Nick Miller

Employee Engagement: Engraining recognition into your corporate culture

Communicating appreciation in the workplace, both top-down and peer-to-peer, is critical to building engagement. A simple “thank you” or “job well done” can often hold the same value to an employee as a monetary reward. Creating a culture of appreciation will let your employees feel valued and know that their efforts are appreciated, but it is something that happens over time and involves all levels of employees.

It starts at the top. Regardless of the type of culture a company is trying to create, leadership sets the tone for the entire organization. Culture cascades through the organization just like tangible communications, so appreciative behavior is likely to be mimicked as employees observe their managers. From there, they set the example for the next level of employees and this trickledown effect permeates throughout all employee groups.

Change how employees view recognition. Many companies make the mistake of treating recognition programs as a box to check without considering the requirements of keeping the program fresh, effective and sustainable. Launching a recognition initiative should be strategic in order to ensure that associates aren’t jaded by “just another program” that falls by the wayside. You might tie recognition to the company values or other objectives that you want to reinforce over the long haul.

Consider using perks to encourage recognition. Intranets and microsites are great solutions to track who is being recognized and why. We at Tribe promote gamification of your recognition program, such as points-based systems that can translate into giveaways or drawings. Engagement for programs like these are often higher – as it’s hard to beat free stuff.

Publicize recognition to the whole company. Part of fostering recognition within your corporate culture is to communicate it to everyone. Take specific examples and print them on posters, post them on digital signage or include them in your newsletter. Employees value seeing their peers recognized on a broad scale and will use the indirect appreciation as motivation to be the next one. Make sure to spotlight all levels of employees – down to the part-time, hourly workers. In doing so, you’re promoting equality and inclusion, key aspects of an appreciative culture.

Interested in showing your employees how much they mean to your company? Tribe can help.


Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Is the Gallup Q12 really a good measure of engagement?

First, a disclaimer: I have plenty of respect for Gallup. Their public opinion polls have correctly indicated the presidential winner since 1936, missing the mark in only three elections.

But when it comes to measuring employee engagement, I’m not sure they’re asking the right questions. Their Q12 survey, designed to predict employee engagement, consists of 12 statements that strike me as an incomplete and, at times, downright odd, approach to gauging engagement.

“I have a best friend at work.” Really? Only 12 questions regarding engagement and that’s one of them? What about the introverted engineer who loves the work he does, feels committed to the company purpose and enjoys the people around him just fine, but doesn’t consider any of them a close friend? He may well be highly engaged.

“In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.” Wow. That’s a lot of recognition.

But of course it depends on how you define recognition. Is it somebody saying, “That’s interesting stuff,” about your current project? Or is it a prize and your name on a plaque? Recognition tossed about too lightly dilutes its power to engage.

At Tribe, we consider other measures of engagement. We look at factors like having meaningful work, trust in your company’s top leadership, good working relationships with direct managers, feeling aligned with the values of the company, feeling excited to go to work in the morning.

Actually, all measurements of employee engagement are imperfect. One’s level of engagement is subjective. The issues most essential to engagement will differ from employee to employee. The interpretations of survey questions will differ as well.

In the end, what matters most is not how a company measures employee engagement. The important thing is that employee engagement is seen as an essential element to productivity and thus profitability.


Creating a Culture of Appreciation

Showing appreciation in the workplace is critical to building engagement. A simple “thank you” or “job well done” can often hold the same value to an employee as a monetary reward. Employees want to feel valued and know that their efforts are appreciated. But creating a culture of appreciation is something that happens over time and involves all levels of employees.

It starts at the top. Regardless of the type of culture a company is trying to create, leadership sets the tone for the entire organization. Call it the trickledown effect. If the team working under leadership notices a change in how they’re approaching the company’s culture, they will adopt many of the same behaviors. From there, they set the example for the next level of employees and this trickledown effect permeates throughout all employee groups.

Change how employees view recognition. Many companies make the mistake of thinking that appreciation must take the form of a full-blown, company-wide recognition program. While these are good short term solutions to showing how employees are valued, they’re often not sustainable. Instead of constantly trying to cycle recognition programs over and over, let employees see how recognition continues after these have run their course. Even if it’s in the form of a simple verbal acknowledgement, employees will understand that it doesn’t take a recognition program to show appreciation for their good work.

Look for opportunities to spotlight all levels of employees – even down to the part-time, hourly workers. In doing so, you’re creating a culture of equality. No one employee is more valuable to the success of the company than another; we’re all a team working together towards a common goal. Employees value seeing their peers recognized on a broad scale and will use the indirect appreciation as motivation to be the next one.

What tactics has your company taken to develop a culture of appreciation?  We’d love to hear from you.

Opportunities to Spotlight Employees

A little recognition can go a long way. Every day your employees have successes both big and small. In today’s competitive work environment, it only makes sense the people responsible for this hard work get their due attention.

