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Winter 2004 Edition- January 2004 Volume 4

Making the Most of Employee Recognition

Q : How can I attract and retain great employees?

It was a dark and stormy night. Or, more likely, it's a normal workday in your company, and management is mystified about why the best employees keep slipping through their fingers. They've offered more money, flexible schedules, on-site childcare -- but nothing seems to hold employees. Now, they're looking to HR for answers.

It's time to think seriously about what will keep and attract good people. Maybe it's time to consider employee recognition and rewards. We're not talking about a token coffee mug thrown in after five years, but a substantial, meaningful recognition award program. Companies with just such a program say it's the missing piece in the puzzle of employee retention, motivation and attitude.

Feeding the need within Unfortunately, most organizations have no idea how under-appreciated workers feel, and many still wonder why so many employees leave. While many of these companies compete for employees with pay, promotions and other enticements, too often employees are looking for something simpler: they want recognition. Ignore that human longing and you fall prey to a hard statistic: 79 per cent of employees who resign their positions cite "perceptions of not being appreciated" as a key reason for leaving, a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management showed.

For a company trying to stay ahead in a competitive world, this decline in employee commitment could be the difference between corporate success and oblivion.

The good news is, some of Canada's best companies have discovered that they can build employee commitment and productivity by making frequent, powerful emotional connections with their people. They have found the correlation between employee recognition and corporate success and are benefiting from well-documented increases in employee satisfaction, productivity and profitability.

But what makes for great recognition?

Strategic alignment
It's a fact of life: every year costs rise and employees expect raises, shareholders demand greater returns. This means the company must make more money every year. Thus, recognition is used to:

  • Improve profitability and productivity by helping employees understand company goals and what's in it for them if they help meet those goals.
  • Reward achievements that further corporate values. Reward often with informal rewards and after special achievements with formal, lasting awards.
  • Build a culture of recognition and make sure good employees know they are valued and needed. The formula is simple and timetested: satisfied employees equal satisfied customers.

    Effective award presentations.
    Skillful award presentations can turn a poor recognition program into solid gold. Remember back to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games when Catriona Le May Don won speed skating gold for Canada. As she sped toward the finish line, Doan recalled that the only thing that kept her sprinting through grueling pain was the thought of standing on that medal podium, listening to her national anthem and having the gold medal placed around her neck. Later she stood on that medal stand, tears streaming down her face. What people remember, what Doan will always remember, is the presentation.

    Corporate recognition awards can truly be enduring symbols of achievement, but the best organizations have learned that they must make a recognition event something memorable -- with almost as much ceremony and emotion as an Olympic-medal event. Employees work just as hard for organizations as Doan did training for the Olympics. Every now and then, they want to be set up on a pedestal and have someone thank them for their contributions. They want to feel that someone is aware of the "thousand little things" they've done over the years that no one has ever acknowledged.

    Remember to: 1) Talk about the company's goals and how the employee contributes to the organization's success; 2) Be specific about the individual's accomplishments; and 3) Highlight the award, especially the symbolic meaning.

    Symbolic meaning.
    When people devote most of their waking hours to a company, they want to feel a connection. Your company's logo can help make that connection.

    A corporate symbol can be featured on a recognition award in a variety of ways -- through engraving, stitching or embroidering, or through the use of an emblem made of precious metals. In fact, when employees receive awards featuring their corporate symbol crafted in gold with diamonds or other fine gems, the awards become, in effect, corporate "gold medals."

    Another benefit: your employees will use symbolic awards for years to come, and every use will remind them of their achievement. Take the example of Don Campbell, a journeyman pipe fitter for Weyerhaeuser, a forest products company with 45,000 employees in Canada and the United States.

    "I was in a restaurant (in the States) on vacation and was wearing my 25-year Weyerhaeuser service award ring," says Don. "A guy and his wife a couple of tables over said, 'You work at Weyerhaeuser? ' And we started talking. I get that a lot. People notice it and they say, I understand that's a great company to work for."

