Explore our library of in-depth culture guides to help you design and build a thriving workplace culture
Engaged employees are highly motivated and move your organization forward because their needs are being met, they have a sense of belonging, and they know their wellbeing matters. Interestingly, there is a significant correlation between employee recognition and employee engagement – recognition boosts employee engagement and contributes to mental wellbeing.
When was the last time you took a pulse check of how your employees are feeling? For HR leaders, it’s critical to have a sense of where your employee sentiment stands, and how to get ahead of it before it’s too late. The key to improving sentiment and wellbeing in your workplace is being aware of it, not just through an annual survey, but through constant information gathering.
An article published by the MIT Sloan School of Management describes seven steps to making employee wellness and wellbeing a priority in your organization, and the first step is talking to your employees. This may sound simple, but having the right channel is critical. Hosting an event or a meeting to generate discussions may not be the perfect solution to truly understanding what your employees need. Sometimes a simple and anonymous channel works best, and is more inclusive, especially with a distributed workforce.
Collecting feedback anonymously through a sentiment survey allows you to track how employees as a group are feeling over time, and also creates a safe space for anonymous individual feedback. This provides invaluable information that can help you to improve the quality of your employee experience. Leaders can learn how their employees are doing, and employees have an outlet to share what they’re experiencing.
Most organizations understand the importance of employee wellbeing – but how do we measure it? Giving your employees access to a tool where they can share their needs is one way to gather valuable insights into your employee sentiment. Regularly surveying your employees allows you to build a sentiment index, allowing you to track trends over time. The goal of an employee sentiment survey is to uncover specific and actionable insights about your team’s happiness and wellbeing, so that you can take informed steps to improve it.
Technology like the Kudos recognition platform is making it easier than ever for employees to openly communicate with their organization. For employers, it’s all about having easy access to digestible data that helps them to:
For those employers that want access to deeper insights on employee wellness, the first step is properly gathering information. Using a tool where employees can submit anonymous feedback on their wellbeing that then translates that feedback into easy-to-read data and analytics is an excellent way to get started.
Giving feedback shouldn’t be time-consuming or difficult for your team. If employees need to go out of their way to provide their thoughts, they simply won’t do it. As important as it is to encourage your employees to provide feedback, it’s equally important to make it easy and convenient to do so.
Adding emoji reactions, ratings and comment options is a great way for employees to quickly check-in with how they’re doing. Keep in mind that anonymity can be crucial when asking employees for feedback. Keeping responses anonymous is less invasive, increases the number of participants, and can help to instill trust with your employees. You’ll also get more accurate data.
Regularly asking employees for feedback with a short sentiment survey, for example, adds to your employee experience without it feeling like an interruption. With the data collected, your organization can begin to prioritize the changes your employees are seeking.
There is nothing worse than being asked for feedback and seeing nothing come of it. This is critical. If you ask your employees to be open and vulnerable about their wellbeing (even anonymously) you have to address the concerns or ideas for improvement they provide.
Once you have the data, look for common threads to identify potential issues with your employee experience. The goal is to make the necessary improvements that address the feedback you’ve received, and the sentiment trends you’re evaluating. It’s important to be prepared for negative feedback or seeing data that is showing a decline in employee wellbeing. What’s important is that your organization uses these insights to move forward with a strategic plan to enhance your employee experience.
Conducting an employee sentiment survey is a step in the right direction in showing employees you care about their wellbeing. How your organization changes to improve your overall employee experience is the path that will positively impact your people, and your business.
Culture has the power to influence many aspects of your organization’s operations. That’s because workplace culture is part of everything an organization does. From policies and procedures to your company’s values and beliefs. So, what exactly is workplace culture, and how can recognition create a workplace culture that will flourish?
Culture is a hot topic these days, especially surrounding discussions on remote work and many organizations returning to office-based work. At its core, workplace culture is the shared values, behaviours, and goals of the organization.
Workplace culture is the foundation of the unique identity your organization needs to stand out from the rest. Like employer branding, workplace culture has the power to attract top talent and build stronger relationships with your clients. Think of workplace culture as your organization’s personality and unique traits.
Culture and employer branding go hand in hand. While employer branding focuses on how prospective employees will see your organization while looking for a job, workplace culture is what will ultimately make them stay.
By now, most organizations understand that workplace culture can bring benefits such as better communication between teams, enhanced trust between employees and higher efficiency.
In fact, according to a Deloitte study, 94% of executives think of culture as a vital component to business success. What’s more, when looking at successful organizations around the globe, you’ll notice they all have one thing in common: a strong workplace culture.
A strategic workplace culture built by design (versus by default) is important because it will influence your employees by creating a better sense of belonging. Employees that feel like they belong and bring their authentic selves to work, influence organizational performance.
“Millennial turnover costs the US economy $30.5 billion annually” (Gallup Report, 2022)
With millennials voluntarily leaving their jobs at a drastic rate, it’s never been more important to analyse what’s working and what needs improvement.
Millennial workers – the largest working generation today, are different from previous generations in that if they don’t like the culture, they will leave for a new employer. Moreover, a likeable culture needs to be genuine – it must reflect your organization’s values and ideals.
Now that we know why culture is so important, and why it has become so top of mind in the last few years, how can you define it and make it stronger?
Leadership plays a big role in how workplace culture is developed and evolves. It’s demonstrated that when employees take pride in the workplace culture they share, everyone wins. Employees want their needs to be met, but they also want to know the work they do is appreciated. By recognizing and adapting, employers that strive towards a positive workplace culture will thrive.
Let’s get this question out of the way: Who doesn’t love having options? More importantly, what’s worth understanding is that people have different tastes and opinions. After all, what you like or enjoy might be the opposite of the person sitting next to you. This is especially true when it comes to recognition. Authors Gary Chapman and Paul White spoke to this in their book, 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.
At Kudos, we believe that recognition is the key to a happy team and stronger workplace culture. And while we are passionate about regular, meaningful peer-to-peer recognition, we also know people might prefer a more extensive celebration for their hard work and accomplishments. Let’s go back to the beginning: Who doesn’t love having options?
Recognition can take many different forms and being able to recognize your team in a variety of ways is what we’re all about.
Employee Nominations allow leadership and peers to identify a colleague who meets specific criteria. After a reviewing process, a significant reward is granted.
Now, as you probably already know, nominations are a small piece to a bigger solution. At Kudos, we’d like to think of nominations as an added feature to your recognition strategy and not as a one-size-fits-all.
So, why is it important to consider a nominations program in 2022? If you like history as much as I do, this next section is for you.
During the American industrial revolution, plenty of innovative ideas to improve productivity and efficiency were introduced. One of those innovative ideas came from Frederick W. Taylor, who created Scientific Management Theory. Taylor spent many years figuring out a way to keep productivity levels high.
By watching his employees very closely and taking notes, Taylor would then analyse and remove any unnecessary steps to their workflow, making their job more straightforward. His idea was simple but significant - overworked employees won’t perform as well.
Additionally, Taylor realized the simple promise that his best employees would have a job the following day wasn’t enough to keep them motivated. So, after a close review, Taylor would categorize the type of work his employees were doing, he then selected the top performers and rewarded them with higher salaries. This selection process can be considered the first nominations flow to ever exist in a work environment. Taylor understood very early that the cost of hiring a new employee would impact the productivity and overall prosperity of his organization’s culture.
Although nowadays we know that money isn’t a long-term solution to keep employees motivated, Taylor’s innovative approach to an employee’s experience, showed us that being able to meet the demand of top performers can lead to better retention and help increase your organization’s productivity. And that, has not changed.
With Taylor’s approach in place, methods to keep employees motivated became more prevalent. Programs such as Employee of the Month (EOTM) and President’s Club are clear examples of that. Employees who have received this recognition in the past still rank it as some of the most memorable recognition they’ve ever received.
Why? Because it’s exclusive, appreciates their hard work and commitment to the organization, and singles them out as a high performer.
However, years of learning about what makes a healthy work-environment tells us that a solo nomination program for the Presidents Club or EOTM can often be seen as “out of reach” and doesn’t motivate employees to strive for this recognition. Kudos has lots of ideas to support you here, and when it comes to nominations, we recommend creating a diverse nomination strategy. After all, Taylor observed his employees and top performers, plural. Nothing stops you from creating nomination programs, plural, that highlights the multiple types of behaviours and skills that drives your success.
Here are some points we recommend when creating your diverse nomination strategy:
Having a consistent and diverse recognition program in your organization is a solid strategy to improve employee productivity and retention – giving your organization a competitive edge. Adding a nomination program or two is just one of the ways you can strengthen your strategy and Kudos is here to help you.