Start simple. Acknowledging solid efforts and saying thanks is the easiest form of recognition you can do. Sometimes people don’t necessarily need the marching band to greet them at the front door, they just want to know they’re appreciated and the work they do matters. If differing schedules make it hard for face-to-face conversations, a note left on the person’s desk or a message left on their voicemail will work as well.

Have some fun with it. Sometimes the form of recognition can be a bit on the silly side. At Tribe, we instituted “The Virtual High-Five.” This is a great low-cost way to present an employee with something that has no real cost associated with it. “The Virtual High-Five” is simply a piece of paper with a traced drawing of a hand that is awarded as a way of saying, “atta’ boy!” when a minor feat is accomplished.

When spotlighting accomplishments, don’t be afraid to award employees with things they can use. For medium accomplishments, Tribe instituted a $20 award program. It works like this: Managers who see an opportunity to recognize employees for their good work are able to instantly give them $20. Employees then have the satisfaction of knowing they did a good job and an extra 20 bucks in their pocket.

Spotlighting opportunities don’t only have to be from the top down. Tribe has a peer-to-peer program that takes place on the first Friday of every month. This is how it works: An employee who was recognized the previous month selects another employee who they think has done something special. The recognized person is then given a large glass bottle that sits on their desk for the entire month. At some point during that time period, the recognized individual will take a day off from work as a reward. On their day off, they choose an item or trinket that represents how they spent their day and place it in the bottle. This process will continue over and over and everyone will get to see the bottle fill with items from their coworkers’ day off.

These are some of Tribe’s recognition methods, but every work culture should have ways to spotlight employee accomplishments when the opportunity presents itself. In the end, a recognized employee is one who feels appreciated and engaged with the company they work for. This makes them more productive and helps the organization meet its targeted goals.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Gamify It: The Power Of Competition

The drive to compete is hardwired into the human brain. In the most primal sense, we are driven to compete for food and for mates. Once those two are squared away, that competitive urge seeks other ways to be satisfied.

People like to compete. It gets the blood moving and lifts the spirits. In short it’s fun.

The urge to compete is a valuable tool for employee engagement. If you want people to pay attention, whether it’s to a new intranet or the need to complete an employee survey, try gamifying it.

How do you do that? Try an online scavenger hunt with questions that lead them to the intranet to find the answers. Put one department against another for percentage of participation in the employee survey.

It’s not about the prize; it’s about winning. The rewards don’t have to be huge, although at Tribe we’ve found people will do almost anything to win an iPad. The prize can be a $25 gift card, or an early quitting time on Friday, or even a candy bar. What matters most is getting employees fired up about a little friendly competition.

Our employees at Tribe love to compete. We’re currently in the early weeks of our almost-annual fitness competition, but we’ve also been known to begin a status meeting with a contest to see who can fill in the most states correctly in a photocopied map of the United States. We also have an annual wine tasting competition with cash prizes for identifying the most wines and guessing the most expensive and the cheapest wine correctly.

Although our most long-running competition is the stopwatch thing. Employees are challenged to start and stop the stopwatch in the least amount of time possible. The prize? Nothing more than bragging rights. But around here, that counts for a lot.

Recognizing Hidden Talents

As a manager, your greatest tool is the collection of people working around you.  Behind any successful manager is a staff of talented and driven employees working towards a common goal: providing value to the company. While these employees have likely proven their worth time and again through their everyday job responsibilities, they may have even more to offer than meets the eye. The ability to identify and recognize hidden talents within your workforce can enable you to gain a competitive edge with the resources already available and grow your company from within.

Get to know your staff. Understand their personalities and what they bring to the table. Each employee has their own unique set of skills that may or may not be easy to recognize. Look for trends in their work and identify strengths and weaknesses. Then, find opportunities to showcase their skill set and use them to help achieve specific goals and objectives. Employees will appreciate that you’ve recognized their abilities and see that their talents can make a difference.

Create challenges. Employees are typically driven by competition; use this as a way to increase productivity and elicit new ideas. Develop friendly competitions that will not only increase motivation by allowing employees to step out of their normal routine but also provide an opportunity for them to show you a side you might not have seen before. You never know where the next great idea might come from!

Focus on their future. Talk to your staff individually and find out where they want to be in the future. Professional advancement can only happen when a person is able to grow from their previous position and show the capacity to take on more challenges. Regardless of profession or level, employees are constantly looking to take the next step. Determine where they’d like to be down the road and set personal goals for them to get there by expanding on their current responsibilities. The talent to get to the next level may be there but they might not have needed it to this point in their career.

The next time you have a major challenge to take on, let your employees show you what they can do. Too often managers will look for outside expertise when the capability to get the job done is right under their nose. Instead, trust in your staff and give them the chance to surprise you.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

5 Features To Build Traffic To Your Employee Intranet

Need to revitalize an employe intranet that’s an online ghost town? Planning the launch of your company’s first intranet? To have a well-trafficked and energized intranet, you have to give employees compelling reasons to go there. If your intranet is not much more than the repository for HR forms and policy information, your company is missing the chance to create a real sense of community there.

