#WorkTrends Recap: The Value of Employee Recognition

Smart companies and leaders are figuring out that rewards and recognition programs have a lasting impact on employees. From a small thank you to quick feedback on a job well done, recognition can improve employee engagement and productivity, as well as help retain top talent. All of which can improve the bottom line.

And yet, not every company has figured out how to incorporate rewards and recognition into their work culture.

This week on #WorkTrends, host Meghan M. Biro welcomed Salvador Barros, CEO of Tap My Back, and Jason Lauritsen, Keynote Speaker and Best-Selling Author, to the podcast to discuss the barriers to adoption and the value of recognition programs.

As CEO of Tap My Back, a tool that helps leaders promote recognition across the organization, Salvador Barros has seen first-hand what recognition can do for employees, leaders and companies. Jason Lauritsen has studied hundreds of workplaces to determine the keys to real employee engagement.

Here are a few key points Salvador and Jason shared:

  • Sustainable employee recognition starts at the top. Leaders need to be an example to the rest of an organization
  • Companies aiming to improve customer experience should first focus on having engaged employees
  • Organizations need to pay more attention to outward facing issues to realize the value of employee engagement.
  • Peer-to-peer feedback is just as valuable as management feedback because your peers see the effort you put into your work, and managers often focus on the results.

Did you miss the show? You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here:

You can also check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here:

Didn’t make it to this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the podcast and chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT).

Remember, the TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following our #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

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#WorkTrends Preview: The Value of Employee Recognition

Employee Recognition and Rewards are pulling up from the outside and gaining in speed quickly. Companies that are smart are already ahead of the curve and are playing to the strengths of their employees by encouraging feedback and recognition as a form of engagement, both from their peers and from management.

On Wednesday, June 28, 2017, TalentCulture #WorkTrends host, Meghan M. Biro and her special guests Salvador Barros, CEO of Tap My Back, and Jason Lauritsen, Best-Selling Author and Keynote Speaker, will be discussing this timely topic and the myriad ways brands can value their employees through well-developed recognition programs.

The Value of Employee Recognition

The Value of Employee RecognitionJoin Salvador and Jason on our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, June 28 — 1 pm ET / 10 am PT.

Immediately following the podcast, please join the TalentCulture community over on the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion. We encourage everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1: How can companies begin a recognition program? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q2: What can employees do to help support recognition and rewards? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q3: What are the long-term effects of recognition programs?  #WorkTrends  (Tweet this question)

Don’t want to wait until next Wednesday to join the conversation? You don’t have to. I invite you to check out the #WorkTrends Twitter feed and our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group. Share your questions, ideas and opinions with our community.

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The Six Steps To Build A Remarkable Workplace

According to a 2013 CEO Institute survey, the number one issue keeping chief executives awake at night was “sourcing and retaining skilled staff.” Yet when PricewaterhouseCoopers asked 1,300 global CEOs about their operational priorities that same year, talent strategies didn’t make the top five. So while CEOs claimed to be suffering from insomnia, it seemed they were doing very little to create remarkable workplaces to alleviate the problem.

This discrepancy intrigued me and I started researching why it was (and is) still happening. I found that some CEOs simply don’t rate people practices as a core profit driver. Others throw perks at employees like lollies to children, hoping to magically improve their staggeringly high staff turnover rates. The rest? They simply don’t know where to start.

What Are The 6 Steps To Build A Remarkable Workplace?

In practice, the 80/20 rule applies — 20% of strategies have greater impact than the other 80% put together. Here are my top six steps that have led to remarkable workplaces around the globe:

1. CEO Buy-In and a “People Practice” Champion at the Top Table

“Best employer” companies are characterized by CEOs who passionately believe the bottom line is driven by human endeavor and who embrace people practices as a profit-generating strategy on the same platform as Sales, Marketing and IT. By prioritizing people-centric initiatives, their companies achieve on average at least four times the profit growth (Aon Hewitt People Practices Inventory 2011) and three times the share market returns (Russell Investment Group 2011) compared to average companies.

In addition to having CEO buy-in, these businesses all have a high-achiever at executive level responsible for driving organizational change through intelligent people practices. They might amend internet security rules so employees can work from home; introduce commuter-friendly shift times; procure high-impact training programs; or implement initiatives for increased communication, transparency and egalitarianism.

