Is Your Culture Getting In The Way of Your Recognition?

Many factors affect the success of implementing the practice of giving effective and meaningful employee recognition where you work.

Your organizational culture is just one of those factors but it’s often ignored.

Organizational culture is the shared values and beliefs that inform and govern how people behave in an organization. It influences how people act at work and do their jobs.

The successful use of your recognition and reward programs is directly impacted by the strength and positive perception of your company’s culture.

That’s why you must ask yourself: Is our organizational culture contributing towards making recognition giving a way of life?

Or, perhaps your culture is getting in the way of recognition.

How Culture Can Ruin Everything

Consider the influence organizational culture can have on organizations.

A Columbia University study shows the likelihood of job turnover at an organization with low company cultures is 48.4 percent whereas the probability of job turnover with a high company culture is a mere 13.9 percent.

John Kotter and James Heskett in their research at the Harvard Business School, and written up in their classic book “Corporate Culture and Performance”, showed how culture can have a significant impact on a firm’s long-term economic performance.

Companies that didn’t get the culture right at all did not perform well.

Over an eleven-year timeframe low cultural organizations only increased revenues by an average of 166 percent while companies that had a high degree of positive cultural traits increased their revenues by 682 percent.

Check out the following statistics from this same study.

Low cultural trait organizations grew their workforce by only 36 percent in those 11 years in contrast with 282 percent for high cultural trait companies.

Their stock prices only increased by 74 percent over compared with 901 percent for the high culture companies. Can you imagine? And their net incomes improved by a measly 1 percent versus 756 percent.

Culture makes a big difference!

And culture drastically affects your recognition practices and programs too.

Making Your Culture Drive Recognition Giving

Too often we give lip service to our company culture.

Sure, there’s the big poster or plaque on the wall in the front lobby with the company vision, mission and values.

Faces of smiling employees accompanied by graphic portrayal of the values are repeatedly displayed on the LCD screens around the company. And, if you’re lucky, you have a mini-version of the vision and values stuck on the back of your electronic access pass.

Your organizational culture must be visible to everyone in a demonstrative and positive way by the majority of people in your company.

Consider that 38 percent of Millennials will chose to work for one company over another simply because of the visibility and buy-in to the organization’s mission and vision.

I am going to be very clear and upfront with you…culture takes time and practice.

You have to set clear expectations of what you want people to do that mirror your values and beliefs. And you have to equally call out people right away when they’re not acting consistently with the culture.

The beauty is, you can recognize people when they demonstrate living the values and perform above and beyond expectations.

However, you must remember that people learn your culture by watching any new behaviour consistently done over time. This builds trust in the new values and shifts people’s thinking and desire to act in a positive way.

Essentially, we are talking about building the right habits.

Living and Breathing Your Culture

To get your culture alive and well and lifting your recognition initiatives where you want them, you need to consider the following steps:

1. Understand your company’s core purpose – your “why”. Everyone needs to know what the purpose for the company’s business is and what their own purpose is to fulfill that company mission. Giving real purpose to a person’s work helps them to align themselves with the values and intentions of the company and its leaders.

A company purpose can be long, like the current mission statement from Apple:

“Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.”

Or short and sweet like IKEA: “To create a better everyday life for the many people.”

As long as you can personally align yourself to it and know why you’re working. And that helps you to be more passionate about work and likely get recognized for it.

2. Use simple language for explaining what the company believes. Have you ever seen it where some companies just have words for their values without any explanation? Successful companies are the ones where any employee can be stopped in the hallway or by their workstation and asked what a particular value means and looks like, and they can tell you. Not only that, but you can see it being lived everyday by different people.

Disney for example has the following four Service Basics prinicples to focus on:

  1. I project a positive image and energy.
  2. I am courteous and respectful to all Guests, including Children.
  3. I stay in character and play the part.
  4. I go above and beyond.

For the first area, “I project a positive image and energy”, the behaviors associated with this principle are to smile and to look approachable.

The easier it is to know what behaviors fit your values the easier it is to recognize people when you see these behaviors in action.

3. Follow the leader and lead by example. So much about culture starts at the very top of a company. How a leader behaves filters down right to the frontline. It’s not about do as I say or what is posted up on the wall. It’s far more about do as I am doing. Integrity, for example, has been defined as doing the right thing even when no one is looking. However, you can pretty much say that someone is looking at you, in some way or another, every minute of your workday.

Lead your organizational culture by example.

Great leaders demonstrate common courtesy and acknowledge people by name when they pass them by in the hallway or meet them out in public.

You can lead by example by listening attentively more than you talk and give people your undivided attention by removing electronic devices when conversing.

When you see something positive happen at work, stop and make time to acknowledge that colleague. And if you’re the beneficiary of someone’s virtual help or creativity, send them a recognition notification or eCard through your company’s online recognition portal.

Each of us has responsibility for living our organizational culture and holding others accountable for living it.

Your organizational culture can drive all of the recognition practices and programs you want to see happening by clearly defining and communicating what it really is. Then it is up to everyone to be positive examples of living your company culture.

Recognition is then driven by your culture and can help reinforce the living of your culture.

It’s a win, win!

Question: How does your organizational culture contribute to or hinder your employee recognition initiatives?

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.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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