HR Learner in Development

Posts Tagged ‘Rewards and Recognition

In putting a Rewards and Recognition system in place, pay special attention to how the system is playing out. Some of what you are doing may be working against your goal.

I have been reading a bit about Talent Management in a book called “Talent Management: Cases and Commentary,” edited by Eddie Blass and published by Palgrave Macmillan. I came across a passage that struck me as being both counter-intuitive and valuable.

I come from a department that has spent a great deal of time rethinking rewards and recognition, finding it something to strive for as a Division, following our strategic objectives.  However, rewarding talent can also have a dark side.  If the rewards structure is built in a way that pits people against eachother, negative cultures can emerge as follows:

1. Mercenary – Money comes before, and often at the expense of, teamwork

2. Networked – This culture is highly politicized and people know how to manipulate and backstab in order to compete internally

3. Performance – This culture is demanding, with no break for the employees who must always hit the right numbers for the bottom line

4. Communal – Everybody wants internal approval and no body wants to rock the boat making th decision process slow and innovation next to non-existant. 

5. Communication – There is little feedback and things may not be done as said.

The goal, therefore, is to find a framework that provides a proper amount of encouragement and support for people to work together towards the greater good of the group.  Above all, if you are trying to implement a successful rewards or recognition program, always remember to make the process transparent and fair so that people can understand the decisions, and perhaps strive to be in the favored group down the road.

Be on the lookout for employees to pack up and leave. Keep your team feeling appreciated and challenged to reduce the risk of mass exodus.

A lot of businesses and organizations have seen an increased number of people willing to stay with the company for longer periods of time over the past year or so. 

As the economy starts to improve and people feel more comfortable with the job market, people are likely to start looking around again.  The challenge of the company to retain these valuable resources, or when all else fails, to find better ways to make their talent’s knowledge transferable.

 Unfortunately for organizations, if they haven’t made steps to retain by this point, they are in serious risk of loosing a good number of employees in the near future.  During a period of recession, it is in the best interest of the company to train and cultivate their talent.  If employees are being retained for longer periods of time, people understand their jobs better, and they understand their role within the company.  The true struggle is for the company to get the employees to buy in to their mission, or even just their benefits.

Several key ways to retain your ‘flight risks’ are to:

1.  Identify potential flight risks – It sounds simple, but identifying the groups that are more prone to leave is a vital part in identifying ways of retaining them. 

2.  Identify the needs of these groups – Whether that be more money, more responsibility, more time off, or what have you, try to glean this information from your talent.

3.  Identify the needs of the company – During the economic realities of today, the company may not  be able to support of the needs of those the company wishes to attain.  However, recognizing the amount of latitude a company’s budget and resources has can really point to what can still be done to reward, recognize, and support that talent group.

4.  Review the strategic goals of the company and the department.  If you don’t know what they are, find out.  If the strategy is poorly defined, clarify and make it strong.  In reviewing the strategies, identify areas which can be enhanced.  Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.  Your company may have had to downsize due to economic hardships over the past few months.  You may be tempted to recreate the same structure when the economy does improve, but don’t.  Realize that you now have solid talent that has been with the company for a good amount of time, most likely performing the same tasks for a long time and more.  Some of these people may now be qualified for a position twice the level they are in currently.  Take advantage of their specialties and their knowledge of the company, and restructure in a way that gives the company a better edge.

5.  Align the needs of the individuals with the strategic goals of the company – While the money might not be in place to move your talent to roles which would meet their career goals and intellectual needs, identifying the potentials and giving them the support that they need to get to that future state now will improve the chances that when the growth can be made, the talent is already in place to move up.

6.  Show them you care – By doing the steps above and more, you will be showing your talent pool that you appreciate them and would like them to continue.

The importance of feedback can not be understated.  Occasional check ins  are necessary for getting on the same page about successes and areas of growth.  I don’t say ‘areas of growth’ as a mistake; the term weakness is avoided on purpose.

The danger of feedback lies in the negative.  The presence of too many negatives drives the appraised to disheartedness and defensiveness, anger and resentment, often resulting in less productive work, missed days, and disengagement, on the extreme end.  Even just a few negatives can bring a relatively positive conversation to the ground.  Done well, however, it can  be motivating.