Standard corporate leadership consists of CEOs, CIOs, COOs and CFOs, but unfortunately there are still very few “people” leaders. Without an effective champion with direct influence at executive level, the modifications required at all levels of the business to build a remarkable workplace simply never happen.

2. Monthly One-On-Ones

Of all the talent management strategies I’ve seen or used to build a remarkable workplace, the monthly one-on-one system, during which a manager takes time to have a productive reflective discussion with each employee and create an individual action plan, is a standout. Not only does it nurture the vital bond between an employee and his immediate supervisor, but, as a study by Bersin and Associates found, a monthly action plan alone results in twice the revenue per employee and a 27% lower staff turnover rate.

Despite research like this, annual or biannual performance appraisals are still standard for many organizations. Yet imagine a coach who only met with his professional athletes once or twice a year and reeled off a long list of everything the athlete was doing wrong. Irregular check-ins are simply devastating to high performance.

Tech company Atlassian makes a great case study. When executives discovered that their twice yearly staff appraisals led to disruptions, anxiety and a drop in both manager and team morale, they implemented these monthly check-ins. The result: extraordinarily high engagement scores of 87% and several Best Employer awards to boot.

 3. Families, Villages and Tribes — Create Small, Flexible Teams In Every Area of the Business

Neurological experiments show that decision-making performance falls off rapidly as the group size grows beyond seven. You see this at dinner parties when as soon as a group gets beyond this number, people split off and start to talk in separate groups. This is also what happens in teams. In my first book, Family Village Tribe, I explained how travel retailer Flight Centre split its entire company into seven-person business teams (families), because profits were found to drop almost by half as they increased in size. The company believes that this is because they emulate hunter-gatherer community size, a structure in which people inherently prefer to work. Gore, Virgin, Semco, Spotify, and Atlassian are other companies that have adopted the small-team strategy.

Flight Centre also groups its teams into local villages (max 7 teams) and tribes (max 20 teams or 150 people), each with their own leaders and support staff. Based on economies of scale this seems counterintuitive; however, the increase in productivity far exceeds the extra costs. The company doubled its profit in one year when it split its single Australian operation into 6 stand-alone teams. The same strategy proved so successful for GORE-TEX that founder Bill Gore only ever put 150 parking spots at each of his businesses. As he told an interviewer, “When people start parking on the grass we know it’s time to build a new plant.”

4. Improve Actual Job Roles

Frederick Herzberg’s famous large-scale study of workers showed unequivocally that achievement in the actual job itself was the greatest motivator at work. This included such aspects as doing creative, challenging and varied work; the opportunity to do a job from beginning to end; working without supervision; and being responsible for one’s own efforts. Salary, interpersonal relationships, company policy and working conditions were all inferior to these factors.

Even if an organization is dynamic and inspiring, people will quit if their tangible job role isn’t engaging enough. It’s amazing what can be done. Sometimes it’s as simple as removing unnecessary paperwork, or axing overly bureaucratic systems. Australia’s Holden Hill police station had constant staff turnover of administrators because they hated typing up transcript tapes – a minor but monotonous part of the role. By transferring this duty to a casual staff member, they solved the problem and saved significant staff turnover costs.

5. Team-Based Planning

Baseball great Babe Ruth once said, “You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” The conventional approach to business planning is that a manager attends an executive planning day and then tries to get the team to run with his company-devised strategies. The staff have no buy-in because they’ve had no access to the rationale behind the plan so implementation is patchy at best. It’s akin to dragging dead horses across a desert.

In contrast, the individuals who make up a team are like an incubator of ideas. Tapping into them creates energy and excitement. Rather than one leader driving all the change, you then have the whole team driving improvements. The plan has to align with the company’s overall goals, but this still gives individual teams a lot of scope.

The improvement is remarkable. One corporation I consulted with had business units that achieved over 50% profit increases within three months of implementing this more collaborative strategy. Multi-billion-dollar online sales company Zappos and 43,000-employee Da Vita Healthcare are other examples of companies that have used this kind of democratic approach and shown that giving front-line staff more say in their own business really does pay off.

6. Reward and Recognize Genuine Achievement

In a 2012 Globoforce survey, 47% of workers gave “not being recognised for their efforts” as the main reason for leaving their last job. Turn this around and there’s a serious prize on offer for those companies who get this right.