In a rapidly evolving business world, there’s no exact recipe for what makes a workplace great. Amidst a global pandemic, the Great Resignation, a looming recession and continuously evolving technology – building a robust workplace culture is more important now than ever.
When people are asked, “what makes your workplace great”, the typical responses you’ll get are: high pay, good health benefits, vacation time, and other office perks like gym access, ping pong tables, and free snacks.
Today's employees expect most of those items as the bare minimum in terms of workplace perks and benefits. Offering free snacks and staff parties is no longer a competitive driver to making your organization a great workplace. Companies that are ahead of the culture curve know to look for deeper answers to this question, like: “feeling valued,” “a sense of community,” “employee well-being," and “opportunities to grow”.
We know recognition is a leading driver in retention, productivity and innovation, but understanding the impact of recognition culture on the overall employee experience is the shift organizations need to make to gain a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining top talent.
In a culture of recognition, employees know their company values them and their contributions to the success of their organization. A culture of recognition builds trust and security, and employees are more motivated to continue doing great work. Recognition consistently emerges in studies on improving workplace culture and has proven to be a primary driver in engaging and motivating employees to do their best.
It also reminds employees they are integral to building and living the company’s core values. With effective recognition, employees understand their accomplishments within the context of something greater. So, even when the company is going through changes, employees feel secure and content with the value they bring.
“Globally, employee engagement and wellbeing remain very low, and it’s holding back enormous growth potential” (Gallup Report, 2022).
Employers need to move away from the traditional thinking that engagement happens at work and wellbeing happens at home. Engaged employees are highly involved and are moving the organization forward because their needs are being met, they have a sense of belonging, and they know their wellbeing matters. Disengaged employees are psychologically unattached to their work, or worse, are resentful and reactive because their needs are not being met.
Gallup’s 2022 State of the Global Workplace Report asks: Are your employees thriving, struggling or suffering? Companies with engaged workers (thriving) have 23% higher profit compared to companies with unhappy workers (struggling or suffering). When employees are engaged and thriving, they experience significantly lower stress, and this plays a massive role in their responsibilities at work and outside of work.
There is a significant correlation between employee recognition and employee engagement – recognition boosts employee engagement and contributes to mental wellbeing. In fact, the absence of recognition can lead to the deterioration of an employee’s psychological health and, ultimately, their performance. Employee wellbeing is not just “health benefits” and “time off”; it’s providing a promise and a commitment to your employees that you take their wellbeing seriously.
Let’s go back to the question: “what makes a great workplace?”. Implementing an employee recognition platform isn’t the whole solution – making recognition an extension of your core values, your talent strategy, and a regular habit within your organization is the key. So, how do you build a culture of recognition?
You can learn more on how to build a culture of recognition and drive your organization's performance in our Recognition Done Right Culture Guide.
Your employees are your greatest asset – you need to foster an environment where they can thrive versus just seeing them as "workers." Employees want to be part of a workplace that unlocks their full potential by being invested in them as a whole person, recognizing them for their achievements, and valuing them as part of a positive workplace culture. When you make meaningful recognition part of your company’s culture, you are unlocking an advantage and leading the way for what can truly make a workplace great.
Most people have an idea of what they want their life to look like at a certain age. Work anniversaries prompt employees to reflect on their career, and job-hunting tends to spike due to people assessing their career and making a change if they’re unhappy. Milestones offer a great way to celebrate and acknowledge every individual in your organization, however, implementing other milestones into your recognition program can help reduce employee turnover and strengthen retention.
Work anniversaries shouldn’t be limited to 5 years, 10 years, etc. as is the case with many traditional programs. These days, the average person only stays at their organization for approximately 4 years. Recognize every year of an employee’s commitment and don’t limit it to years of service. Other important milestones to consider include completing onboarding training, achieving more education or certifications, learning a new software tool...all of these are important and often massive contributions to people reaching new career goals or life achievements.
While celebrating a work anniversary shows you value your employee’s dedication, celebrating a birthday or other milestones demonstrates taking a personal interest in your employee’s lives. A Great Place to Work survey had 37% of respondents say that more personal recognition would encourage them to produce better work.
We know employee recognition helps retain talent, increase engagement and encourage higher performance, but understanding the impact of recognition culture on the overall employee experience provokes many growth opportunities. Employees who feel consistently recognized at their place of work are two times more likely to embrace innovative thinking and are willing to go above and beyond in their work. Recognition consistently emerges in studies on improving workplace culture and has proven to be a primary driver in motivating employees to do their best.
It’s important to define your employee lifecycle – what are the various stages your employees will experience in your organization? The average employee lifecycle has 11 stages, all of which recognition can play an important role. Defining the celebratory moments in each stage will help you structure your employee milestone program, and ensure it stays consistent and contributes to your culture of recognition.
Your employee milestone program should have:
Kudos has the tools to make your employee milestone program a culture success. Having an automated system like Kudos to keep your employee milestone program organized and up to date makes giving everyday recognition easy and simple.
Celebrating milestones is only one form of recognition, and it’s important to remember that employee recognition should be regular and meaningful. Recognition is essential in creating a lasting company culture that values its employees' contributions, dedication and celebrates successes, no matter how big or small.
For much of the world, the pandemic is far from over. Navigating this ever-changing landscape can feel disorienting, to say the least. Yet, many organizational leaders have utilized this time to learn from their past misdirection, and thrive on unfamiliar, new, and exciting ideas.
Retaining valuable talent is essential not only to keep your organization on track, but also to explore untravelled avenues.
“Nearly one in four workers (23%) say they are actively trying to change their job and/or move into another industry that they believe is more future-proof.” – ADP Research Institute, People at Work 2022
The script has flipped from “what can people do for the organization” to “what can the organization do for its people.” Companies that follow this new script are attracting more talent and holding onto them for longer.
To know what makes people want to stay with a company, it’s helpful to know first what makes them leave.
People need to feel fundamentally supported; this starts with comprehensive diversity, equity, and inclusion policies. Many people leave jobs because their employer isn’t meeting this bare minimum, let alone building inclusive culture strategies or sharing educational resources throughout the company.
ADP recently published an outline of current sentiments echoed by workers around the world, People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View.
The report shows that 76% of the global workforce, “would consider looking for a new job if they discovered their company had an unfair gender pay gap or no diversity and inclusion policy.” – ADP Research Institute, People at Work 2022
More notable findings:
“Employers’ strategies could also benefit from encompassing how to support and champion neurodiversity, such as dyslexia or autism, among the workforce.” – ADP Research Institute, People at Work 2022
The impulse to change jobs for a more future-proof career path is growing. Employees have higher expectations because they want to feel secure in rapidly changing, uncertain times.
Just like your company, employees want to be at the leading edge of their fields — push the envelope, think outside of the box, and create something they’re proud of. Yet, they don’t want to sign themselves up for burnout and impossible performance standards.
“For the one in 10 who are not satisfied with their current employment, almost half (49%) say it is due to being given increased responsibility for no extra pay.” – ADP Research Institute, People at Work 2022
More notable findings:
The JD-R Model, created by researchers Arnold Bakker and Evangelia Demerouti in 2006, is a different way to represent, measure, and ultimately improve employee well-being. It splits working conditions into two categories: job demands and job resources.
Job demands are the physical and emotional stressors of someone’s role. Job resources are the physical, social, and organizational resources that reduce the stress of someone’s role.
“The JD-R Model states that when job demands are high and job positives are low, stress and burnout are common. Conversely, good job positives can offset the effects of extreme job demands, and encourage motivation and engagement.” – Mind Tools Content Team, The JD-R Model Analyzing and Improving Well-Being
Promisingly, the JDR model can give leaders clarity on turnover risk before it’s too late. Oftentimes, leaders only gain this clarity after a valuable employee leaves.
With the JDR model, if someone’s job demands far outweigh the resources available to them, employers have measurable information they can act on.
At the end of the day, people work to feed families, pay bills, and improve their quality of life. Competitive salaries can give someone more freedom to do so, but maybe they’re looking for a more sincere incentive. People want to be part of a community where their creativity isn’t limited, and they can bring their authentic selves to work.
Daily recognition is a powerful engagement incentive, whether your company has the capacity to offer competitive salaries or not. In several cases, smaller companies set themselves apart from competitors by building a transparent, collaborative, and supportive culture.
