Sunday, March 22, 2009

Recognition Hierarchy - Leadership awareness


Years ago, I was part of an organization that conducted and attempted to use the results of an annual employee satisfaction survey. It seemed that each year the very large team I led was asking for improved recognition for their accomplishments. For the longest time, those of us on my leadership team would respond by doing more recognitions with little improvement in the scores. This was true until we re-assessed the way we looked at recognition and created a recognition hierarchy.

The lowest tier of the hierarchy is simply paying everyone the personal respect they desire. This included talking to your people, thanking them for what they do (which starts with knowing what they do) and celebrating key events and accomplishments. Each leader within the organization had to understand this basic role. Without reducing the first tier, the next step was to create an environment that let people shine. Leaders visited the team in their location (what Tom Peters called “MBWA”), let them present important work to company leadership and told their success stories to others. The highest form of recognition was to be given the most important and challenging assignments and to be recognized within one’s profession, both inside and outside the company.

While this is a very simplified view of how our team overcame the recognition challenge, it worked. Higher recognition scores on the survey did not result from giving more awards, they resulted from doing it better and in a more systematic way.

Have you created a similar approach for recognition? How has it worked?

7 comments:

Ninon de Vere De Rosa said...

"Recognition is so important. That one word can make or brake a person. Life is a very fine thread. I have a TV show that gives teens a voice I society and see that fine thread all the time. The answer ! Say something good or even just a smile, you will be surprised how far that will go."

Richard Lewis said...

"Let me just share some thoughts from a worker bee perspective. There are several things that a manager can do to create a positive work environment as far as recognition and you have stated some of those well. I'm afraid that often managers resort to points or other awards when those things lack the personal touch. I have had a couple of occasions where manager recognition and support have been very special and appreciated. In one case I had worked on an IT project that had started out very simple and had turned into a massive task. For weeks it seemed like there were few successes to report. Then we turned the corner and things eventually came together into a solution that met or exceeded the customer's requirements. On the QT a representative of the customer contacted my manager and phoned in as a surprise guest to the next staff meeting to present me with an award and recognize me before my peers. It was a bit embarrasing but nonetheless very gratifying. I think the surprise factor made this more special. In another situation we had a horrible server outage. A scheduled outage carried over into the business day and we basically had to wait while a server went through a disk integrity check of a large volume. This was unexpected in the schedule and little could be done about the situation as to interrupt it could jeopardize the data integrity. As another individual and myself monitored the progess, our manager showed up in the server room which was a very rare occurrence. She expressed her support for us in the situation and that she knew we were doing everything possible to expedite the end of the outage. She mentioned that perhaps this outage, in its own way, would demonstrate to others the importance of the work we do. We knew that her phone was ringing off the hook at that moment but she showed up to see us in the midst of the crisis. After she left the other technician and myself both remarked how this was the type of manager that we would do anything for. Her stock had already been high in our eyes but it was even higher after that event. A short time later the storage came back online with no data loss. The visit and supporting words from the manager were never forgotten..."

Anonymous said...

It's also a good practice to remember that very often it takes a lot of contributer effort to make things happen smoothly and seamlessly. Sometimes recognizing the invisble individuals is a sure way to remind them that you do know that they contribute and that the contribution is valued.

Denise Corcoran said...