My old company used to stage an overseas awards night every year, flying high-achievers to sumptuous locations, feting winners like superstars on stage, and entertaining the crowd with celebrities like Bob Geldof and The Village People. It cost the business several million dollars, yet even at the height of the global financial crisis, this was one expense they refused to cut, because it was people’s single greatest motivator. Virgin is also renowned for its staff recognition events and Steve Jobs of Apple fame used to hold a “Top 100 retreat” in which he took the 100 smartest employees to an undisclosed location every year.

To underpin this kind of event, an organization needs to be able to objectively compare its people performance and the best way to do this is to create intelligent KPIs for each role. Yet many employers use subjective measurements that stoke employee resentment, or they make KPIs so complicated that employees can’t track and improve their own performance.

It’s a matter of what gets measured gets managed. Delta Airlines reported a 564% ROI on its rewards and recognition program; the Avis Budget group an $11.4 million profit bounce; and Sutherland Global Services says the money put into recognition earns a 20-times return and is their best investment. Senior Vice President Tom Steuwe’s only grievance: “I am kicking myself for not having done this 5 or 6 years earlier.”

The Proof Is in the Profits

With all of the above strategies the proof is in the profits. Even during the global financial crisis, the Parnassus Workplace Fund — a group that only invests in organizations with a solid reputation for having outstanding workplaces — had an annual average return of investment of 10.81%, compared to the S&P index’s 3.97%. This shows that there’s an enormous upside for CEOs who embrace people practices and realize that building a remarkable workplace is no longer a business diversion. It’s now the main game.

Mandy Johnson will be a guest on the March 4 edition of the TalentCulture #TChat Show.

About the Author: As a start-up director of a UK retail business opening a new shop every month, Mandy Johnson was forced to learn new strategies to recruit, retain and develop people to reach high performance at break-neck speed. She’s written about her experiences in her best-selling book Family, Village Tribe, which made Kobo’s 2014 top five list for Business-Entrepreneurship and is a set text in many Australian MBA courses. Her second book Winning The War for Talent has just been released and has also garnered excellent reviews in the business media.

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The Connection Between Skills And Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement: individual’s investment of wisdom, skills, energies, creativity and time in the work assigned.

We have explored wisdom. Now let’s explore employee skills and their connection to positive engagement for job, team and company.

What Skills Mean (definition)

Skills means application of knowledge, wisdom, and dexterity to specific elements of one’s work assignments. The transition from product economy to service economy has not lessened reliance on skills. Companies hire specific abilities that achieve profitable results. These include manual or intellectual, technical or social, mathematical or linguistic skills.

What Skills Bring (value)

Productivity. Refined skills generate employee productivity. Productivity combines effectiveness and efficiency. Effective skills application accomplishes results. Efficient skills application means least expenditure of resources in shortest time. Consider: a skilled employee produces more output and thus more value. Consider: that employee is more positively engaged for the company. Consider: company attention to ever-increasing those skills increases engagement value.

Pride. Human nature desires success. The resulting emotion is pride of success. When individuals approach a project proud of their skills, they engage more readily, more productively. Successful, those individuals relish another go at a bigger challenge. They want more opportunity to engage their skills. They are motivated to sharpen those skills for the next opportunity. Here is the dual value of skills engagement and skills improvement. That is a victorious cycle of greater success.

Profitability. The more skilled your employees, the more productive their output. The greater number and significance of opportunities to apply their skills, the more satisfied your employees. The more satisfied your employees, the greater your employee retention. The greater your retention, the more profitable your business. You might call this “empowerment”. The more employees are empowered to utilize and improve their skills, the greater profit a company is likely to experience.

How To Bring Skills On (actions)

How, then, does your organization focus on the skills component of your employees’ engagement? Here are three broad areas that cover many ways to boost engagement by boosting their skills. Keep in mind, by boosting an employee’s skills, you’re also boosting his or her engagement.

Recognition. Individuals take personal pride in what they do well. They experience more pride when what they do well is recognized. There are an infinite number of employee recognition tactics. The key here is recognizing specific skills, not just overall performance.

Suggestion: a recurrent chance for individuals to talk about their specific skill(s), how they developed them, what they’re doing to enhance them, what the skill means to them personally. This may be a constant agenda item at team meetings or a brief “interview” in regular newsletters.