“More than half (53%) would accept a pay cut if it meant improving their work-life balance, and a similar proportion (50%) would take a pay cut to guarantee flexibility in how they structure their hours – even if it meant the total hours worked did not change.” – ADP Research Institute, People at Work 2022
At Kudos, we value happiness. Of course, we don’t expect our employees to be happy 100% of the time, but we support them in their pursuit of happiness. And we are dedicated to eliminating any obstacles in their way.
Valuing your employee’s psychological well-being is integral to improving their sense of belonging. Especially considering the large portion of the workforce struggling with their mental health:
Effective remote leaders seem to have a better handle on the “people-first” approach. In virtual environments, leaders need to be intentional and creative about connecting with their teams. In-office leaders don’t have the same physical and technological barriers to overcome, so they are often less proactive about connecting with their employees.
"Only one in 11 remote workers (9%) say their employer is not doing anything proactively to promote positive mental health at work, as opposed to around one in three (34%) of those in the workplace.” – ADP Research Institute, People at Work 2022
That said, feeling truly connected in any environment takes dedication, thoughtfulness, and compassion.
For many, working at home can contribute to their stress. Maybe they’re juggling parenthood, a tense roommate dynamic, or any number of distractions in their home life. But, when employers extend their support to remote workers the “out-of-office” benefits shine through.
Alternative working models support the future-proof trajectory people want to be on. Workplaces that offer remote or flexible opportunities are more likely to keep their valued members on board:
To keep people around, invest in a working style that complements their lifestyle. Otherwise, they will leave to find a better match.
The truth is, that talented people leave great jobs for nuanced reasons. Thoughtful employee recognition strategies can address these nuances, remind people of their unique worth, and support their individuality. Peer-to-peer recognition makes people feel appreciated, valued, and irreplaceable.
Change is inevitable, but companies that intentionally build positive relationships with their employees also build a positive legacy. And should anyone have to leave your company, they will take that legacy with them.
So, be a company that’s great to work for, and to be from.
In today’s ever-changing job market, a strong employer brand will set your organization apart. It will help you compete with companies that are offering the same roles, same benefits and even the same compensation as you. In times when people basically can choose to work at any company, anywhere in the world, your organization’s employer brand is what will ultimately attract top talent.
What’s important to understand is that employer branding shouldn’t just fall on the Human Resources department’s shoulders. Branding is a marketing concept and as such, the marketing department must actively collaborate with the HR team for the strategy to work.
Simply put, employer branding is the way your organization manages how current employees and potential candidates perceive you as an employer.
However, employer branding also influences how your clients see your brand. When a brand has a reputation of not treating its employees well, clients or consumers won’t want to do business with it. There are plenty benefits an organization will start to see with the development of a great employer brand. Let’s dive into it!
Now that we know the benefits of a great employer brand, it’s time to figure out who should oversee employer branding at your organization, HR or Marketing?
As the war for talent continues, employer branding has created the need for the two departments to collaborate more than ever before. In fact, a LinkedIn survey says HR professionals acknowledge that recruitment is becoming more like marketing.
The answer is that it should be a team effort. Employer branding is about creating a culture of happy employees and eager prospects who dream of working for you. It’s about listening to, and measuring employee referrals, both formal, and informal. When someone is so happy to work at your organization, they will tell all their family and friends about your brand.
Employer branding needs a strong culture where employees are in the spotlight; their stories, their achievements, and their wellbeing. Adding a people-point-of-view to your employer branding will generate better candidates, contributing to better culture. Employer branding and culture go hand in hand.
But how can you take your employer brand from good to great?
Building an employer brand is a long-term culture strategy that will pay big dividends. While the task may seem daunting, remember that you already have an employer brand – the key is to make sure people are experiencing your workplace the way you want them to, and the way that will drive business results in the future.
Why People-First HR Strategies are the Future
The Great Resignation is still hanging over our heads, and many economists predict a recession.
Toxic corporate culture is 10 times more important in predicting employee turnover than compensation, yet many organizations don’t have strategies to purposefully improve culture. Even worse, the topic of culture is often ignored or considered “out of management’s hands.”
While some employers wait for culture to form organically, their employees are left to fulfill unclear expectations without feedback or support.
People should never feel stuck in an exhaustive cycle with no affirmation that they are headed in the right direction. They should feel valued, recognized, and motivated to take initiative in what they do best. Many organizations are realizing that today’s job searchers are no longer settling for anything less.
Companies need dedicated, creative, and people-focused solutions to keep up with a transforming workforce.
Positive intentions produce positive results
Your company’s culture is shaped by shared experiences and expectations. It influences the way people think, feel, and behave in the workplace. If created with the right intentions, culture can provide a sense of identity, and increase employee commitment to your organization’s values.
A culture built by design, not by default, is critical. And while everyone shares the responsibility of keeping it healthy, more and more companies are leaning on HR professionals.
Focused People and Culture strategies are becoming more popular, because they authentically strengthen the relationship between organizations and the people who work tirelessly to keep them running.
“We’re really focused on treating our own employees as if they are customers of the People and Culture team. We want them to have a good experience with our company.” – Carter Bergen, People Advisor at Kudos.
Why HR strategies need to transform
MIT Sloan Management Review identifies five attributes of a toxic company culture: disrespectful, noninclusive, unethical, cutthroat, and abusive.
Being consistently disrespected at work is soul-crushing.
When someone’s self-worth is repeatedly attacked, they lose confidence in their skills. They feel increasingly out of place and decide they don’t belong – before their employer decides for them.
According to the research highlight, a lack of respect in the workplace was “the single strongest predictor of how employees as a whole rated the corporate culture.”
Too often, employee voice is discussed in universal terms. Lumping everyone together denies important diversities, and further silences marginalized voices.
Organizations that fail to address the specific barriers their employees face based on race, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or age create a toxic climate of silence.
“Climates of silence exist when powerful systemic forces create organizational silence — widely shared perceptions that speaking up is not worth the effort or is downright dangerous.” – Voice, silence, and diversity in 21century organizations
A company that sweeps dishonesty under the rug encourages the same behaviour from their employees. On the other hand, a company with clear moral and ethical standards encourages a culture of accountability and trust.
In a cutthroat environment, recognition is achieved by sabotaging others – not uplifting them. Unhealthy amounts of competition create unstable corporate cultures and diminish everyone’s sense of belonging.
An organization’s culture is led by example. If leadership is hostile, demeaning, and abusive to their staff – they can’t expect company culture to be any better.
“The most frequently mentioned hostile behaviors in our sample are bullying, yelling, or shouting at employees, belittling or demeaning subordinates, verbally abusing people, and condescending or talking down to employees.” - MIT Sloan Management Review, Why Every Leader Needs to Worry About Toxic Culture
Generally, toxic cultures prioritize corporate-performance results at the expense of people. Traditional policy-focused HR strategies support these priorities.
People focused strategies achieve the same performance results as traditional HR strategies, if not better, by prioritizing well-being.
“Traditionally, HR is there to protect the company. Although that’s still true for a People and Culture team, I think our focus is more on enabling the organization to be the best they can be – through the power of people.” – Carter Bergen, People Advisor at Kudos
The Power of People: Why dedicated culture strategies are on the rise
Obviously, people-focused strategies are still strategies by nature. It’s how you communicate the strategy that makes a positive difference in culture.
People and Culture teams value happiness and transparency. Simply, treating people like people promotes open lines of communication; this is how you reach the heart of the problems people struggle with in the office: stress, burnout, excessive performance standards, work-life imbalance, and so on.
“Transparency helps people feel genuinely connected to the company. I think it also encourages people to feel like they have a stake — they can leave their DNA and their fingerprints by making suggestions.” – Carter Bergen, People Advisor at Kudos
People want to feel fulfilled by their work; like they have a purpose. They don’t want to show up purely out of obligation.
A People and Culture team that truly cares for their employees, values transparent communication, and supports their employees instead of testing them will do wonders for retention and engagement. While this is true, everyone in the company needs to understand and align with the People and Culture teams’ mission — or else there will be friction.
Specifically, leadership needs to be on board with building more sustainable working environments. People-focused strategies encourage more earnest, intentional, and positive company-wide relationships. Strong foundational relationships like these are extremely valuable to your organization in the long term. A company’s culture can only take shape from there.
Creating a healthy culture is “a heavy lift. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth it. And you’ll see that in the results.” – Carter Bergen, People Advisor with Kudos, recently recognized as a Best Place to Work by HRD Canada.
HR teams are evolving even beyond title changes, and so are the tools and technologies that support their growth. Recognition platforms like Kudos support the future of HR by empowering everyone within the organization through peer-to-peer recognition.
