Want a Better Workplace? Then Tie Recognition to Organizational Values

Organizations that believe in driving an intentional culture – whether for engagement purposes, recruitment purposes, performance purposes, innovation purposes, or all of the above – might think it logical to tie their recognition programs directly to their values.

But as it turns out, maybe not.

The new SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey Winter 2013 Report has some interesting survey data and thought-provoking findings. The survey, sent to 6,000 SHRM members at the manager level or higher, had a response rate of 13 percent and a margin of error of +/- 3 percent. So, with 770 randomly selected HR professionals employed at organizations with more than 499 employees across North America, the sample size is large enough for the results to be interesting.

Top 5 survey findings

The broad findings are a little surprising, although the survey questions focused entirely on recognition, engagement and core values. So, for example, the challenges of implementing health care reform don’t show up, nor do the issues of perceived talent or skills shortages.

But even within that context, these findings make me scratch my head:

  • No. 1 — Employee engagement tops the list of HR challenges.
  • No. 2 — Performance management remains stuck in neutral.
  • No. 3 — Recognition programs fill the feedback and appreciation gap.
  • No. 4 — Recognition programs have an observed positive impact on business results.
  • No. 5 — Recognition aligned with core values leads to more effective managers.

1. Employee engagement tops list of HR challenges

Well, I do find that surprising – especially given the rest of the survey data.

I might have thought that the issues of performance management done the same way it’s been done for 10-15 years (or not at all) would top the list of HR challenges. But no, employee engagement is at the top of the list.

Despite (or maybe because of) the fact that most HR professionals haven’t been able to make the business case for investing in creating higher levels of engagement, it’s at the top of the list.

2. Performance management remains stuck in neutral

Performance management is the talent management infrastructure weak link. Most CEOs and other members of the C-Suite report that they know their system is ineffective. And what’s more they know their employees don’t like their current system either.

That HR folks are “stuck in neutral” in this regard is perplexing. With the billions of dollars being spent on ineffective, unpopular legacy systems, this would seem ripe for corrective action — not being stuck in neutral.

3. Recognition programs fill the feedback & appreciation gap

Investing in new solutions that fill a gap rather than fixing the full system seems shortsighted to me.

Don’t get me wrong; I think that there are recognition programs that powerfully engage teams, inspire individuals and create positive momentum for employers and their customers. Some of the new entrants that utilize social technology and are natively mobile are stunning. And worthy of investment.

But, should we be thinking bigger than filling gaps?

4. Recognition programs have an observed positive impact on business results

That’s research-speak for “we can’t quantify it yet but we think it’s real based on anecdotal evidence.” ‘Nuff said.

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5. Recognition aligned with core values leads to more effective managers

That’s it! If the data clearly support this finding, then this is the foundation for the business case that HR has been looking for.

I’ve long believed that if the middle manager cohort was effectively trained and managed, the incidences of workplace drama and their resulting legal issues – and the resulting time-suck for HR – would be hugely reduced. Managers would be held accountable for managing. And HR could get to the strategic business of workforce planning and talent management leadership.

The following charts from the report show the “observed” connection between values-based recognition systems and managerial effectiveness in “acknowledging and appreciating” employees:1shrm-globoforce-fig-8

2shrm-globoforce-fig-13*Note: the red circles on the charts are mine.

Tying recognition to company values

The finding that managers do a better job of effectively acknowledging and appreciating employees when recognition programs are directly tied to core values seems to stack up. But it also appears that managers do a better job of effectively acknowledging and appreciating employees simply by being given a recognition program to use.

Either way works for me. And either way clearly works for employers and their employees.

But I’ll go out on a limb with the observable improvement in managerial effectiveness and agree that tying recognition programs to values is a winner. In fact, I’ll go so far as to opine that tying talent management in its entirety to organizational values will provide quantifiable improvement, not just observed improvement.

There are interesting findings in this report. If you haven’t looked at some of the innovative new solutions in the recognition space maybe you should.

This originally appeared on China Gorman’s blog at ChinaGorman.com.

China Gorman is a successful global business executive in the competitive Human Capital Management (HCM) sector. She is a sought-after consultant, speaker and writer bringing the CEO perspective to the challenges of building cultures of humanity for top performance and innovation, and strengthening the business impact of Human Resources.

Well known for her tenure as CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute, COO and interim CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and President of Lee Hecht Harrison, China works with HCM organizations all over the world to enhance their brands and their go-to-market strategies. Additionally, she serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Jobs for America’s Graduates as well as the Advisory Boards of Elevated Careers, the Workforce Institute at Kronos, and WorldBlu. Addtionally, she chairs the Globoforce WorkHuman Advisory Board and the Universum North America Board. China is the author of the popular blog Data Point Tuesday, and is published and frequently quoted in media properties like Fortune, TLNT, Huffington Post, Inc., Fast Company, U.S. News & World Report and many others.


5 Comments on “Want a Better Workplace? Then Tie Recognition to Organizational Values

  1. Thanks for sharing the highlights. Interesting data. So, is the underlying assumption then that tying recognition programs to employees values is a winner, or that tying recognition programs to organizational values is a winner, or a bit of both? Often those two things are not the same, and that unto itself causes engagement and retention issues.

  2. This is great data. China, thanks for offering your perspective. I’m curious as to whether there was a review of the data by gender? Recently, lots has been written about suggesting that women tend to place value on receiving “appreciation” for their contributions to the process of achieving a goal, while men tend to place a strong value on being “acknowledged” for achieving the goal itself. Perhaps this subtle but important distinction in recognition has the potential for making a real impact on business results.

  3. Great post, thanks for sharing…

    You’re right that employee engagement might be at the top of the list because HR have struggled to build a business case for investment around it but I think there’s more to it than that.

    There’s a growing body of evidence and broader understanding of the positive impacts that having an engaged workforce brings, particularly in a knowledge based organisation. It’s also the area where HR have the potential to have a huge impact and at the same time little experience – at least in mainstream.

    ROI references are popping up more and more, particularly in the area of social business solutions where platforms for open and collaborative communications combined with personal not material recognition schemes are at the core.

    Knowledge-worker centric businesses that can build an engaged workforce and leverage the benefits will have the opportunity to build competitive advantage.

  4. Employees like to know how what they do on a day to day basis impacts the company as whole. When you do are stuck in your normal routine sometimes you lose site of how important what you do is. When you can tie their work to corporate success it goes a long way in making your team feel valued.

  5. Right on the money, China. Thanks for your post and your perspective. I’m in the business of recognition and rewards, and I share your perspectives on #3 and #4 above. In support of #5, a manager’s performance is continually rated as the top reason employees either stay or leave. And alignment to core values is the rudder that keeps the ship moving in the right direction.
    It’s true that effective managers armed with a recognition tool will use that to drive incremental performance. But those same effective managers would likely achieve positive results even in the absence of a technology solution. It follows that ineffective managers will continue to be ineffective even when empowered with a recognition technology.
    So, get the right managers (and weed out the wrong ones). Aligned with core values, give them access to the most cost-effective recognition tool possible, and get out of their way. Then measure ROI for #4!

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