Continuous Improvement. Does your company provide the learning chance for employees to improve their skills continuously? One sure way to show the company values employees and their individual skills is to make it easy for them to build those skills even greater. This may be with training, coaching, external education, professional/trade association membership, and subscriptions/libraries.

Suggestion: survey employees regularly, frequently. Offer formal and informal surveys, anonymous and identified surveys. Ask employees what information they want and need, and how they want it. Of course, be sure the survey results are treated with respect and that responses go to all employees quickly and clearly.

Added Opportunities. Invite employees to suggest more, better ways to use their skills. Increase their skills opportunities. This was called “out-of-the-box thinking,” and that’s a good name. Encourage employees to think out of the box in which their skills are normally applied. Give them the opportunity to follow that lead, to work from their productivity and their pride, and to generate greater profit potential.

One suggestion is an ongoing “suggestion box” inviting employees to suggest new, different ways to adapt and apply a specific skill. This should be supported with ample publicity and celebration.

We have looked at how business should focus on wisdom and skills as employee engagement elements. The next article will examine energies.

About the Author: Tim Wright is professional speaker/coach/facilitator with expertise in employee engagement and culture improvement.

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How To Positively Impact Other People

“When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the man who planted them.” — Chinese Proverb

Do you find that your life is busier than it’s ever been before? You’re taking on projects, going more places and meeting the people, and trying to get more done than ever before? You know that you’re not taking time for yourself, but you don’t know how you can change your situation. Unfortunately, you have your blinders on and, as you struggle to get your “stuff” done, you simply fail to notice the world around you.

Practicing mindfulness is one way you can intentionally start to pay attention to and be aware of what is happening around you. Sound a little too “woo-woo” for you? There is not only a lot of research supporting mindfulness, you’ll find benefits including stronger relationships, better health, and less stress.

Think about the number of times you go into your favorite coffee shop and take your bad mood out on the barrista. Thankfully, employees at Starbucks are trained to deal with your foul attitude, but not everyone has received that level of training. Do you take the time to notice the person behind the counter at your favorite fast food restaurant? How often do you say “Hello” or acknowledge the cleaning lady in your office? Colin Powell shares how he recognized the cleaning staff that took care of his beautiful office while in the White House. On a regular basis he would tell them, “If you didn’t accomplish your purpose, I couldn’t accomplish my purpose as secretary of state. We’re all all in this together.” What a beautiful acknowledgement for doing a job most people simply ignore (unless it’s not done). By taking the time to notice the people that serve you on a daily basis, you can make a huge difference in their day and possibly, in their life.

Here’s what can happen if you take the time to be kind … There’s a restaurant I frequent because of the numerous networking organizations I belong to. A waiter named Darren took care of us on several occasions. His service was so good, it was noticeable. Always. Smiling, never missing a beat, Darren was the consummate professional. My Positive Thinkers Network group had its first meeting at this restaurant. Darren was our waiter. This was a good thing, because we didn’t realize the draw this event would have. Instead of the 25-30 people we expected, we had 89 people show up — with separate checks. Again, Darren was on his game and he was fabulous.

One evening my husband and I went to eat and were fortunate enough to have Darren as our waiter. His service was great, as usual, including giving us a bag of cookies to take home because we were too full for dessert. As I was walking out of the restaurant, I asked the maître d’ for the general manager’s card. (Of course she looked at me with some concern.) I took the card and we left.

I sent Darren’s manager a card letting him know about the exceptional service and how pleased he should be that someone of Darren’s caliber worked for the restaurant. I sent the card and didn’t think too much about it again. The next time I went to this restaurant for my networking event, I found an envelope with my name on it. Here is what I found inside:

A Poem to Lisa Ryan

Positive thinking is a life raft to the soul when you feel like your ship is sinking…

A positive Outlook each day invites God’s special blessings to come your way…

Lisa, I can say with all positivity your act of kindness to my heart has forever inspired me…

My way of thanking you will to be to pass on that beautiful positive vibe and all you say and do…

It’s amazing how one person’s sunshine can incredibly change another’s life and it makes me proud to say, you’re a friend of mine.

God bless you, Darren

This beautiful poem was written by a waiter and was given to the person who took the time to notice the difference he was making. You have the power to make someone’s day just by acknowledging them.