Simple and sincere recognition plays a pivotal role in your plan to create a healthier culture. Change is hard, but change is good – especially when it comes to your most valuable asset.
Employees have been through a lot these past few years.
Most recently, in addition to the regular pressures of everyday work life, today’s employees are coping with several difficult external circumstances (recession, inflation, supply chain issues, global uncertainty). For many, today’s uncertain times are contributing to increasing levels of stress – which can have far reaching implications for your company. In particular, with the Great Recession of 2008 still fresh in the memories of many employees, fears of layoffs, financial hardship, and general economic uncertainty could soon be impacting employee mental health and wellbeing.
The good news is that by following some key guidelines you can help your organization successfully navigate this unpredictable era.
Uncertainty, Stress and Productivity
Cutbacks and the fear of a recession cause employees to feel insecure about their jobs, causing stress. Feeling stressed is a factor in lower productivity.
Let your employees know where they stand. By recognizing their contributions regularly, you’re telling them they are seen, they are appreciated, and they are safe. Now is the time to ramp up recognition.
Even in more stable times, employee stress is a major contributor to reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, presenteeism, as well as high turnover. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 American workers have quit a job because of stress related issues.
Stress is also associated with higher accident rates, higher injury rates, and more days taken off for doctor visits.
And regardless of how your company is affected by worsening macroeconomic conditions, studies have shown a “clear negative effect of general unemployment on subjective wellbeing among the employed”. One study focused on the recession of 2008 showed that 55 percent of employees felt that their workplace had become more stressful during that time. A large part of this has to do with a perception of insecurity which is fueled by increased unemployment – even if that increase is occurring outside one’s own company.
In other words, being exposed to the negative effects of a recession makes everyone uneasy – not just about unemployment, but also about the potential for unfair treatment.
Interestingly – employee productivity can increase during a downturn. During the Great Recession of 2008, some studies actually showed an increase in worker productivity resulting from increased effort – in part because “When the alternatives are poorer, say because job search is less likely to result in success, it is optimal for a worker to respond with increased effort.”
On the surface, this might sound like a benefit to employers. However, with that increased effort comes the increased potential for burnout – another major concern when it comes to the impact of stress on employees.
“When an employee’s work is recognized, the likelihood that he/she will experience stress is lowered by 22.1%, whereas if his/her work is not, it rises by 16.7%. - BioMed Research International
By recognizing employee contributions and acknowledging the impact of their efforts, employers are able to directly – and dramatically – reduce the negative effects of stress on employees. Recognition can provide certainty and reassurance for employees who are feeling uneasy due to the volatility of the times. This reduction in stress can translate in turn to lowered turnover, absenteeism and more productivity.
Uncertain times demand transparency, open communication and a crystal clear focus on core values.
Whether you have had to make cutbacks or slow your growth, organizations need to do everything in their power to ensure that they maintain a reputation as an employer worth working for - because eventually, they'll be hiring again. For example, at the outset of the pandemic, there were several high-profile stories about leaders callously letting hundreds of employees go without warning, context, or clarity. This lack of transparency (and humanity) can permanently damage a company’s reputation, hobbling future efforts to grow and expand, and potentially causing irreparable harm to consumer (or investor) confidence.
The unfortunate reality that many companies have to face during an economic downturn is that growth will slow – and in many cases there could be cutbacks. Regardless of your situation, maintaining clear, thoughtful and open communication is absolutely essential and will have a lasting impact.
Critically, even when companies are forced to downsize, employees that remain have been shown to benefit immensely from that clarity of communication. One study noted that “employees who felt that the downsizing process was fair, and that communication was open and honest, reported fewer medical symptoms, lower survivor syndrome, and more job security than their counterparts [at other similarly affected companies].
An extremely powerful part of maintaining clarity of communication during times of economic upheaval is demonstrating commitment to core values. In showing that the organization is “walking the walk” with respect to core values, companies can provide employees with a tangible sense of stability, as well as a shared sense of purpose to help guide them through troubling times. To learn more about the importance of core values, check out our webinar on how to How to Drive Employee Performance Through Core Values.
When the future is unclear, it’s more important than ever to understand how your employees are feeling, and to be able to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of your workplace culture.
In this article, we’ve looked at a set of tools that companies can use to help mitigate some of the impact of economic uncertainty: reducing stress through recognition, living and demonstrating one’s core values, and maintaining open and caring communication between leadership and employees.
In and of themselves, these methods are absolutely essential – but without a way to measure the well-being and strength of a culture, leaders can only guess as to whether their efforts are succeeding.
Tools like Kudos, who’s proprietary, recognition-first approach to employee engagement provides clients with a clear view into the health of their culture, the performance of their employees, and allows them to gauge how connected employees are to the core values of the organization.
Though nobody wants to experience the negative side of an economic slump, by following the basic guidelines laid out in this article, companies have the opportunity to prove their character, and in doing so build loyalty and trust with their employees, their customers, and their stakeholders.
Kudos can help you build and maintain your culture, and keep your employees focused during what many experts believe is an imminent recession. Get in touch today to learn how.
Let’s face it, your leadership style can be hard to define, yet it’s a question you’ve probably been asked in a job interview. That’s because leadership style is one of the best ways to determine whether someone will be a good cultural fit (or cultural add).
Servant leadership is one approach that’s gaining popularity in all types of organizations. Here’s a mini guide to the concept to help demystify this trend.
Servant leaders have a serve-first mindset. They ask how they can serve their employees, instead of micromanaging or imposing on them. They unlock the employee’s potential and creativity and let them run with projects because they trust them. That is key – to become a servant leader, you must trust your employees.
The history of servant leadership
Before we explore the many benefits servant leadership can bring to your organization, it’s important to acknowledge that this isn’t a new concept. In fact, it's been around for centuries as a philosophy.
The term servant leadership came from Robert K. Greenleaf’s 1970 essay ‘The Servant as a Leader’. In this essay, Greenleaf introduces several ideals, philosophies and values that revisit the main role of a leader in a modern organization.
However, while Greenleaf revitalized the concept of servant leadership, he didn’t create it. The philosophy itself is considered ancient history. Historical figures such as Jesus of Nazareth, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. are examples of servant leadership in practice. But in fact, servant leadership could be brought back even further. Let’s journey back to 600 B.C to ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu when he said: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
Now that we know that servant leadership is a concept that has existed for a while, let’s get into its key differentiators from the traditional approach.
What’s a traditional approach?
“Traditional leadership is more about what the employee can do for the organization,” says Michelle Thomas, Director, Development & Architecture at Kudos. “You are a cog in the machine to earn the money, and they want to know what you’re doing to help earn those dollars. Traditional leaders will consider if you are worth keeping or if you’re actually an expense for the organization.”
“Servant leadership is the complete opposite,” she continues. “It’s what can we do for you to make you happy, so you are a happy, productive member of this organization because the most productive teams are the happiest teams. The teams I’ve led that were collaborative, and happy - the teams that would have a good time together - those were the best teams and the highest performing,” says Thomas.
Servant leaders know that a motivated employee will bring better results to the organization. They use their skills and position to help individuals complete their tasks with ease. They provide the tools to employees to stay motivated and engaged, while also going above and beyond to better the person rather than the “employee.” This includes their mental health, physical health, and career development. For example, chances are that your employees already know how things work in your organization. So, why not take that into consideration and instead of telling them what to do or how to do it, you ask them “How can I help you make your job less stressful?” Once you switch it up and listen to them, you’ll be left with a better boss-employee relationship.
Now that we know what key differences exist between traditional and servant leadership, let’s focus on benefits any organization will see by having and supporting servant leaders, especially organizations doing it on a larger scale.
Now that we’ve explored the many benefits, let’s dive into successful organizations that are currently using this fascinating leadership method.
What do Marriott International, Starbucks, Google and Whole Foods have in common? They are all applying a servant leadership approach in their day-to-day operations. Whether it’s to offer you the best possible stay away from home or to help you decide on how to season your thanksgiving turkey, organizations across the globe have started to realize that in order to keep talent, they need to empower and recognize employees for what they do.
Google, for instance, knows that when employees feel appreciated, the clients will benefit. Google understands that perks and recognition are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a must. The technological giant’s CEO makes sure to set up calls with all teams, creating a better relationship between employees and leadership.
Starbucks has been working on culture for decades. The largest coffee chain in the world has made sure to treat customers like celebrities, and it’s not a coincidence that every employee working there treats you that way.
