Thursday, July 30, 2009

Employee Engagement 2010: Part 2

Why Not Gift Cards?

Low denomination gift cards work well for 'on the spot' recognition of above and beyond organizational contributions.

However, It is important to consider the following issues with gift cards for employee rewards:
* Upfront process costs
* Taxation
* Breakage

As a manager at a former company I bought 25 gift cards for my team. These $20 gift cards came with a $2 processing fee each. Employee were taxed back through payroll processing compliance, they paid tax every time they used the card and they ALL left the cards on their desks because the remaining .78 did not buy anything at Starbucks.

You do the math:
* Card cost - $22
* Tax charged to employee pay check - 10%
* Tax charged to every transaction (average 4 per card) - additional 10%
* Breakage (money left on card) - average $1
* Paying $2 in advance, $2 pay check charge back, and $2 at the counter tax while leaving $1 on the card for 4 cups of coffee - PRICEY!

I once got a Walmart gift card for winning a company contest. I bought diapers with the card. Unfortunately, I was not able to hang the dirty diapers on my desk to celebrate my achievement.

Employees need a memento of achievement!
It's always nice have a few extra dollars in your pocket, a week's worth of free coffee or complimentary diapers for a week...but supplemental cost control does not enhance Employee Engagement!

A simple gift transcends it's dollar value. Think about your most cherished possessions...chances are they are not of high retail value but hold sentimental significance. It is not the MP3 player that matters but the blood, sweat and tears it took to achieve it.

My proudest memento of professional achievement is a crappy watch that I was afforded through my team's gratitude for my efforts. I was not promoted, given extra compensation or honored by our CEO that year. But, the extension of my teammates genuine appreciation for my effort (not formally recognized) kept me at that company for an additional 2 years.

How to make Gift Cards Work....
You need to maximize the value of gift cards. If you buy a $25 gift card, you should pay $25 for it and there should be a memento of achievement rewarded in connection. These cards need to be:
* Redeemable online
* Tax/Shipping Inclusive (avoids charge backs to employees)
* Accessible to a wide variety of gifts
* Supported by a meaningful recognition process

Want to know why Peer recognition can mean more than a note from the CEO? Visit this blog next week for a overview of Meaningful Nomination Programs.

Don't Forget to Remember!

- Dave



Employee Engagement 2010: Part 1

Rewards for Quality Service
...every organization has a service awards program. These programs have historically used a tiered lapel pin club to reflect years of service: silver pin at 10 years, gold pin at 20 years and a platinum pin at 25 years.

There are a few professional developments that need to be considered in revamping the way we reward quality service (presented as 'quality service' it becomes evident that this IS a performance based reward):
* Roughly 80% of tenure awards are given at the 5 and 10 year milestones.
* Internally grown employees approaching their 10 year milestone were born in 1975.
* One third of the workforce plans to change jobs when the recession ends. (referenced below)
* By 2014 there will be 63 million Millennials in the workforce. (referenced below)
* The aforementioned Millennials will change jobs 10 times by the age of 40. (referenced below)

Here are a few extended realities:
* Waiting 10 years to recognize an employee is now obsolete.
* With Generation X and Generation Y (Millennials) now the dominating professional population lapel pins and logo-ed gifts will not be received favorably.

Recognize Early:
If you plan to spend $50 per year of service on an employee; use it every year. Don't wait 5 years. When people make a choice to join an organization the best way you can validate their choice is with a welcome gift and reception. Annual reviews are not the way to congratulate employee loyalty; couple your performance review with a token of your appreciation.

Mementos of Achievement without Emblems: My dad has a guest room full of logo-ed clocks, picture frames, certificates of achievement and globes to commemorate his 30+ years with his organization. This an expression of his brand loyalty to his company. In the advent of professional networking tools, personal branding is now more relevant to today's workforce than loyalty to their company. Sad but true!

You may want to reward your employee with access to an online catalogue of diverse gifts that is relevant to his or her lifestyle. This way an employee is afforded something they will actually use instead of hiding it in their parents study. You should also consider that non-cash service awards programs are tax exempt. Conclusion: Keep the gifts but make them lifestyle relevant to today's workforce...and reward them sooner!

The Process Before the Prize!

There are three driving factors in meaningful recognition of service achievement:
* Communication
* Presentation
* Inclusion

A well crafted message from the CEO can be a keepsake greater than any gift.

What would it mean to an operational employee if the VP were to enter the warehouse and gather his team around! To then put her arm around him and to promote his professional achievements and the way his experience at the company has evolved his personal life.?

You wouldn't recognize service in just one department nor would you recognize service of only Headquartered employees. So why would you have separate anniversary programs in your international locations. Sure, the gift selection will be different in Asia Pac, the EU, etc. but the program branding and communication needs to be globally consistent. Most international business affiliates come from acquisition. The best way to make them feel welcome is to recognize them in the same manner you would your Home Office Manager.

Why don't gift cards work for service awards? Find out next week in the second installation of this Blog Series!

