Here’s a post on employee recognition that is well worth the read. It comes from The Fistful of Talent blog and was written by Paul Hebert, a well-known and respected incentive industry consultant with Symbolist.
His point that there is no shortage of platforms on which to run any and all types of employee engagement (read reward) systems is almost an understatement. Everyone and anyone who wants to sell any kind of reward will have one. And, if you bring them all in for a presentation you’ll find that they are all very similar, with cute little features that promise to give you the ultimate in employee recognition systems.
Recently, Google ruffled the feathers of the reward industry by doing away with a standard points based approach and develop their own platform…obviously easier and more cost effective for them to do. But they mentioned that a primary reason for doing it themselves was to be able to control the award delivery and give their people what they wanted, based of course on the analytics!
Google spent their planning time focusing on the value of their employees and what they needed to do motivate increased high performance. And that is what a well-designed platform should do.
If you are in that phase of planning (or have had a platform in place for some time and are thinking about revisions) you need to realize that unless the platform supplier is a strictly a software company, they will typically sell their system and the support of it at extremely low competitive pricing or even giving it away. This is done in order to pack the award side of it with awards that provide them with the high margin items that provide the profit to be able to give away the platform. It’s like the sales strategy employed by Gillette many years ago. They gave away the razors to sell the blades.
So if you want robot recognition as shown today by hundreds of suppliers, be careful that you get the kind of award delivery system that will truly excite your people.
Every leader and executive has their own way of doing things, and there are more lists of the “top five”, “top ten” etc. ways to motivate your employees than there is space on any blog to write them down.
But here’s another one we think is worthwhile. Steve Tobak, a consultant, former high-tech senior executive and writer for MoneyWatch, has come up with some great ideas of how to motivate your team. None of these needs a budget to do them. The list is paraphrased below:
- Let your people know why their job and performance is important to the organization as well as to your customers
- Managers need to hold themselves accountable for goal achievement. When they do, employees will follow.
- Follow up on goals with real-time, good or bad, feedback of the performance
- Celebrate/recognize achievements publicly, and take the blame for failures and then offer constructive feedback privately
- Provide all the tools the employees need to do their job, and then get out of the way.
- Challenge your team and give them responsibility to succeed or fail on their own
- Communicate what’s going on as openly as possible, but maintain confidential issue
- Be flexible, we are all different and do things differently. Let the team have the freedom to do their best
- Show empathy, humility and a sense of humor along the way.
We go a little “nutso” every time someone in the incentive/award industry uses the word “gift” when they mean an “award”. If you are conveying a gift to someone, they didn’t have to do anything to get it, that’s why it’s a gift. If you are presenting an award to someone, that person actually earned the right to receive that award.
Now let’s go a little deeper into the world of employee recognition and incentives. Frankly there is a part of the incentive industry that has an “everyone should win the prize mentality,” which doesn’t make much sense. The prize should be presented to the winners of a competition in recognition of outstanding achievement. We found this interview with Tom Coughlin, the coach of New York Giants, and his feelings on motivation to be very interesting. His view is fairly simple. People earn the right to win, just as employees in any recognition or incentive program have the opportunity to earn the right to win. The have to work for it.
Essentially Mr. Coughlin explains that motivation is a process that involves learning. Most people inherently want to be the best they can be. They want good managers who are interested in their performance and success, they want to be coached. Most employees have pride in what they do. To use that pride in the success of your organization, help your employees set realistic goals for achievement, and then show them how to attack those goals.
You can’t go anywhere in the Human Resources world without running into the discussion of employee engagement. It’s the piece of their world that drives performance in the company. But you can’t just expect engagement to exist without setting up the process to help the employees along the way.
When you do, the awards they receive will be received with the pride knowing that they Earned the Right to Win.
The cynics of the award industry come and go. Alfie Kohn and Dan Pink wrote two of the bestselling books in the incentive industry, both anti incentives. They created a contingent of believers and supporters who like an ideologues in any field have a difficulty in ever seeing the other side of the subjects. Consider for a moment what Mr. Kohn claimed in his 1993 book…
“The bottom line is that any approach that offers a reward for better performance is destined to be ineffective.” And “the more closely we tie compensation (or other rewards) to performance, the more damage we do.”
But let the academicians argue over science and other aspects of the award industry. There are plenty of them who have positions opposite of our two famous authors mentioned above and have actually been a lot more scientific about it.
A highly respected one is Gerry Ledford ,PhD a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California. He received a Ph. D and M.A. in Psychology from the University of Michigan and has authored over 100 articles and ten books and he frequently speaks at professional events. Just as a comparison, Mr. Kohn was a high school teacher, and Mr. Pink was a political speechwriter turned author.
As discussed in this article from The Compensation Café, scientific research on awards is quite different than what Pink and Kohn suggest. Some highlights from this article include:
- Monetary incentives generally do lead to increased performance.
- Extrinsic awards actually can increase intrinsic motivation
- Rewards have no negative effect on intrinsic motivation
So the next time a naysayer expounds on why award programs don’t work, hand them this post and tell them if they do want information on the other side of the issue to review the posts referenced here. The incentive and awards industry is alive, still thriving and still producing results for thousands of companies. Why? Well in a word because these programs produce results. If they didn’t we wouldn’t have them. It’s just that simple.
When’s the last time you took the temperature of your employee recognition program? Over the last two or three years how many times have you asked yourself these questions?
- How many of your employees have been recognized for good performance?
- How many for superior performance?
- What is the percent of employees who are recognized for performance?
- Do you keep any type of return on investment for your program?
- How much do you budget per employee for your recognition efforts and has this budget increased?
- How much of this budget is dedicated to years of service recognition programs which at best only recognize your employees every 5 years.
- Do you recognize employees in the first three or six months of their employment?
- How many of your “middle 80%” are recognized and how often?
- Has your employee recognition efforts effected your retention rates over the time of your program?
- Has your productivity increased since the inception of your program
Data analysis is common in almost every part of business, but often lacking when it comes to employee recognition efforts. The standard for analysis for years was the ubiquitous Employee Satisfaction Survey. When was the last time you did one of those and was the data above contained in the above questions included in this survey?
Recognition programs support the active engagement of your employees. Take the time to review the program you have in place to make sure that it is achieving the results you want.