Howard Schultz, former president of Starbucks, worked hard on employee engagement. Schultz created forums where employees had the opportunity to speak up. He had realized early on that the way leaders treat employees will directly impact on how employees treat the customers.
Marriott International walks the talk; besides being a world leader in the hotel industry, Marriott is a place where employees can enjoy free education, mentorship and the opportunity to move up within the organization. In fact, many general managers at Marriott started as hourly workers. Marriott embraces key Servant Leadership values; the business isn’t just about the guests – they make it mainly about the employees.
Whole Foods and John Mackey’s leadership: according to the cofounder and CEO of this $17 billion corporation, leaders are made, not born. They are made by practicing, says Mackey, who understands that if a leader wants to see results, they need to put the people first.
By using Servant Leadership conviction, Mackey has proved that a leader can be strong and caring at the same time.
Let’s look at key attributes you will need to develop:
Servant Leadership goes beyond a style of leadership, it is a mindset. Building a relationship with your team that goes beyond the “what are you working on?” will help you cultivate the culture you want at your organization.
As Michelle Thomas from Kudos says, “make sure that your people are happy, they have what they need to be fulfilled at work. It’s not just a job to them. They want to know that they’re contributing, making a difference, and to me, that’s what servant leadership is all about.”
Think about a time when a friend or family member said “thank you” for helping them. It may have made you feel appreciated and motivated to do more for them – this same concept applies equally in the workplace.
When employees feel appreciated, they become motivated to do more and better quality work. For customer-facing employees, that means providing an experience that clients appreciate and remember. Studies show that companies with at least 50% employee engagement retain more than 80% of their customers. That is the impact of employee recognition.
“There’s no CEO on the planet who’s responsible for the customer. They’re just not. They’re responsible for the people who are responsible for the people who are responsible for the customer.” -Simon Sinek
Employee recognition describes any formal or informal acknowledgment of an employee’s contributions to a team or organization’s success. It can come from a peer, direct report, manager, or leader.
Organizations approach employee recognition in different ways. Some do it in more informal ways: a shout-out during a meeting, on social media, or through the company’s intranet; thank-you notes, or an employee lunch. Others are using robust employee recognition platforms like Kudos to streamline the process and make sure everyone benefits.
Employee recognition matters because it directly impacts critical aspects of the organization. Several studies have shown that employee recognition is a powerful driver of retention, productivity, and motivation. For example, let’s consider the following facts:
When structured efficiently, recognition can reinforce a company’s organizational values, which in turn helps to keep employees aligned with their objectives and their coworkers.
“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” – Stephen Covey
Customer service teams play a crucial role in driving profitability in many industries, such as retail, hospitality, food service, and technology. According to PwC’s Future of Customer Experience Survey, 73% of customers agree that customer experience is central to their purchasing decisions. Among U.S. customers, 65% find a positive customer experience more influential than great advertising.
Therefore, you need employees – especially those in customer-facing roles – to prioritize customer satisfaction by offering “speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service.” These employees assist customers by anticipating concerns, preparing solutions, responding quickly, and going above and beyond to ensure that customers are satisfied.
Consistently and effectively Recognizing your customer service teams for their contributions can yield incredible results:
Building a culture of recognition comes down to the common-sense practice of not taking your people for granted. To keep your customers happy, make your employees happy by recognizing them with Kudos’ help.
In 1943, Abraham Maslow theorized that human beings are motivated to make decisions based on a hierarchy of needs. This hierarchy can be viewed as a pyramid, with basic physiological needs like water and food setting the foundation; then our need for safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. A core requirement in the esteem level of this pyramid is appreciation.
Human beings feel the need to accomplish things, and be appreciated and recognized for those accomplishments. In addition to feeling accomplished, we need to know that our contributions to the world are valued. Without this recognition, we begin to feel our hard work has no purpose. And without purpose, we feel unappreciated, undervalued, and unmotivated.
Human beings are wired to crave connection, belonging, and acceptance. When we experience appreciation and gratitude, our brains release dopamine and serotonin. These are crucial neurotransmitters responsible for making us feel ‘good,' regulate our emotions, and respond to stress. Gratitude acts as a catalyst for these neurotransmitters, and actively experiencing gratitude and appreciation allows us to manage our stress levels better.
Feeling and expressing gratitude activates several parts of the brain. Verbalizing thoughts of appreciation and gratitude activates the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for positive emotions and decision-making, as well as reward and motivation. The more we practice expressing appreciation, the more we activate these gratitude circuits in our brain. Overtime, it takes less effort to stimulate those pathways.
Scientists also suggest that by activating the reward center of the brain, gratitude exchange alters the way we see the world and ourselves. When we give and receive ‘thank you’ notes, our brain automatically produces motivational thought patterns. This means that practicing recognition in the workplace improves employees' mental well-being, and increases their motivation to contribute value to their organization.
Employee recognition promotes positive psychological functioning (PPF) and its absence worsens it. Positive psychological functioning is comprised of the positive feelings that lead to self-acceptance, personal growth, and social contribution. The absence of recognition can deteriorate an employee’s psychological health, and ultimately their performance.
Feeling unappreciated affects not only your emotions, but also how you think and act. It’s no surprise that a lack of appreciation can influence your mental health and lead to mental illness. If others ignore what you do for them, it can feel devastating. You might start to wonder why you bother putting effort into a task, or worse, you’ll lose sight of how your work contributes value to your organization.
In a UK study, 78% of respondents said they would work harder if they had more recognition. In that same study, 94% said that employee recognition is critical in retaining talent. The solution to keeping your employees is simple — recognize them.
A study conducted on over 1800 employees found the effect of recognition is two times greater with peer recognition than with top-down supervisor recognition. The study highlights the importance of promoting employee recognition in organizations for the impact it has, not only on well-being, but also on the positive psychological functioning of the employees.
Technology now exists to make recognition accessible, simple, and impactful for any organization. Cloud-based platforms that work in browsers and mobile apps allow remote, field, and in-office employees a place to regularly share meaningful recognition.
Kudos, an employee recognition and engagement platform, harnesses the power of peer-to-peer recognition to boost employee engagement, reduce turnover, improve culture, and drive productivity and performance. Employee recognition isn’t just becoming an industry standard, it’s an essential requirement for an employee’s well-being, motivation, and performance.
It’s been almost 80 years since Abraham Maslow theorized that human beings require appreciation. The science behind employee recognition was always there, now it’s time to take it seriously and implement the recognition your employees not only deserve, but need.
Do you know your company’s core values? Do your employees? Do your clients? If you’re honest, I imagine most of you answered “no” to at least the last two questions. You might have also struggled to remember your core values. Am I right?
The reason for that is simple. Most companies treat core values like a task they need to complete when building their organization. They also don’t make their core values easy to remember, promote, reinforce, revisit, or celebrate. At best, most publish the core values on their website, in the employee manual, and only refer to them now and then in a team meeting or annual report. The sad truth is that most organizations and employees rarely give them a second thought, much less know how to identify them or apply them in their day-to-day decision-making and interactions.
Organizations that are successful and do not have their core values at the center of what they do, often have an inconsistent corporate culture that differs by department, location, and manager. That is what we refer to as a culture by default, and that has many unintended and avoidable challenges. Does this sound familiar?
Organizations that are purposeful in their core values development, deliberate in the application, and dedicated to weaving them into every aspect of their operation have a culture by design. These organizations are much more focused, resilient, cohesive, successful, and, I would argue – happier. Is this where you want to be?
The seminal book Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras started the core value revolution in 1994. They did a six-year study on organizations that they considered to be visionary. What set those organizations apart was their focus on being a core value-driven organization, and as a result, they outperformed their peers and the market by 16x over six decades. The primary item that differentiated these organizations from the field was not capital, markets, or products but company culture grounded in their core values.
More recently, in the book Start with Why, thought leader Simon Sinek focuses on similar immutable truths around purpose. His message resonates so deeply; it is today the second most-watched Ted Talk. In that talk, “How great leaders inspire action,” he focuses on “Purpose” or your “Why,” which is your personal vision and mission. Sinek believes the “How” is embodied in your principles, core values, and processes. Finally, he talks about your “What” or product or service. Unfortunately, the reality is that the “What” is where most organizations start and spend most of their efforts.
Sinek highlights how organizations we view as visionary achieve extraordinary success because they start with their “Why.” But truth be told, your success will depend on how you hyper-focus your “How,” putting your vision and mission into action, and using your core values to drive actions and decisions.