    John McVeigh is the President of O. C. Tanner Canada, the country's leading recognition provider. He can be reached at john. mcveigh@ octanner. com

    Appropriate Outplacement Packages

    Q : When putting a termination package together, calculating the amount of severance is one thing, but how much and what type of out-placement service should I provide?

    Many of the same criteria that are used to determine the appropriate severance amount when dismissing an employee are used when selecting an effective "company sponsored" career transition service. Most outplacement services have a time component attached to them, and asking the question "how long should it take a particular person to become gainfully reemployed?" is a good starting point when selecting a package.

    The use of professional Career Transition counseling has been around for some time and although well understood in the Human Resources community, the service it provides is perhaps more in need now than ever before. In spite of the positive job creation that is present in many markets, there still remains a large number of people that have been downsized and are looking for work. Add to this the number of employees that are "underutilized" because they are currently working parttime or on contact, and the need for job-search assistance remains a necessity.

    Rob Notman,
    KWA Partners
    When considering the amount, or length of time, that you should be providing for outplacement, besides the obvious (" cost"), consider the following:

    1) Length of service, salary, and position. Typically the longer the employee has been with you, the higher their salary, or the more senior their position, the longer it will take them to find a job.

    2) Technical skills, linguistic capability, and flexibility of job status. In general individuals with a technical education, or training, those that are bilingual, and those that are able to consider parttime or contract work will relocate faster.

    3) Market Flexibility. Individuals who are not able to look outside of the Ottawa market, or who's experience is limited to one market sector, such as Federal Government, or High Tech, may not be as attractive to other sectors, and therefore have less options for employment in today's marketplace.

    4) Age and other factors that may limit options. Being too young with limited experience, or at the other end of the spectrum, being older, with out of date capabilities, can extend the time of the re-employment process. Coming back into the workforce after a lengthy absence, or having a very limited network of contacts can also impact on the amount of time it will take to get back into a career.

    5) Bad fit or miss-match of skills to current job requirements. Sometimes the individual needing outplacement assistance discovers that they don't want to get back into a similar job to the one they left. This may require that they consider their "transferable skills" and reposition themselves for a job in an unfamiliar sector.

    In general, our experience has been that the most effective and humane criteria of all boils down to respect for the circumstances of the individual being downsized. Another way to look at it is to "place yourself in their shoes." If you were that person, what would be a fair outplacement service? If it were your son or daughter, what would you want for them?

    Once you have a good handle on the variables that you want to consider when sponsoring an outplacement package, you may want to take into consideration how the services are to be delivered.

    Here is often where cost comes into the equation as the major differentiator to quality of service. In general, you often have to decide between group and seminar/ internet-based service, versus personal, one-to- one reemployment counselling.

    Cost is of course a major factor when buying any service. What makes purchasing outplacement service somewhat unique is that the person buying the service is typically not the person that benefits directly from the quality of the service provided.

    Rob Notman is President of KWA Partners in Ottawa. He will be a featured presenter at the IPM Full Day Conference in Ottawa on June 7, 2004.

    How do attitudes affect performance?

    Q : How do attitudes affect performance?

    Everyone has basic values or world attitudes that are important and unique ways of satisfying their individual needs. These attitudes help initiate behaviour and are sometimes called the hidden motivators because they are not always readily observable. When leaders learn to focus on what people want as a result of their values and attitudes, they are able to maximize performance through impacting these motivators.

    The foundations of what an attitude is originate in Eduard Spranger's work 'Types of Men'. Today, we often describe individuals as having a good attitude or a bad attitude. Spranger defined attitudes as not good or bad but as a filter through which we look at the world: what we value and what we do not value.

    The positive valuing of things translates into six hierarchical attitudes.

    The Six Attitudes

    Theoretical -A passion to discover, systematize, and analyze; a search for knowledge.

    Utilitarian -A passion to gain return on investment of time, resources and money.

    Aesthetic -A passion to experience the impressions of the world and achieve form and harmony in life; self-actualization.

    Social -A passion to eliminate hate and conflict in the world and to assist others in becoming all they can be.

    Individualistic -A passion to achieve position and to use that position to affect and influence others.

    Traditional -A passion to seek out and pursue the higher meaning in life and achieve a system for living.

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