"Hi John, Thanks so much for sharing your insights and experiences around the levels of recognition. I live your thoughts about viewing recognition more systematically. A book I highly recommend and think would interest you is: "PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo From Maslow" by Chip Conley, CEO, Joie De Vivre. Chip has been using Maslow's hierarchy to build a strong company culture ... loyal evangelistic customers ... and relations with investors that include healthy ROI and legacy. As it relates to your discussion about recognition, the middle part of Maslow's pyramid is all about recognition and self esteem needs. He also differentiates between formal and informal recognition and how both are important to build a culture of recognition. JDV's informal practices go beyond the MBWA philosophy and are extremely powerful. in an organization with 2500 employees. Eg., each exec must share with the executive team in their weekly meeting on person at any level whose accomplishments, attitudes, customer impact, etc. were a rolemodel of the company's values. Another exec (who may not even know that person) then volunteers to call or write a note to that individual thanking them for their accomplishments. Many of their employees are blue collar workers and immigrants (such as housekeepers, bell boys, etc.) who in their normal activities never even see an exec. The stories are very moving not only for that individual but also the message it sends to the entire organization. I - along with a handful of CEO's and consultants - spent the day with Chip (the author and CEO) this past Sat. to discuss how the PEAK philosophy has helped other companies, esp. in this downturn. BTW, Chip fell upon the use of Maslow's hierarchy when his company got hit hard after the dot.com bust and 9/11. His ability to turn his company around with this very unconventional approach is an inspiring story in itself. It is not the second largest boutique hotel company in the world. I hope you and others will take time to read the book."

Frank Saladis said...

"I developed two items - An "acknowledgment Grid and an Organizational Model for Acknowledgment Maturity. Author Judy Umlas wrote a book - The Power of Acknowledgment and I have been working with her to continue to develop ideas around her 7 principles of acknowledgment. The book is available through IIL publishing. I also developed a presentation / workshop entitled "Creating Stars through Acknowledgment" which was presented at the PMI World Congress In Denver this past October. For more info, send me an email - saladispmp@msn.com. Ninon

Joanne Braeunle said...

"I totally concur with your recognition hierarchy. In a prior life I was a VP at a large corporation leading a 300 person organization. My unit consistently had the highest employee satisfaction survey results in the division and I ranked in the top 5% on a 360 leadership survey. We achieved that through phone calls, e-mails, handwritten notes and hallway conversations thanking employees for their accomplishments, complimenting them on a presentation or report, stopping by to hear about new work, and constructive feedback when results weren't what we expected. We had an internal recognition program that formally recognized a higher level of achievement, and we consciously looked for internal, external, and professional recognition opportunities for contributions at the more senior levels. In addition, these rewards were posted in broadcast e-mails to "all users". Bottom line--the personal touch goes a long ways. It has been almost 8 years since I left that organization and I still hear from employees about how valued they felt during that time."

Mary Jane Mapes said...

"Hi John, I found your experience with employee recognition to be quite interesting, and certainly supportive of the latest findings by the Conference Board, a highly respected business research organizations of business leaders. With many research organizations weighing in, i.e.Blessing White, Gallup, Towers Perrin, Walker Information, and the Corporate Leadership Council, at least four studies agreed on eight drivers as key factors of employee engagement, but the number one factor was relationship with the manager. In other words, do employees value their relationship with their manager. If they do, employees are much more actively engaged in their work, outperforming disengaged workers by 30 to 28 percent...and show up as safer, more productive, more loyal, and provide better customer service. Although we have not done a study on employee recognition, one of the things that we have our clients create is a Vision Book. In the front of the book, the vision and values of the organization are entered. Then the employees are encouraged to provide feedback to fellow employees whenever they see those employees demonstrating one or more of the stated values. The manager is the first to write in the book and is then to encourage his/her direct reports to do the same. When the manager takes this activity to heart, the response on the part of employees has been phenomenal. For example, in one hospital where we were doing a year long leadership development program, the Director of Housekeeping reported tremendous results on several levels. Communication between shifts improved dramatically. Employees were no longer leaving work for the next shift to do, thus eliminating complaints of work left over from one shift to another. People from each shift began looking for things to do for the upcoming shift so that they'd be complimented on providing exemplary internal service. All this spilled over into more communication between shifts, not only on the pages of the Vision Book, but in face-to-face conversations. People got to know one another better and felt better about working for the organization because they began to see their counterparts as looking out for their best interest. Because the feedback was personal and positive, individuals began looking for things that others did that warranted positive feedback, while at the same time, thinking of things to do to receive more positive feedback for themselves. In a nutshell, the Vision Book that we ask leaders to create, costs nothing and, if embraced by the manager, pays big dividends in terms of improving internal relations, enhancing communication within and between shifts, building morale, and creating higher levels of engagement in the work."

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