Tying Recognition to Values: Who Knew?

data point tuesday_500

Organizations that believe in driving an intentional culture – whether for engagement purposes, recruitment purposes, performance purposes, innovation purposes, or all of the above – might think it logical to tie their recognition programs directly to their values. But as it turns out, maybe not.

The new SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey Winter 2012 Report has some interesting survey data and thought-provoking findings. The survey, sent to 6,000 SHRM members at the manager level or higher, had a response rate of 13% and a margin of error of +/- 3%. So, with 770 randomly selected HR professionals employed at organizations with more than 499 employees across North America, the sample size is large enough for the results to be interesting.

The broad findings are a little surprising – although the survey questions focused entirely on recognition, engagement and core values. (So, for example, the challenges of implementing healthcare reform don’t show up, nor do the issues of perceived talent or skills shortages.) But even within that context, these findings make me scratch my head:

#1  Employee engagement tops the list of HR challenges.

#2  Performance management remains stuck in neutral.

#3  Recognition programs fill the feedback and appreciation gap.

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

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

#1  Employee engagement tops the list of HR challenges:  well, I do find that surprising – especially given the rest of the survey data. I might have thought that the issues of performance management done the same way it’s been done for 10-15 years (or not at all) would top the list of HR challenges. But no, employee engagement is at the top of the list. Despite (or maybe because of) the fact that most HR professionals haven’t been able to make the business case for investing in creating higher levels of engagement, it’s at the top of the list.

#2  Performance management remains stuck in neutral:  Performance management is the talent management infrastructure weak link. Most CEOs and other members of the C-Suite report that they know their system is ineffective. And what’s more they know their employees don’t like their current system either. That HR folks are “stuck in neutral” in this regard is perplexing. With the billions of dollars being spent on ineffective, unpopular legacy systems, this would seem ripe for corrective action — not being stuck in neutral.

#3  Recognition programs fill the feedback and appreciation gap:  so investing in new solutions that fill a gap rather than fixing the full system seems shortsighted to me. Don’t get me wrong. I think that there are recognition programs that powerfully engage teams, inspire individuals and create positive momentum for employers and their customers. Some of the new entrants that utilize social technology and are natively mobile are stunning. And worthy of investment. But should we be thinking bigger than filling gaps?

#4  Recognition programs have an observed positive impact on business results:  that’s research-speak for “we can’t quantify it yet but we think it’s real based on anecdotal evidence.”  ‘Nuff said.

#5  Recognition aligned with core values leads to more effective managers:  that’s it! If the data clearly support this finding, then this is the foundation for the business case that HR has been looking for. I’ve long believed that if the middle manager cohort was effectively trained and managed, the incidences of workplace drama and their resulting legal issues – and the resulting time-suck for HR – would be hugely reduced. Managers would be held accountable for managing. And HR could get to the strategic business of workforce planning and talent management leadership.

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

SHRM Globoforce Fig 8

SHRM Globoforce Fig 13

*Note:  the red circles on the charts are mine.

The finding that managers do a better job of effectively acknowledging and appreciating employees when recognition programs are directly tied to core values seems to stack up. But it also appears that managers do a better job of effectively acknowledging and appreciating employees simply by being given a recognition program to use. Either way works for me. And either way clearly works for employers and their employees.

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

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

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10 Comments

Filed under Achievers, Annual Performance Reviews, Business Case, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Globoforce, Managerial Effectiveness, Rewards & Recognition, Talent Management

10 responses to “Tying Recognition to Values: Who Knew?

  1. Pingback: The 12 Things You Need For Successful Employee Recognition

  2. Agreed with the article and the comments. Think how much more effective recognition would be if it can also be tracked and measured real-time. You can do that with KudosKorner. Check us out at http://www.kudoskorner.com

  3. Focus on managers. I could not agree more. You are so right! Thank you. Nothing new in this study … It would have shown different results by working on other variables less abstract than company “core values”, and that may have shown, again, the importance of managers to generate more engagement and productivity. Frankly, “core values” is another gimmick: core values change, they need to greatly adapt to different teams and jobs. Other variables would have generated more impact on the measured outcomes than core values, taking us back to what was written about management 50 years ago or so. A bit disappointing, but, agreeing with lessons from your post and comments: interesting, but nothing very new here for HR to really value its impact on business.