In both books, the writers highlight that all of the visionary companies they featured would have been successful no matter what they chose to do because they led with their purpose and core values. In fact, HP and 3M started their companies not knowing “What” they would do as an organization, and both continue to lead their categories today. Warren Buffett recently revealed his massive HP investment, and he is notorious for focusing on value, which is driven by purpose and core values.
Collins and Porras defined Core Values as inherent and sacrosanct; they are not compromised for convenience or short-term economic gain. I would add that they are the ingrained principles that you live everyday. This is rooted in the shared vision, code of conduct, and ethos of a company.
Once you identify and define your core values, they should be at the center of your actions and decisions, from hiring to strategy. They should be expressed, captured, and shared widely and often to inspire, align, and attract employees and clients.
The movie Jerry McGuire is a very entertaining but memorable way to see this in action. His infamous memo “The Things We Think But Do Not Say” was so important to him that he was willing to lose a lucrative career and leave a company he helped start versus compromise his values. While this is a fictional story, the movie then and today still resonates with many because that is the kind of company motivated people want to work for. The story demonstrates how living your values can guide you to success and the person you are meant to be. Google’s “Ten Things We Know To Be True” is an excellent example of sharing your vision, mission, and values in the real world in a similar but less rambling way.
A great place to start your core value journey – developing, refining, updating, or discovering your company's core values is to think about your own core values and why they matter to you.
Your personal mission statement and core values should reflect who you want to be at your very best. Consider these things in a simple exercise by answering these questions:
Values can be aspirational, but they should be who you already are and what matters most to you to be truly authentic.
There are a few great resources to help you discover your core values. The Center for Value-Driven Leadership has resources and insights that are a great place to start. Other sites such as PersonalValues.es and Barret Value Centre self-assessment allow you to take quizzes to help you discover what core values already guide you.
When you set out to develop your company's core values, they should be authentic, unique, memorable, and come from a small group of individuals, likely your founders and possibly a small group in leadership, representing what the company strives to be, and do.
Creating values is not a consensus team-building exercise. That is a bad idea for two reasons. It will integrate suggestions from people that should not be at your organization and others that will not be at your organization in the near future. The median tenure for workers between twenty-five and thirty-four is 3.2 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018.
The core values should be developed by a core group of people that truly know the organization's personality and what type of company they want it to be. They will be the ones who will be there to live them in the long term. They will be the ones that will use the core values to lead by example and use the core values to drive performance and make critical decisions. There should be little daylight between what leadership says and what they do for the core values to be successful and adopted companywide. There should be no "Say-Do" dilemma for your team.
The book The Core Value Equation by Darius Mirshahzadeh describes in great detail how to develop and employ your core values. He outlines four key elements of a well-designed and communicated core values:
Concepts to consider when you are developing your core values:
To become a core value-driven organization, you need to weave your core values into everything you do. Getting team buy-in and a commitment to live by your/their company’s values is critical and should be part of your processes or “How.” Everything from job postings and onboarding to recognizing team members and having team core values discussions, to individual performance reviews should be based on your process as outlined below:
The proof of being a core value-driven organization will be in several key measures that you should review monthly, quarterly, and annually. And if you take the time, you should be able to correlate company performance and profits to achieving high scores and participation using these three measures.
Why is this important? Bain& Company proved a strong correlation between a company's growth rate and its NPS and eNPS score.
Why is this important? Gallup was able to show through their research that organizations that consistently score high in the Q12 survey outperform their peers.
Why is this important? Kudos positively affect the organization's NPS, eNPS, Q12 scores, and Glassdoor ratings. That translates into better employee recruitment, retention, productivity, and overall corporate performance.
For more insights and information on becoming a core value-driven organization and living your values, watch our Webinar – How to Drive Employee Performance Through Core Values.
I would love to know your thoughts, observations, and results if you put some of these ideas into practice.
You can find me on LinkedIn @wtshort.
A nomination is an official endorsement for someone to receive an award or prize. The first step in a nomination program is for the organization to determine and communicate the criteria for their program. Employees can then nominate colleagues they feel meet the criteria, with one nominee being selected as the final winner. Some organizations have employee nomination programs for awards like “Employee of the Month,” “Most Hard Working,” “Most Innovative,” and so on. While nomination programs seem like a simple solution to employee recognition, they need to work in conjunction with a more robust suite of tools to deliver results.
Traditional employee nomination programs give employees an opportunity to tell a story about their peer’s accomplishments, and how they impact the business. Nominations can bring acknowledgement of standout achievements in a workplace where they may otherwise go unnoticed, especially by outside members of that team. They can bean opportunity to communicate expectations, or curate awards and prizes that tie-in your company values. Nominations can also deliver a morale boost, especially for those employees who win.
Nomination programs are not without their challenges. Why only allow employees to give recognition whenever there’s an award involved? These types of programs are only one piece to a complete solution. No need to abandon your nomination program altogether, but simply include it in a deeper, more impactful employee recognition strategy.
For employee recognition to be effective at motivating and communicating the value individuals offer your organization, it needs to be consistent and meaningful. Nomination programs are often monthly, quarterly, or yearlong initiatives; your employees are not being nominated frequently enough to create lasting meaning. When you nominate someone for an award, you’re not directly recognizing them for their work — you’re only giving them a chance at recognition. If someone deserves recognition, they should receive it day-to-day.
When you nominate employees for an award or prize, you compare their accomplishments to someone else’s instead of celebrating and appreciating their work individually. While being nominated is considered recognition, it can cause unhealthy competition and resentment between employees. Your employees deserve to be recognized constantly, not only when an award is up for grabs.
Nomination programs build a barrier between you and the wider benefits of recognition. When your organization partakes in a nomination program, it’s usually comprised of certain award categories, which over time can become disassociated from what employees are working on or dealing with. If an organization implements an Employee of the Month program, only 12 employees will receive that recognition in a year. Also, these programs only focus on one person winning something atone time; why limit employee recognition to just one person? Recognizing teamwork or collaboration amongst a group of people is just as important as recognizing an individual.
Using an employee recognition platform will allow your employees to be recognized regularly. Platforms like Kudos allow employees and leaders the freedom to recognize anyone, for anything, at any time. Adding a peer-to-peer recognition program to your strategy offers a more consistent and accessible motivational experience. Enabling all your employees to recognize impactful moments regularly, timely, and specifically ensures that recipients know the value they bring to the organization. No matter how small the achievement is, peer-to-peer recognition has a better overall impact on improving employee morale and engagement.
A recent Forbes study found that 66% of employees will leave their jobs because they do not feel appreciated. A strong company culture is an increasingly crucial factor for employees, and a recognition solution builds an impactful company culture where employees feel recognized and appreciated.
An employee recognition platform does not mean leaders can no longer create employee awards or prizes, but they shouldn’t take away the chance for peers or leaders to give and receive constant recognition. Offering more nomination options by building levels of nominations with high-level prestigious, and quarterly or monthly nominations can still exist, but should be supported by regular recognition. Add more social or community nominations that bring creativity and fun to your employee recognition solution, instead of focusing on traditional nominations centered around recognizing select employees. Nominate employees for awards like “Most Likely to Be Late for a Meeting," or “MostCreative Zoom Background” and have them for entertainment or enjoyment purposes instead of just performance.
Nomination programs are a small piece to a bigger solution. Giving regular recognition should become a habit within your organization and should be used as a building block to help retain talent, form healthier work relationships, and strengthen company culture.
We know that selecting the best recognition solution for your organization can be challenging, so we’ve made it simple for you with our Employee Recognition Buyer’s Guide. Our guide gives a comprehensive overview of how to choose the right employee recognition solution for your company’s culture, goals, and budget. Remember that consistent and authentic employee recognition should always be the priority, and the awards and prizes should come secondary.
After over two years of remote work, 70% of businesses plan to reopen their offices to their employees this year. The majority will implement a hybrid approach of in-person and remote work. This shift presents an important opportunity for you to boost employee morale among those returning to the office.
Returning to the office will cause a massive shift in your operations and your employees’ lives and workflows. They will need some time to adjust to the new normal, and your culture and morale might suffer.
There’s no denying that the pandemic was, and still is, a stressful time for most. Anxieties concerning health, work, and the economy are ever-present. Working from home brings in new distractions for most remote employees. That is especially true for those juggling childcare and work responsibilities at the same time.
While remote work has many morale perks, it also has disadvantages. Some of the top causes of low morale are:
Ignoring these issues can worsen your employee morale and lead to a disengaged and unproductive workforce.
The world is entering the new normal. More companies are preparing to bring their employees back to the office, while others are choosing a hybrid model.
