, you can call this absence a recognition famine because there is an extreme scarcity of people acknowledging, praising, and appreciating one another.

Gallup Organization has long stated that 67% of employees report not being recognized for doing good work in the last seven days.

In one healthcare organization I was consulting for I broke the frequency of recognition down in finer detail.

How often we receive recognition can be as important as how and who gives the recognition. I asked these healthcare employees how often they received recognition or praise from their immediate supervisor or manager for the work they do. The statement ended with “at least” and then the time frame statements of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, or not at all.

Only 11% of these healthcare employees stated they received recognition on a weekly basis, so well below the Gallup average of 33%. Another 33% indicated managers had recognized them within a month. But there was nearly another third of the employees who said managers never recognized them at all.

This is a crime.

Let me give you some ideas for stemming the recognition famine that might happen where you work.

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Top 10 Ways to Select the Right Incentive or Recognition Award

Choosing the right awards for your various incentive and recognition programs is never an easy task. You want to show employees that their contributions are valued and appreciated. Awards should match your program’s goals and celebrate employee achievements. Today’s employees want more than the traditional award items. So here are the Top 10 Ways to Select the Right Incentive or Recognition Award to help you.

1. Clearly spell out your program purpose. Is this award for a sales campaign? Are you wanting to get people enlisted in your health and wellness platform? Or is this a prestigious award for the president’s excellence program? Awards must always fit the program purpose and performance level.

2. Have employees involved and ask them. Use an employee survey to get the big picture view of employee input. Ask them to prioritize on criteria such as the meaningfulness and perception of various award options. Draw upon focus groups too so you can dig deeper. Solicit the why behind each employee idea.

3. Focus on the meaningfulness factor. Employees are very clear on whether an award item is meaningful or not.  Always add onto the award presentation. For example, who’s presenting the award? How have you orchestrated the total award celebration experience? What elements can you make even better?

4. Inspire and excite award recipients. Does the incentive or recognition award inspire the recipient to do, and be, better? As you explore award items – whether tangible gifts or symbolic awards – find out how excited employees are to receive them. Evaluate the emotional appeal of the awards you’re thinking about.

5. Provide choice wherever you can. Giving people exciting options to decide from is a great way to create motivation. Whether the awards are lifestyle, health and fitness, electronics, outdoor, or experiential items, charitable donations, or gift cards. Think choice! This factor can be especially critical with incentives.

6. Always use quality, name brand products. It can be a real let down when an award gift breaks or stops functioning shortly after receiving it. Stick with brand name items that are top quality. Ensure your award vendor is reputable and has a great exchange and replacement policy. Your award speaks for you.

7. Put symbolic awards on a pedestal. Trophies and medals must be totally representative of your organization. Look at Olympic medals and the Oscars® for what they mean to recipients. Whatever symbolic awards you design must be an extension of the company and your brand. They will become a treasured prize.

8. Think outside of the box for novel ideas. No need to stay with the tried and true award selections. Dabble in creativity such as a customized portrait painting from a family photo of a recipient. Provide an opportunity to learn something new from an expert that the employee has mentioned such as painting or in music.

9. Move from tangible to experiential. Corporate volunteer trips to destinations around the world appeal to younger generation employees. They can build schools or set up wells with water access. This is a fully immersive cultural and teambuilding experience that leaves a legacy associated with your company.

10. Choose your own adventure. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman made famous the idea of doing things before you “kick the bucket”. Have employees choose experiences that bring joy. It could be skydiving, an amazing destination experience like whale watching in Patagonia, or cooking with a chef in Paris.

As previously published by the author in Incentive Magazine.