Therefore it is vital for those giving the feedback to truely understand the art of it.  They need to understand it as a tool for re-establishing expectations and goals, a method of providing praise to successes and support to the challenges.  Framing, attitude, and timing are key.  They

Even done right, negatives are powerful.  If you delivery feedback:

  1. Know the job that you are evaluating well.  Proper preparations should be taken in reviewing a job description and other like documents. 
  2. Discuss positive performance first.  Statistically speaking, the person will remain in a self-affirming mood when going into some of the more touchy subjects.
  3. State observations, and focus on specific incidences of specific behaviors.  There is nothing worse than vague feedback – there is nowhere to go from there, and a feeling of confusion or even resentment can come out of it.
  4. Provide enough time for the employee to defend him or herself, or talk about his or her present concerns.  If need be, use similar techniques for interviews in this meeting.  Wait for answers, and rephrase questions or suggestions if the person is not responsive.
  5. Set goals together, that you both agree on, that would benefit the growth of the individual and the department by extension 
  6. Finally, don’t just let this be the last conversation.  If specific actionable goals were discussed, check back in to see how things are progressing.

If you are being appraised:

  1. Don’t take the appraisal personally.  The appraisal is intended to bring everyone back to the same page. 
  2. Don’t make snap judgements.  Allow the information to sink in a little.  It’s easy to get emotionally defensive of the work that you do, so it may take some reflection to acknowledge the truth in the feedback.
  3. If you have to, vent about it, but not to your boss or co-workers.  Venting to your boss is dangerous for you.  Bringing your negative emotions to your co-workers can possible poisin the work environment.  Present your thoughts to your non-work relations, and ask them to support you and give you suggestions as to better the situation.
  4. If you don’t understand where something is coming from, ask.  Get specifics, and get suggestions how to be more effective in what is being asked of you.
  5. Take a negative feedback session as a wake up call, and a call for growth.   Frankly, if it’s important enough, if  change does not occur your reputation and your job could be on the line so a serious look at these.  So what behaviors do you need to implement or abandon?  Do any of your workplace attitudes need readjusting? 
  6.  If there is someone who is excelling in an area where you are struggling, ask for suggestions. 

I was reading an article in the January-February 2010 edition of the Harvard Business Review called “What Really Motivates Workers,” by Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer when it struck me:  I know expressly what they mean when they say that progress is a motivator that has a force to be reckoned with.

How motivating must it have been for the early pioneers of America to see previously non-existing cities to be connected by previously non-existing railroads? Probably as de-motivating as the struggle it took to get there.

My team members just recently went through the information gathering stages of a new Rewards and Recognitions program for my Division as a means to inch closer to the strategic plans of the Division.  I unfortunately could not be involved due to scheduling issues.  Their research of the current literature has been showing them the importance of these goals, stressing the unlikely positive power of day-to-day recognition.  The research shows, in short, that it is motivating and fulfilling to know that one’s work is being recognized by the group, a superior or a co-worker.

However, Amabile and Kramer make a case for the “power of progress”.   They note that progress had the most noticable impact on mood and motivation over any other event during the course of the day.   Simply put, they write that supervisors can encourage motivation through progress by setting reasonable goals, providing the resources to complete these tasks, protecting employees from irrelevant demands, and allowing enough time.  The inverse indicates blocks to progress – indecisiveness, holding up resources, changing goals, and a short time limit. 

This research seems to correlate with my own experience with creating reports.  Now, part of the nature of my job is operating under certain time constraints.  Therefore, the perception of time in the following examples remains constant, where tight deadlines create the impression that small roadblocks are large setbacks. 

One week I was tasked with creating a report for my supervisor.  He told me to have it completed asap.  He told me what he wanted verbally, and then he ran off to a meeting.  I therefore was working under a tight timeframe, with unclear guidelines, and I had to wait on other people to get a clear picture of the scope of the project.  It was both frustrating and de-motivating when, after I had spent a good deal of time on it, was told that one aspect had been an inaccurate account due to information I was never given.  In the end, I had to stay late to get it up to standard.

On the other hand, I was also tasked with creating a report for an employee in another department which needed to be ready for a meeting she was having with the Dean, ie head honcho of the Division.  Information was requested through email.  I thought I had all the information I needed when I told my supervisor what I was spending my time on.  When he found out, he was upset that I had been given a report of this magnitude with very little resources.  He decided he would get clarification for the report, and while that resulted in me having to rework what I had done, it also meant I had him working with me, collaboratively, to reach a solution that worked.  He was able to provide me the right resources, protect me from the unwieldy demands of someone who I was not working directly under, and he was even able to push the deadline back  a little bit because he was aware of what the report would be used for. 

All in all, I felt much more motivated in the second instance, even though both reports required reworking and edits.  The elements of information sharing and collaboration really made a huge difference in the end result.  It made me more able, and more willing, to do similar reports.  The dread that followed the first instance melted away with the second. 

So if you are in a supervisory role, be aware of not just what you assign, but how you assign it and how you follow-up.  Make sure that the task is:

  1. Clear
  2. Supported
  3. Relevant
  4. Within reasonable time constraints

Positive experiences should follow.  When it does, be sure to recognize milestone worthy progress.  Recognition and progress combine to create a wonderful motivational trophy to carry into the future.