Every organization will have to determine the best approach for their people, but returning to the office is the best choice for many employers, their employees, and organizational and customer needs. For many, returning to the office means more spontaneity, socialization, and collaboration; a refreshing change of pace from the isolation of remote work.
Employees returning to the office may feel anxious and resentful of colleagues or friends who are still working from home. As an employer, you must do your part to ease those feelings and support a smooth transition. Here are some tips on how you can manage employee morale in returning to the office:
Many businesses changed their policies and rules to accommodate their shift to remote work. Reopening the office for your employees requires you to re-evaluate your current policies. You must make sure your policies adapt to the new normal; this means including policies on health and safety inside the office. You can also create a clear return-to-office checklist to help the project go smoothly.
Most importantly, you must clearly communicate, socialize, and enforce these policies to build trust with employees. Make sure your employees can access these new policies anytime by sharing and posting them on multiple channels. Go above and beyond by hosting town hall meetings avenue for employees to ask questions, and make sure managers are all on the same page.
Employee morale goes hand-in-hand with job satisfaction. When employees feel satisfied with their company, they are more motivated to do great work.
You must consider their wants and needs when planning their return to the office. Send surveys or forms to collect feedback on the subject.
A recent survey by Owl Lab shows that 57% of employees prefer working from home. If that’s the case, it is better to slowly ease your employees into the transition. Instead of forcing everyone to go back to the office, you can offer hybrid alternatives.
You can also ask those employees who prefer working remotely for their suggestions or concerns surrounding a return to the office. This way, you can adjust your strategy and make the transition more appealing.
Going back to the office will introduce changes to your employees’ workflow. After years of working from home, they’ll need some time to adjust. It is tempting to makeup for the lost time by scheduling meetings and social gatherings, but these can actually hinder employee morale.
Instead of overwhelming your employees so soon, ease them into the rhythm of in-person work. This gives them time to adjust to being surrounded by many people again. Organize small and simple activities instead of full-blown, company-wide social activities right away. Why not keep it digital to include all in-person and remote employees?
Employee recognition is a great way to boost engagement, productivity, and morale for all employees regardless of location.
One step at a time doesn’t mean avoiding social gatherings altogether. After all, some might be looking forward to seeing their colleagues again after being cooped up inside their homes. Create opportunities for socialization without completely overwhelming your employees.
You can start by conducting face-to-face meetings per team. This way, they can start with smaller groups of people before moving on to a broader circle. Conduct activities that will require simple interactions among employees, like icebreaker games. And, of course, team lunches are always a good place for casual socialization.
Group projects also give your employees opportunities to socialize with their colleagues. And by investing in the best collaboration software, you can make teamwork more effective and efficient.
The rising awareness of burnout and stress requires businesses to be more attentive to their employees’ needs. Ensure your employees’ happiness to boost their morale at work.
You can do this by proactively providing support for your employees. Implement an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) where you can offer resources to address personal issues concerning health, emotional well-being, and work performance. This can come in the form of short-term counselling, assessments, referrals, or support groups.
Most importantly, make sure that your employees are aware of the resources available within the organization.
It is undeniably important to consider that your employees returning to the office will need some time to adjust to their new working environment. Use these tips to keep employee morale high during the transition. With the right strategy and tools, this is an opportunity to motivate your employees to feel their best and contribute great work.
Working toward a return to normal, however, is just as probable and effective as hoping for a return to the good old days. The reality is that a new normal is unfolding in front of us – and there’s no shortage of opportunities for organisations that are adapting to it.
At the heart of the Great Resignation there is a fundamental need that has gone largely unmet: the need for employees to go beyond simply existing in their job roles and thrive. The talent of today’s world wants to be treated well and to be recognised for their contributions. The benefits for companies that realise this and take the steps to act on this are massive in terms of employee engagement, retention, and ultimately organisational growth.
Conversely, the organisations finding themselves bearing the brunt of the Great Resignation are often the ones offering outdated solutions to modern problems. A common one is focusing solely on compensation to solve deeper issues. When attracting talent, money is a huge part of the equation, but a strong company culture is an increasingly important choice factor. Many struggling companies overlook the importance of fostering a strong, recognition-filled work culture. Increasing compensation may be a quick fix, but if money is the primary thing keeping talent motivated, they’ll be easily lured away by better offers. But while improving company culture takes a greater commitment from leadership, it has a lasting and more substantial effect on those factors organisations worry about most today: retention and engagement.
It’s both as complex and as simple as this: The desire for fair and robust recognition in the workplace will define the future of work during the pandemic and post-pandemic. Here’s how.
To help inspire employees to work toward a common goal, companies must have clear core values that employees know and care about. But it doesn’t stop there. Companies must also associate behaviours to these values, with leadership demonstrating these behaviours every day. With that in place, all employees should be given the tools and much needed support to recognise their colleagues when they see moments that exemplify these values. The old way of recognition was sporadic and top down, but a strong value-based culture seeks to make this recognition a daily habit among peers as well as managers.
This practice not only reinforces the behaviours that move organisational goals forward, but it makes employees feel they are direct contributors to an irreplaceable company culture.
In addition to incorporating behaviours and values in recognition, there is a slightly different connection between monetary rewards and recognition. If the recognition system is set up to be predominantly monetary, so is the employee’s motivation. Employees who feel empowered to give and receive continuous recognition in their workplace will not only feel a strengthened commitment to the organisation, but they will be incredibly difficult to poach with monetary incentives alone. Instead, they will see their everyday contributions in a far more meaningful way than they might at companies where recognition is sporadic, scarce, or nonexistent.
Motivation can come in many forms, but employers today must learn to spot the difference between intrinsic motivation and traditional motivation through rewards. Traditional incentives get people through the day, but it rarely makes them care about their work beyond a paycheck. It doesn’t motivate them enough to fully engage and innovate. It’s why a rewards-centric approach can backfire on companies where incentives can be seen as an opportunity reserved for the elite few.
On the other hand, when people feel a deep connection to the company’s values and their coworkers, their inner motivation kicks in. That’s when we see creativity, innovation, and growth unfold in the organisation. The cohesiveness and connection within teams doesn’t have to be limited to small groups either. It can be shared across the organisation by creating a space for everyday recognition that can come from anyone. A robust recognition ecosystem among teammates and managers is an invaluable catalyst in promoting a culture of trust, self-confidence, and innovation.
In 2021 48% of American workers actively looked for jobs. We are facing a historic challenge of retention and recruitment. The pandemic is one factor, but the causes of the talent drought go deeper than that, and the effects are not going away once we are through the worst of it. Millennials make up the majority of today’s workforce in the United States, and they are unafraid to leave a bad workplace for a better one, with 21% reporting that they switched jobs in 2021. For employers and HR leaders, retention efforts are more critical than they have ever been. Holding on to talent is not only important because it helps organisations innovate and grow, but having a constantly understaffed organisation raises the risk of employee burnout, which directly translates to a negative employee experience.
A strategic, values-driven approach to culture increases employee engagement, happiness, and performance, but the benefits go beyond that. Word gets around about great culture at an organisation, and recruitment efforts suddenly become easier for HR. With Gen Z changing jobs 134% more now than they did in 2019, the talent pool is open – and looking for better work prospects.
As the internal culture improves, and employees begin to feel like they are truly a part of the company, it naturally leads to an excellent client and external stakeholder experience.
It’s time for a new approach to recognition – one that helps organisations and employees adapt to today's reality. For companies looking to learn crucial lessons from the pandemic, rather than hoping for a return to the old ways, the path to sustained success involves investing in a recognition-centric culture where all employees feel connected and valued. In other words, embodying ‘the future of work’ is actually just answering the call of the present day.
This article was originally published on HR.com
Employee recognition is an age-old practice dating back to the Industrial Revolution when employers sought to make employees more efficient at work. While much has changed since then in terms of management styles, organizational structures, and workplaces (the last one especially, given the last two years) – many organizations still haven’t adapted their recognition practices to meet changing employee expectations, relying instead on dated, rewards-focused, infrequent recognition for a select few employees.
Employee recognition is a powerful tool that, when used correctly, leads to better employee engagement, improved organizational performance, and reduced turnover, among many other benefits (Gallup).
So, how can you modernize employee recognition at your organization this year?
As Muni Boga, President and CEO of Kudos®, a popular employee recognition platform, put it, “it’s not as simple as getting your managers to check recognition off their to-do lists – it’s about building a culture of recognition, where recognition has a deep-seated place in your organization.