1. Facebook-like feature: Sharepoint and other platforms allow for a social network page that helps connect employees and build relationships. If your company has locations around the world or business units that tend to silo, this page can help put faces on colleagues that employees don’t just bump into in the hallway. And of course, those relationships can lead to both collaboration and engagement.

2. CEO blog: The employee intranet is a fantastic forum for regular communication from (and to) company leadership. Often the CEO blog is ghostwritten, but shares the vision and news of leadership. Employees want to know what management is thinking, and they also appreciate the opportunity to communicate with their leadership via comments on those posts.

3. Recognition programs: An intranet can be an excellent forum for making recognition programs visible, both in top down and peer to peer kudos. At Tribe, we’ve developed programs that let employees offer an online badge of appreciation to their coworkers to make that sort of recognition easier and more frequent.

4. Innovation Think Tanks: Not only do employees appreciate the chance to share their ideas for the company, their suggestions can also lead to some brilliant innovations. Although there are several good stand-alone innovation management platforms out there (see The Tribe Report, Fall issue, p. 18), you also can build a simple innovations program within your intranet by creating the space for those conversations to happen.

5 Low-Cost Recognition Tips for the Workplace

Everyone likes to feel appreciated and the workplace is no exception. When employees are recognized for their efforts and see their performance is valued, they will continue to do well. It will also build their confidence in their own work.

Everybody wins with recognition. “When you take the time and make the effort to extend sincere, timely appreciation, you create the perfect win-win situation,” says Dr. Alan Zimmerman, renowned speaker and founder of Zimmerman Communi-Care Network. “The other person feels great receiving your appreciation, and you feel great for giving it. And the atmosphere is positively charged for greater amounts of cooperation and productivity.”

Instilling a recognition program in the workplace might seem daunting, not to mention costly, however, there are a few low-cost, easy suggestions that you can implement without going to the board of directors for approval.

1. Recognize standout individuals at a regular meeting. Set aside five minutes of your weekly or monthly team meeting to spotlight an individual or individuals who deserve it. Consider opening it up to anyone on the team who has an individual they want to recognize, it doesn’t have to be the manager only.

2. Create a recognition item that can be passed on to others. The item can be a trophy, button, medallion or a cool rock – whatever fits your culture. The idea behind it stays the same. Give it to someone when they deserve to be recognized and let them know why they are receiving it. It is up to the receiver to pass it on to another employee who deserves acknowledgment next.

3. Provide a special treat to recognize employees’ contributions. This could be a quarterly lunch, breakfast or snack to recognize the value they add to the company. If not a meal for employees, a small gift or token goes a long way to making them feel appreciated.

4. Spotlight outstanding employees once a month or quarter. Consider an employee of the month program or a spotlight section in a newsletter or internal publication. Again, it helps to be specific why the employee is being recognized. Others will read why this person was selected and work harder so they can be chosen in the future. This area also serves as a great reminder of your company’s best practices since the selected team member is putting them into effect.

5. Say thank you. This is quite possibly the easiest and most meaningful way to recognize someone. It could be a hand-written note, phone call or face-to-face, but it will go a long way to let someone know they are appreciated.

With all of these suggestions, it is important the thought is sincere. Equally important is giving a specific reason for acknowledging someone. Also, it is key for managers and leadership to set the example for recognition, but it is just as significant for praise to be peer-to-peer as well. When others see someone recognized for their efforts, they will feel more compelled to give acknowledgment as well.

And remember, it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture that is recognized. Sometimes the smallest thing someone does can make the biggest difference for someone else.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

How Do You Give Recognition to Your Direct Reports?

In the weekly poll on Tribe’s Good Company blog, 46% of respondents said they prefer recognition from their direct managers. They also like recognition from those even higher up in the company, and only a small minority cared about recognition from their peers.

But recognition can take many forms. Some managers make a point of giving lots of verbal recognition, especially to younger generation employees who seem to crave constant feedback. Others use the formalized programs established by their companies. And still other managers like the personal touch of a handwritten note from time to time to express appreciation for a job well done.

Here’s this Friday’s question: How do you build recognition into your relationships with your direct reports?

Employees Want Recognition from the Boss

The results of this week’s question indicate that people want recognition from the higher-ups. Readers’ votes showed little interest in having their peers recognize them for a job well done. What matters, according to these respondents, is gaining the notice of their direct manager or someone even higher in the company.

This week’s Good Question was:

Q: What kind of recognition gets the best results?

43%  Leadership to employee

43%  Manager to direct report

14%  Employee to employee

If you voted, thanks for playing. And if you didn’t, please look for Monday’s question and share your vote.