If you want some more ideas on how to bring joy to someone else today, check out this article by Sophia Elias, “12 Simple Ways to Make Someone Else’s Day.”

Sometimes, the best friendships start with a simple, “Hello.”

About the Author: Employee engagement expert and motivational speaker Lisa Ryan works with organizations to help them keep their top talent and best customers from becoming someone else’s. For more information, please connect with Lisa at her website: or email her at

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3 Sparks To Recognize And Engage Employees

Employee recognition is meant to boost an employee’s performance. It should motivate. It should reward. It should satisfy.

Too often, however, management attention stops at deciding what the recognition will be. After that it’s just waiting for the performance to happen, for the recognition to be offered, and for the planning for the next go-round.

That’s a shame. Effective employee recognition includes employee engagement. Effective employee recognition does not end with the recognition; it creates and reinforces an ongoing cycle of performance>>>recognition>>>better performance. Effective employee recognition is a component to a successful employee engagement strategy.

Successful integration of recognition and engagement requires planning more than just the content/context of the recognition. It entails planning the entire procedure, including links to future recognitions. Most importantly, it means designing recognition that engages employees beyond just getting recognized.

Below are 3 employee recognition and engagement ideas. They are intended to celebrate employee accomplishments. They are motivational, they are personally rewarding, and they satisfy the individual need for recognition.

As importantly, they also generate engagement. Not just engagement by the employee in the work required to achieve the recognition. These activities reach beyond the project or process or performance being recognized. These activities provide opportunities and reasons for employees to dig deeper into their “engagement resources.”

Those engagement resources are the individual’s time, energy, skills, knowledge, and creativity. Recognition that celebrates achievement and generates the employee to put forth her own personal engagement resources contributes meaningfully to ongoing employee engagement. In fact, the contribution to employee engagement likely has more long-term benefit for the business than this year’s (or last year’s) plain ol’ recognition award.

Take a look at these sparks for employee recognition and employee engagement:

Get Talking.

Conversation between manager and employee goes along way, does a great deal, provides many opportunities. You may take an employee to lunch to recognize a significant success or contribution. If you’re smart, the real engagement recognition will not be the food on the plate. It will be the talk across the table. No matter the setting, one great recognition opportunity for boosting an employee’s engagement is conversation. A regular element of any recognition program should be manager making time (30-60 minutes) to ask questions and hear answers about the employee’s success.

Benefits: manager learns, employee feels valued, both begin to think of ways to do even more, even better.

Be Reflective.

It does an employee good to know her success is recognized and acknowledged. It does the employee and the business more good to reflect on the success. To contemplate what the situation (problem?) entailed. To recall what decisions had to be made and how they were made. To evaluate what was done well and worked, and what was not done so well and didn’t. To consider what was not necessary and can be omitted next time. To determine what was missing and should be included next time. To understand what she can do better next time.

Surround the recognition with praise. The job was done successfully and the praise is deserved. And in that context, encourage the above reflection. Invite the individual to engage fully, after the success, in what the success can mean for the future.

Benefits: manager engages in employee’s success, employee engages through in-depth reflection and learning of what’s been done, future repetition of success is more likely.

Teach Back.

Being asked to share one’s knowledge is typically deemed an honor. It can also put someone on the spot and cause no small amount of anxiety. Proceeding with care, you might invite the recognized employee to turn his successful endeavor into a lesson and share it with peers. In addition to engaging the recognized individual, the purpose of this “recognize and engage” is twofold:

  1. To share what worked and why, to key others in on the elements of success that they may achieve the same sort.
  2. To provide a realistic look at the potential threat of hard-seeking achievement. The teacher in this instance can provide a healthy dose of reality to those concerned with “doing their jobs better and faster and smarter — all at once.”

It will ease the potential burden if the logistics are already cared for. The key individual should be asked only to prepare the teaching — perhaps 45-60 minutes. Such “administrivia” as time scheduled, room reserved, notification of participants, printing any handouts, and more can be taken care of separately. In fact, if Teach Back becomes a regular part of the recognition process, streamlining the set-up can be a snap.

Benefits: an ongoing process/procedure for performance improvement and relevant learning.

There is a spark between recognizing success and engaging for success. If all that’s accomplished is giving and receiving recognition, that cycle has to be reinitiated every year. If there is engagement as part of the recognition, the motivation and satisfaction can become continuous.

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