Don't Forget to Remember

- Dave


Monday, July 27, 2009

Recognizing Professional Talent in 2009

Any business leaders who tell you that they have not been effected by the slumping economy are in denial (for better or for worse). EVERY business is faced with sustaining productivity with fewer resources. Many companies have downsized, others have merged to survive, and some are closely managing margins to stay afloat. Business Leaders have made the case to investors for additional funding while profits are down. As a result, demands on those lucky enough to be employed have been intensified.

With added pressure on all organizational facets one trend rings universal: THOSE WHO PRODUCE NEED TO BE RECOGNIZED AND REWARDED!

* Every company has an anniversary milestone program. With reallocated budgets many of these programs have been reduced to certificates and lapel such mementos encourage employee engagement?

* Every sales organization works on incentives, but how are you rewarding the more 'task oriented' departments?

* Employees are extending their efforts above and beyond their general job description....what are you doing to recognize this extra effort?

* As margins are managed more closely tensions are elevated. What avenue is presented for inter-departmental collaboration? How do employees extend a thoughtful 'thank you' to one another off the battlefield?

* As roles in Talent Management programming are redefined how are HR Professionals extending their business relevance to Senior Management?

Three things to consider in ponderance of the above mentioned questions:
1. This recession will not last forever. The "Luck to Have a Job" era will end soon...when it does the mistreated will find greener pastures!

2. NOW is the time to reassess your Total Rewards Strategy (even if you do not have the budget or plan to make program adjustments)!

3. There is a way to bring Business Critical Return on Investment to programs that are perceived as 'fluff'!

In a 10 part Blog Series over the next 10 weeks these issues will be addressed to assist you in formulating a Total Recognition Strategy. Please subscribe to this blog and fasten your change navigation helmet!

Don't Forget to Remember!

- Dave


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The new members of the workforce (Generation Y) have been criticised by their sense of entitlement and need for validation. These characteristics exist in the elder business strategist as well (baby boomers).

I overheard an interview with a young lady yesterday who spouted misnomers with mislead confidence. She had distinct opinions about everything. I was intrigued by her confidence but alarmed by how the elder interviewer did not help her navigate her opinions. There is no way that young lady would learn from the interview because the interviewer was too politically correct to deliver candid feedback. There is a way to help young professionals understand their need to adjust their strategy without shattering their confidence and aspirations.

In a similar vein, there are a group of retired gentlemen who gather at the coffee shop every morning to complain: the country is going to hell, these youngster don't even wear suits....! The common thread between Grandpa and his Daughter's Daughter? Motivation by discontent.

Why wake up everyday to prove your critics wrong? Why formulate a basis of motivation in insult of another's efforts? When was the last time you engaged in conversation with someone who spouted negativity and walked away enlightened?

The easy thing to do is stand back with arms crossed and criticize the efforts of others. The easy thing to do is wake up every day and formulate excuses for why we cannot be better for our failures. The blame game requires no genuine effort.

The ivory towers are crumbling and the new regime might not quite to ready for the world's extremes. One thing is certain: the more you let your lack of effort become an excuse, the closer you get to obscurity; whether your 21 or 72.

I have been that young person with distinct and mislead opinions and I came to learn that the opinions I expressed really were not my own. I think I have learned enough in my life not to become the bitter old man who lets his past guide his future. At some point, I stopped talking and started listening. I witnessed that those who I thought I was impressing with my bravado were smiling politely in hopes of ushering me away (not in validation of my opinions). I have made countless mistakes thinking I was doing the right thing, self-validating through tireless effort. The greatest lesson learned: if you are climbing the wrong mountain it matters not how hard you climb.

So as you ponder the dynamics of generational diversity in the workplace you may be better served pondering human similarities. If you are not receptive to candid self analysis you may be sliding down the mountain instead of climbing it. Seek sage like wisdom and take it with an appreciative grain of may realize that those dispensing advice are speaking to their own validation more than driving your motivation. Let your energy drive you through the day but be sure your intent is genuine. Sometimes we have to break our climb to catch the sunset and survey our footprints.

The world will be a better place if we can give and accept advice with the understanding that there are no certainties. It is, however, certain that all conclusions are easier to accept when we ponder potential based on our own actions. The best way to control your destiny is by understanding only you can control it. Excuses are unnecessary when you don't need them. It is more rewarding to climb the mountain with focus on the summit not fear of what is behind you.

Don't forget to remember!

- Dave

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The All Star Game

Last night's Major League Baseball All Star Game was thrilling! I will always love this game because I had a chance to experience the festivities a few years back in San Francisco.

The MLB All Star Game is preceded by the home run derby. If you get a thrill from mosh pits you must take in this event. My wife and I stood in the left field bleachers as Vladamir Guerrero launched hit after hit into our section. People spilled beer on one another, stood arm and arm on their seats, and eventually fell head first into concrete to grab a souvenir. After our section had stumbled over each other three or four homers in a row I stood on my seat and yelled freedom because the experience was so invigorating. I looked down at my wife and she was sitting in her seat crying (she stands 5ft and weighs 100 pounds). I grabbed her up on the seat with me and made her enjoy the some point I think she understood the chaos.

