Archive for the 'motivation' Category

Employee Recognition: Small Budget, Big Payback

I’ve been working on a program I’ll be giving in Santa Clara on March 19th. The topic is employee recognition in a down economy. I am finding that many organizations don’t realize that recogniton doesn’t have to suffer because budgets have been slashed. In fact recognition becomes even more critical as morale is battered from so many directions.

There are two main points I plan to clarify for participants.

1) Recognition Doesn’t Have to Cost a Dime

With all the press about extravagant events, I am finding that it is even more important to talk about the difference between rewards and recognition. Employee appreciation events are rewards. Bonuses and incentives are rewards. Even company logo t-shirts are rewards (although they are not always appreciated rewards).

Recognition is an act, not a thing. Recognition doesn’t cost anything. Sometimes recognition is accompanied by a reward, but most of the time it is a thank you, praise, a new challenge, being trusted to do the right thing, or simply working with someone who knows you and what you bring to the team.

2) The Returns Are Enormous

The payback for offering meaningful recognition, for creating programs that make people feel visible and valued, is a workforce that is resilient, motivated, and highly productive. There are statistics and ancedotes a plenty to prove the value of good recognition.

Small budget, big payback. What more could you want?


Keeping Your Team Engaged in a Crisis

If you read Make Their Day you might remember Remedy Software. They were acquired by a company that quickly pulled them into a quamire when accounting descrepancies emerged. The CEO and CFO of the parent company resigned and, ultimately, the company was delisted on NASDAQ.

This was a company in crisis. Many companies are in crisis today. Does that mean that, along with being leaner, they have to be meaner? Hopefully, you know the answer to that question is a resounding “No!”

Remedy chose to maintain its pre-acquisition values and strategies. They put people on equal footing with profits and customer satisfaction. They did everything they could to insure that people felt valued. Yes, it was a lot of work. Yes, sometimes managers dug into their own pockets to pay for recognition that the struggling parent company wouldn’t authorize.

The result? They maintained morale, increased customer satisfaction, and grew their revenue stream!

Your organization is probably having a tough time of it. You don’t have money for raises. Hours are being cut. Pay is being reduced. There is no money for recognition. Morale is suffering. There couldn’t be a better time not to abandon your recognition efforts.

Keep these points in mind:

  • The most meaningful recognition is free. It is a few positive words, an assignment that provides a development opportunity,  or even a chance to spend a few minutes just chatting with someone within your reporting structure.
  • People want to be part of the solution. Keep them apprised and ask for their help in getting back on track.
  • Plan some fun celebrations (find something to celebrate!)…but remember that when employees are sacrificing raises or even having their pay cut, they don’t want to think that you are squandering their money.

Employee Recognition Resolutions for 2009

The New Year is traditionally a time for making positive changes. Many people resolve to quit smoking, exercise more, or eat less.

If you are a manager, why not make a workplace New Year resolution this year? There are things you can do that will improve employee attitudes, enhance service, product quality, and safety. Small changes can create big results.

I am offering the same seven resolutions that I offered last year because they are simple and will produce positive results.

1) I will resolve to spend at least 15 minutes each day simply listening to what my employees have to say. I will learn, among other things, what interests them, how they like to be recognized, and how they would improve their job.

Managers spend so much time ‘telling’ they can forget the value of listening. When I’ve asked employees to tell me what their managers do that makes them feel valued, listening is always high on the list.

2) I will resolve to connect the individual’s contribution to the organization’s objectives.

Many employees see no connection between the work that they do and the work of the organization. It is difficult for employees to feel motivated when they don’t understand the importance of their roles.

As the manager, you can connect the dots between what the employee does and what the organization does. Think about the organization’s mission, vision, and goals and how that translates to your department. Then distill that down to the individual employee. Communicate the connection at every opportunity.

3) I will resolve to offer five times more praise than corrective feedback.

Gallup research shows that 5:1 is the ideal ratio for increasing engagement. This can seem like a lot of praise, especially if you have a mediocre performer.

To provide the optimum blend, think in terms of acknowledging milestones, incremental progress, strengths, and valued behaviors. Show appreciation for additional effort, sense of humor, attitude, and a willingness to speak up about concerns.

You can even offer a positive word when giving corrective feedback. End the conversation by expressing confidence in their ability to change.

4) I will resolve to take one employee to lunch every week.