    • Thanks for commenting Frederic. I really do believe that if organizations spent more time on middle managers — hiring the right ones, developing them, listening to them, providing them with tools that work, and holding them accountable — the organizational life would improve across the board. Along with results. And would get HR out of the drama management business. Nirvana, I know…

  4. PaulHebert

    I’m a bit surprised you find the findings surprising.

    None of the data here is new or news. I’ve been doing recognition and rewards for 20 years and almost everything in this report has always been the case.

    More recognition = greater connection between employee and company. Yup… been that way for eons.

    Recognition tied to values = more people living the values. Nothing surprising or interesting. People do what is rewarded and noticed. I can also say with certainty EVERY recognition program I’ve worked on for 10 years starts with the company mission and values as core criteria to the program reward process. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. It may not be 770 programs but it is in excess of 100. Not new at all.

    Having a recognition program = more recognition. That’s like saying having a car means you drive more miles. That isn’t data that’s just common sense. Granted – common sense isn’t so common but really?

    At best this is a rehash of “duh” information at worst it is a recognition company funding a psuedo study through SHRM to support their point of view and their revenue model.

    Sorry to be a Debbie downer but if this is “news” to HR professionals (which I don’t think it is) then we’re in bigger trouble.

    Where recognition has the biggest impact is when it is PART of an overall business approach that focuses on the humans in the organization as the real drivers of business value. If you believe your employees really are important (and I don’t mean just say it – I mean MEAN IT) then you will have a great recognition and reward process in place as well as a great talent management umbrella and a recruiting structure and great management training.

    In other words – like you say at the end of your post – “In fact, I’ll go so far as to opine that tying talent management in its entirety to organizational values will provide quantifiable improvement, not just observed improvement.”

    That is the real and honest truth here. Recognition is nice when done correctly – but it won’t cure your engagement ills without a much broader effort like you so intelligently point out at the end.

    • Hi Paul: so, I need to work on my sarcasm. What’s surprising to me is that nothing changes. When will we really wake up and smell the coffee? What was new to me, however, were the questions tying together recognition and values, and managerial effectiveness. Hadn’t seen much about that before. And of course, it makes total sense that managers and recognition programs are more effective when tied to values. And I hear you that if this is “news” we’re in trouble. But that’s the point of Data Point Tuesday: to provide links to data and sources that give HR professionals easy to consume and actionable information.

      So back to sarcasm. Will you be my editor?

      • PaulHebert

        I should have gathered it from the “who knew” comment… 😉

        I was too involved with my own response – narcissists do that from time to time. The values thing has been one of our stock and trade – although I will say that what we find most often is that the values a company has (or that Sr. Exces say they have) are pretty interchangeable from company to company. Our biggest effort is now around getting companies to truly look in the mirror and find those things to connect their reward and recognition systems (RRS) to that are different and unique – then the real value can be unleashed.

        As far as editing… I’ll leave you with this… “don’t go changing to try and please us – we love you just the way you are…” (apologies to Mr. Billy Joel.)

      • I agree about the “usual” values. But those organizations that really do create an intentional culture and hold everyone accountable for behaving in ways that are congruent with their values are usually places that people want to work. And are probably places that perform very well in their categories.

        Thanks for the Billy Joel reference. One of my all time favorites. 🙂

      • Jumping in here, the data certainly reinforces a lot of what we already know. I think both of you, China and Paul, made a great point about examining the corporate values instead of just tying the ones you have to a recognition program. Recognition should be the byproduct of a vibrant intentional culture, not necessarily the cause, and that starts with knowing who you are as a company, what makes you different, and how you aspire to do business.

      • Thanks, Elyssa! Tying the values of an intentional culture to recognition just makes sense.

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