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.
A paradigm shift is a change in our basic assumptions about a standard we have been using to make decisions. In the past it was deemed quite revolutionary to move away from the accepted norm but within our rapidly changing environment, and knowledge storm that comes with the internet, changing our mind about many things happens often.
Employee recognition is one of our paradigms that has changed over the years from a “nice to do” business tactic, to almost a necessity to maintain and grow employ performance. It is a given in many circles, but a tool that is often misunderstood and never or rarely used as often as it should be. We haven’t met an executive yet who didn’t agree that employee recognition should be a focal point, but when asked what they do in their own organization they refer to the years of service program that doles out 5 year pins and other innocuous awards for just being there! If you want to get more benefit out this proven successful strategy, here are a couple paradigm shifts to consider:
- Think about recognition as drivers of performance, not rewards for something after the fact.
- Get creative with it, use some humor when feasible. It is a serious practice, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.
- Do it as often as possible make it visible, when employees see the best people being recognized, the want to emulate them.
- It doesn’t have to cost much. The “big thing” these days is recognizing through social media, and that’s certainly effective.
- Think about getting away from technology once in a while. A hand written note on nice note cards can be as or more memorable as the shiniest plaque.
- Look for new opportunities to celebrate; there are hundreds at your disposal if you’d just take a few minutes each day to look for them.
- Think outside your department or even company. Saying thanks to those who serve your company connects them more closely to your overall objectives
Employee recognition doesn’t have to go stale. It works effectively at improving the performance of your people. The time and attention you give to keep it refreshed will be returned tenfold in a culture that nurtures success.
Research by Bersin & Associates shows the impact of employee recognition on the bottom line. As we’ve seen with other research on the subject, successful companies use recognition to motivate the performance of their associates and drive strong business performance and accountability.
In the yearlong study Bersin showed that employee recognition can produce some surprising results. After defining and measuring what a “high recognition company” was, they concluded that those companies dramatically outperform like organizations by 12 times in a wide range of business outcomes. In addition those companies had 30% lower voluntary employee turnover which equates to millions of dollars in savings for those corporations.
These “high recognition companies” structure recognition systems that allow peers to “thank and provide feedback to peers,” not just use managers to do it. By giving employees open access to the program everyone can see who is being recognized and for what. They can create an entire organization of previously unsung heroes to get the credit they deserve. As this form of recognition creates positive reactions from both the giver and receiver, it makes everyone happier and more productive.
Simply saying ‘Thank You’ is a management tool that has been around for years, allowing the front line employees to do it by themselves is a relatively new phenomenon in business, but one that has proven its worth. Take a look at what a very successful CEO, Robert Eckert, retired CEO and Chairman of Mattel had to say about ‘Thank You’ and how it affected his career.
Recognition works; it will drive bottom line results and achieve a wide range of business objectives. If you haven’t made peer to peer “thank yous” as a part of your overall effort, you’re probably missing some big opportunities.
By the way, in the spirit of shameless advertising, the Award of Choice makes a perfect award for peer to peer programs….they are easy to administer, cost effective and exactly what your employees want.
Many organizations want to be good citizens in their workplaces. They have created management positions and departments that work with communities and both local and national charities to effect change, to lesson social ills, to make the country a better place. You see articles written daily about how the employees of a company work together off the job on a variety of issues and causes they deem important.
It was over 50 years ago that President Kennedy in his inaugural address embraced the notion of citizenship with the words:
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”
And the American people took that to heart. The largest share of giving comes from individuals, over $220 billion which is 73% of the total. Corporate giving is over $15 billion and foundation giving is over $42 billion. In addition, over 62 million people that’ volunteer over 8 billion hours and with volunteer time according to the IRS worth an equivalent of $20.85 per hour, that’s over $169 billion. We are the “givingest” nation on earth.
Good citizenship has the power to transform what its touches, including organizations. “How can I help?” is the attitude of a good organizational citizen, and this willingness to cooperate with others in citizenship can bring that same willingness to cooperate and work together with others to the workplace. It can help to help resolve unconstructive interpersonal conflicts with coworkers and bolster team spirit.
According to Bret Simmons, PhD, a noted consulted in business management, “Studies have shown that across a variety of indicators, organizational citizenship accounted for anywhere from 18 to 38 percent of the variance in performance outcomes.”
Good citizenship at work should be a part of any employee engagement effort, including recognizing those that provide that citizenship. It’s just good business sense. The commitment of many working for a common cause, even more than satisfaction, merits that relentless pursuit to achieve goals. Helping out in the community is merely a part of that pursuit. And recognition of those that do can create a synergy that flows over into the daily work life.