If you have a very small team, once a month may work. Try to get to everyone at least once in the first six months. During lunch, let your guest talk about whatever he or she wishes. Whatever you do, don’t make the lunch into a performance review!

5) I will resolve to put up a recognition white board and use it to note accomplishments.

Place a big white board and some dry erase pens in the cafeteria or another area where people congregate. Write notes of praise and appreciation to the team and to individuals. Encourage people to use the board for peer recognition as well. Erase items after about a week so that the notes are fresh and interesting. This will keep people coming back to read what has been written. (Idea courtesy of the BC Lottery, BC Canada).

6) I will resolve to identify a learning opportunity for every employee.

This doesn’t mean you have to send everyone to a costly seminar. Consider cross-training, new responsibilities, or even self-study. One of the top reasons people stay with a manager and stay engaged is because they feel challenged. Opportunities to learn is a prime motivator.

Find a way for each person to learn and grow that will improve their skills and level of engagement.

7) I will resolve to greet every employee I encounter, making eye contact and smiling, no matter how rushed I feel.

Does this sound too simple to be effective? Remember that employees want to be recognized and that at its most basic that means seeing and acknowledging the person. This takes virtually no time, but if you aren’t in the habit of doing it, it can make all the difference in the world.

Fast and Simple

Each of these seven resolutions takes no more than, on average, fifteen minutes per day. I know, I know that’s fifteen minutes that you  don’t have to spare. However, if you find the time, take the time, make the time, employees will make you glad that you did.

Choose one and try it on for six months. I promise you will see changes that result in improved attitudes and productivity.

Need reminders to make the habit stick? Sign up for free weekly recognition tips!

Copyright Cindy Ventrice 2007

Is Santa Engaged?

Watch this video of a department store Santa. Earlier this year, David Gray held this video up as proof that you can be productive without being engaged.

But is the Santa in this video really disengaged?

If you say yes, the mistake you are making is in thinking that engaged employees have to be upbeat cheerleaders. This guy liked his world-weary persona. He might not have considered himself engaged (in 1975 he would have been puzzled that we were even thinking about it).

Listen carefully to what he has to say and you will hear someone who knows exactly what result he needs to achieve, has the talent required to achieve it, and is proud of his result. That is engagement.

Here are a few things to look for in the video:

1) He mentions several times that he has been called the only authentic Santa in Chicago and how he gets to pick his hours.

2) As his costume is completed he says, now you are going to see something beautiful.

3)Then, as you watch him with the kids, his voice over says, “you see so much love…if I make kids happy…”

Yes Virginia, there is an engaged Santa Claus.

Is a Compliment as Good as a Raise?

Using MRI technology, the Japanese National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Okazaki, Japan found that a compliment stimulates the same reward center in the brain as does cash.

In their research they did two experiments. In one, people played a gambling game and received automatic cash payouts. They were rewarded for achievement. There was no human interaction. In the second experiment they received evaluations, supposedly from strangers reviewing their videos and questionnaires.  In each case, in this second experiment, they were paid a compliment.

Their MRIs showed that in both experiments  the people felt they were receiving a reward.

This seems to help explain why recognition is so effective. I would love to see them test the effect of reading the compliment a few days later. I bet it would still trigger the reward center. I can’t think of a more cost-effective way to recognize people that offering a few written words of praise. It is the reward that keeps on giving!

If you want to read the full story visit ABC News.

Millennial Generation Article

Want to learn more about the latest generation of workers? Claire Raines, author of Generations at Work and Connecting Generations offers an excerpt from Connecting Generations that offers help in Managing Millennials. Her perspective is reinforced by the research I am currently doing on Generational Preferences (participate here). Read Managing Millennials here.


A recent article in India’s Economic Times about Google’s Bangalore offices has caused me to wonder  just how different we are from country to country when it comes to perk and rewards.

Here are a few of the perks at Google India:

  • Chair massages
  • Food no more than 100 feet away
  • Gourmet meals
  • Foosball tables
  • Winter holiday and summer parties
  • Google Idol competition

Sounds pretty similar to Google U.S. to me. Any employees who have worked at both, want to comment on how the perks and rewards vary between the two countries?

All the best,

Cindy Ventrice

My name is Cindy Ventrice. I am the author of the best-selling book Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works and the companion guide Recognition Strategies That Work.

My work has been quoted in The New York Times, Alaska Airlines Magazine, Workforce Magazine, and Tim Sanders' book The Likeability Factor.

Visit my website today!

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