For many years when giving workshops on how to be more effective and authentic in giving employee recognition, I often use the words “Beliefs – Behaviors – Results” in a PowerPoint® slide or on flip charts to help participants understand the power and differences of recognition and rewards.
It was much easier to talk about how one can impact behaviors and results than it was beliefs. Beliefs, of course, seemed so much more personal and unchangeable. Yet how often did faulty beliefs, hang ups and barriers get in the way of noticing and appreciating people’s great work.
Can we really do anything to alter people’s beliefs in the learning environment? Can we change people’s minds?
Getting Desired Results
In order to learn what we can do with beliefs we have to start with the end in mind, as Stephen Covey’s “seven habits” would suggest, and look first at “results”.
Results obviously look different depending on the type of work we do. From making a sale or a product referral in a bank, to maintaining stable health measures for patient care in a hospital, or successful learning objectives achieved and implemented from a course for the new recognition program.
How can we motivate people to achieve these unique and desired results?
This is where creating a reward paradigm is most appropriate. First, you have to set clear expectations so everyone knows the objective. Next, is providing the training or learning to provide the skills and knowledge on how to achieve the task at hand. Resources such as tools or equipment might be required. Feedback should be given to guide the individual closer to the desired result if not on target. And finally you can reward the individual when the desired goal is obtained. Rewards can be defined as something given or done in return for meeting a pre-determined goal, for merit, service or achievement, and maybe monetary.
Results fall easily into the behavioral and reward framework of “IF” you do this “THEN” you get that. When a project is completed or a milestone is reached it is appropriate and good management practice to provide acceptable social reinforcement or provide some tangible reward corresponding to the task achieved.
Results are maintained when we reinforce and reward the desired outcome.
Achieving the Right Behaviors
Employees tell us one of the problems they have with rewards is they only receive them when the goal is finally accomplished. Their complaint is generally that no one ever says anything along the way to getting the results.
What a lost opportunity for acknowledging people for the many actions and behaviors leading up to the final outcome. And what a wonderful chance to draw upon the art and practice of recognition to validate the work done and the worth of the individual who did it.
Recognition can be defined as the tangible or intangible expression of acknowledgement for an individual’s contribution, achievements or observed behaviors. This can take the form of verbal or written acknowledgement, a small tangible token of appreciation, or simply a display of caring and respect for an individual for who they are and for their potential.
Sometimes because we have not hired right, nor set good job expectations, not provided education or training, or given needed feedback along the way, it can seem for a few people under our stewardship there is nothing even to recognize. For these folks it is not only finding the right job fit and doing the things we have neglected to do, but also to provide a dose of encouragement to light the way for them to achieving the right results.
Behaviors are achieved as we observe them and consistently encourage and recognize their occurrence.
Impacting the Power of Beliefs
Yes, we can help change people’s beliefs and attitudes about things they haven’t been willing to change before.
The missing piece of the puzzle surrounding beliefs came when reading “The Heart of Change” written by John P. Kotter, Harvard Business school professor. Kotter said, “People change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.”
Let’s connect Kotter’s statement to employee recognition. Often recognition is flagged in a company when it shows up as a low score on an employee engagement survey. But managers don’t just automatically initiate new practices or program improvements when they receive a report with the survey scores. They forget employees who lack recognition are more likely to leave the organization. They miss the connection of high employee satisfaction contributing to high customer satisfaction measures which leads to higher profits.
So giving managers the numbers and the statistics – the “analysis” – rarely changes their thinking.
Contrast this with showing managers video-recorded interviews of several employees, some of them who feel well recognized by their managers and some who do not. Have the interviewer ask direct questions about their motivation to excel at work, their feeling of morale and connection to the company, their intention to stay or whether they have looked for another job recently.
Such a contextual, real world, non data-driven presentation changes the whole picture on things. Management wakes up because they have been “shown a truth” which cannot be denied or ignored and “it influences their feelings”.
Finally, it becomes very clear that “feelings”, which are an essential part of the equation to giving people authentic and “real” recognition, are also the catalyst for influencing and changing people’s beliefs.
Beliefs, then, are impacted when you show people a truth that influences their feelings.
As managers and employees initiate new behaviors of meaningful and effective recognition giving, leaders can express acknowledgement for their actions – the recognition. As recognition is included on performance reviews or 360° Feedback tools as a key competency, managers can be measured and receive appropriate bonuses or pay changes – the rewards.
Suddenly, changing one’s mind and beliefs looks very rewarding!
Question: How do you encourage flexible thinking and educating to change people’s perspectives?
Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.