Ideally, its value is understood by your people so that it can flow freely and frequently across all areas of your workplace.”Here are some key things to consider when building your strategy:
Historically, employee recognition used to be the responsibility of leaders and managers, or what many know as a top-down approach. Managers would highlight “top performers,” leaving many employees feeling passed over and unappreciated. On the other hand, enabling and encouraging peer-to-peer recognition allows for the democratization of recognition. This approach is not unlike 360 performance evaluation that boomed in the last two decades.
When employees of all levels are empowered to recognize – and receive recognition from – colleagues in all directions (up, down, laterally), organizations see increased employee engagement, reduced turnover, and improved productivity. A study quoted by Gallup found that 66% of employees agreed with the statement, “If I get recognition, I would also like to give others recognition,” the impact is exponential.
Studies have shown that teams that share recognition often create oxytocin responses in their team members, which was strongly correlated to more productivity, innovation, and better work enjoyment ratings.
We’ve all experienced the effects of the Great Resignation. In the 2021 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the overall turnover rate in the US was 57.3%, but that number drops to 25% when considering only voluntary turnover. That still means a staggering 1 in 4 employees left their job voluntarily in 2021.
Interestingly, studies show that globally, only 1 in 4 employees report receiving recognition in the last week. The urgency to build recognition into daily life at work is evident. Gallup believes that shifting the dial and moving from 1 in 4 having received recognition, to 3 in 5 would deliver employers a 28% improvement in quality of work and a 31% decrease in absenteeism rates.
Another significant trend here is revisiting milestones and anniversaries.
With such high turnover rates in the market, employers should celebrate anniversaries from the first year, recognizing loyalty and hard work. Anniversaries can also be used as a retention tool, incentivizing employees to stay with bonuses at each annual milestone (please, no mantel clocks – see next point).
While recognition itself carries many benefits, it often comes hand-in-hand with rewards. The days of rewarding employees with wildly expensive company pens are gone (or at least, they should be). More and more organizations have realized that historic one-size-fits-all approaches no longer cut it; this is evident through the prevalence of flexible work schedules, remote work, and discretionary health care spending accounts.
You hire employees for their unique skills and individuality – why aren't you factoring that into your rewards strategy? One way to do this is to allow employees to choose gift cards for popular retailers or vouchers for local businesses of their choice. This approach is simple, yet it tells your people that the reward is truly for them, which has a more significant impact.
Who says work and fun don’t mix? Gamification is an incredibly efficient but sometimes forgotten lever that you can use to encourage engagement in building your culture of recognition. Some friendly competition can help kick-start a sustainable habit of free-flowing recognition in your organization. Gamification expert Yu-Kai Chou shares dozens of gamification examples for you to sift through here.
This is why many modern recognition platforms have leaderboards for both recognition received, and recognition sent to spark everyone’s inner competitor. This philosophy isn’t new – the age-old employee of the month award is a great example. The difference is, when the person sharing the most recognition is the one crowned, everyone wins.
Sometimes, the best way to recognize someone is by presenting them with the opportunity to take on more responsibility via a well-deserved promotion. Publicly acknowledging dedication and hard work via a promotion can lead to higher employee retention and engagement. It shows employees that their efforts will be rewarded, and their careers can flourish with your company (Forbes).
There are many benefits to internal promotions beyond morale, such as reduced recruitment costs and less downtime in open roles. As we migrate to more distributed workplaces, identifying top performers may not be as easy as it once was. A recognition platform can be a great tool in this instance, allowing the organizational leaders to easily see who is receiving consistent positive praise from peers at every level.
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Most HR professionals know by now that employees don’t leave companies – they leave managers. Keeping a pulse on employee-manager relationships can be tricky, but recognition can serve as a lens into your employee experience at all levels. Some of the most sophisticated recognition platforms provide dashboards that illustrate who is giving and receiving recognition, who stands out, and who might be left behind.
Analytics can also help HR leaders demonstrate the value of recognition to their finance and leadership teams to secure the budget they need to develop a robust program.
As Muni Boga from Kudos explains, “the ROI of employee recognition can be significant in terms of recognition’s ability to improve absenteeism and turnover. An organization’s bottom line can dramatically improve not just in terms of those metrics, but also through the impact of those metrics on your organization’s productivity and innovation. Today, in a world where ESG and DEIB measurement is necessary and needed, recognition also plays an important role in illustrating social impact and inclusion.”
In 2022, an employee recognition strategy is a must-have. Building a culture of recognition is not a simple task, but it pays big dividends if it’s approached in the way your employees want.
In our recent webinar, Reading the (Virtual) Room: Strategies to enhance digital communication, we explored how our world has forever changed since March 2020 with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Overnight, there was a massive global shift in where and how we work, communicate, connect, and collaborate. Now that we are entering the third year and the endemic stage, we’ll start to see a massive shift to a hybrid work future.
In the hybrid future, some will work at HQs, offices, or busy facilities, some gather at smaller offices or co-working facilities, and many will remain fully remote. Even the staff with access to offices and facilities will be working remotely several days a week, and most will be working with flexible hours. The future is going to be messy.
There have been many challenges and benefits from the forced global experiment. One thing for certain — there is no going back to the way things were.
While flexible, remote, and hybrid work was once seen as a privilege, it is now seen as a right. Organizations that embrace our hybrid future will be the future winners.
Success will come down to mastering organizational culture, workplace experience, and effective communication. Those who get it wrong will see it reflected in their performance and profits.
Even now, we see the adverse effects of the pendulum swinging too far to all remote all the time: burnout, low engagement, and a massive wave of resignations. We need to embrace the challenges ahead to reframe the great resignation, to the great reset.
The benefits of working from home are many for society, business, and the individual.
Businesses benefit from operational cost savings, a wider talent pool, the ability to retain older and more experienced employees, more motivated employees, fewer sick days, and more productivity.
Employees benefit from more autonomy, flexibility, work-life balance, and healthier well-being.
Society benefits from a lower carbon footprint, higher labor force participation, and equity for individuals with disabilities.
There are also many disadvantages, from heavy investment in telecommuting technologies and IT security, to resistance from some workers to these technology changes. Not to mention, technological and interpersonal communications challenges, loss of human and organizational connection, and coordination and collaboration difficulties.
Individuals see the extremes of all remote all the time manifesting as loneliness, stress, inability to unplug, and effects on training, coaching, and in-person collaboration — all negatively affect career advancement opportunities.
All things considered, the jury is in.
In a recent survey by both Gallup and McKinsey & Company, 52% of workers indicated they want a more flexible work environment going forward, with the ability to work 1 to 4 days in the office. As a result, 9 out of 10 businesses are saying they will adopt a hybrid workplace model in the future.
The office will evolve into collaboration centers with shared resources, communication hubs, and quiet areas to improve connections, enhance innovation, and drive collaboration and performance.
So how do we succeed in this hybrid future? Adaptability, fluid communication, and the ability to read the room will be key to connecting with remote and in-person team members, clients, and partners.
Our digital body language will be more important than ever to help us through this shift. Our digital body language is not just how we act or are perceived online in a video conference, but also in the way we use all digital communications; from chat tools (Teams, Slack), collaboration tools (Asana, Trello), specialty communication tools (Lattice, Kudos), to email, text, and even the phone. 55% of communication is visual, 38% is based on tone, and only 7% is what you hear.
In the book Digital Body Language, How to Build Trust and Connection No Matter the Distance, Erica Dhawan highlights several things you need to keep in mind when communicating:
Erica also recommends that you set explicit communication standards. What was once implicit in the office now needs to be explicit in a hybrid workplace, where many, if not all of your team members are online and using technology to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate.
Erica wraps up the essentials of communication in our brave new world as follows:
So how does this translate to being your best on a virtual call?
On the other hand, it’s important to observe what others’ body language is telling you. Mark Bowden and Joe Navarro, authors of “Truth and Lies, What People Are Really Thinking” and “What Every Body is Saying,” are two top experts on reading body language. Their insights can help you read the room, and avoid miscommunication.
Five simple signs that people are comfortable, absorbing, or agreeing with your message:
In contrast, here are a few body language signs of discomfort or disagreement you should be aware of:
Being aware of your own signals and observing others can help you avoid communication breakdowns. Preparing for meetings goes beyond setting the agenda, being on time, and having your notes ready; it also means applying the knowledge outlined above to get your point across and build strong relationships.
Want to learn more? Watch our recent webinar, Reading the (Virtual) Room: Strategies to enhance digital communication.
I would love to know your thoughts, observations, and results if you put some of these ideas into practice.
You can find me on LinkedIn @wtshort