The day of the All Star Game I woke up, threw on my causal game going gear and boarded a train to my friend Frank Wolf's funeral. The excitement of the game mired in the tragic and untimely death of my true friend and a lover of life. Ryder Kuhl mad dogged me from his car seat as his dad picked me up from the train and we headed to the church. The harsh looks continued through the day as my Fred Perry and Vans were not in keeping with the exquisite dress of the occasion....Frank would have understood. As the pall bearers put Frank's body into the car that would take him to his final resting place, my friend Chris Clinch temporarily lost it. He was overcome by emotion and a feeling of loneliness having lost another close friend. My friend's unadulterated fear and sadness made me cry and I too felt completely alone...I wish I could have hugged him in that moment. Just as my fear grew Dave Lincoln appeared out of nowhere, put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a humble smile. I respected him tremendously for being kind enough to offer me his hand and for being respectful enough not the say anything in that moment. He guided me back to the car and I boarded the train back into San Francisco.

As I got off the train I wondered how I could bring myself celebrate after such a somber event. Immediately my wife rushed up to me and grabbed my hand as if we were headed into Disneyland. She escorted me to a private party where Counting Crows were playing by the Bay, bought a beer that was bigger than her head and trotted to the front row to dance the afternoon away. This effort was not in disrespect of her friend Frank but in tribute to him. The wise young lady helped me once again understand that as we transcend this place our memories are carried in celebration not pity. As I watched the love of my life dance I thought how fortunate I am to have the love of the family I have created, how much I regretted that Frank would not get the chance to experience such a thing and how grateful I was that he did not leave a wife or children behind. The music carried into the sunset, "these lines of lightening mean we're never alone."

The great Steve Fanelli got us perfect seats behind home plate. We heard applause for the misunderstood Barry Bonds and watched Ichiro Suzuki hit an inside the park home run. I looked into heaven to my friend Frank Wolf.

We walked back to our hotel to put our heads down before returning to the reality of parenting, work and life in the hustle.

I will never forget the cheers and songs I heard. Baseball gives us all hope. We see the strength in the mighty men on the field and it helps us feel strong: when the market slumps, when our relationships are challenged and when we lose a friend!

Don't Forget to Remember!

- Dave

Friday, July 3, 2009

Empty Cans

I remember where I was when Regan was shot, I remember where I was when Kurt Gibson hit that home run against the A's and I remember where I was the first time I heard "Empty Cans" by the Streets.

The record 'A Grand Don't Come for Free' is a concept album that explores self imposed frustration, paranoia and the struggle to stay profitable. Through the course of the record our narrator (Mike Skinner) explores the aforementioned struggles in Artful Dodger prose. Skinner tells the story of a envelope with $1000 in it gone missing. Who's to blame? Why is no one coming clean? Finger pointing and insecurity sets in. As Skinner holes up in his flat feeling sorry for himself even his TV malfunctions.

As these stories and their paralleled metaphors unfold "Empty Cans" serves as the record's finale. The song works in two opposing parts. The first act an indulgence in self pity: Skinner remarks that it's not his fault there's wall to wall empty cans because everyone is against him. A conspiracy exists as his girlfriend has run off with his best pal and even the TV repair man is in on it as a greater fee to do more extended service has been suggested. Act one culminates with a fight with the TV man (for overcharging him) and a slumber behind drawn shades (feeling sorry for himself)....A deep droning back beat grinds his words of self pity and inquisition of his enemies (everyone).


Our narrator enters with stubborn slumping shoulders in act two but promptly gives in. He invites his friend Scott over to have a look at the TV. He opens his blinds and admits "it's all my my fault theres wall to wall empty cans". Greater possibilities turn droning back beats into a lifting piano roll. He admits shutting people out has only made him feel worse, hearing his friend out brought closure and he may be at fault for his perception of things...."This is where everything started to all turn back".

Scott goes to work on the TV and he sees something obscuring the frequencies.....the envelope with $1000 stuck in the crack of the TV! Skinner's smile turns to a humble squint as he realizes that the bad times with his girlfriend, financial hardship, struggles with his friends and his overall view of humanity had been the culmination of one thing: His Attitude.

"When it rains it pours", we often say. Bad things seem to happen in tandem with one another. This chain of events is the result of the little things that permeate our psyche and create debilitating negativity. Things will happen that are beyond our control, we will try hard and fail, others will get lucky with limited effort and people will fall out of love with us. Life isn't fair and if we give in to the down slope we are bound to crash.

In the professional world I know many people who live in constant discontent: always trying to prove their relevance, distracted by miscalculation, perceivably mired in under appreciation, working harder with less results and without deserved credit. At some point the back beat drone has to turn into lifting piano. When you adjust your attitude, accept things you cannot change and stay the course; eventually the pointing fingers turn into smiles. I struggle with my own validation every day but Skinner says it best in the coda of "Empty Cans": You are the one who's got your back when the last deeds done. In essence, The only expectations that matter are your own.

If you live your life with genuine intent you discover a few universal truths: your failures are usually a result of your lack of effort or mis-perceptions, those pointing fingers do so to keep the spotlight off themselves, and those who take short cuts run into a dead end sooner or later. Believe in your true life's mission, commit yourself with passion fueled generosity, stay focused on the prize and ignore the will find success, and moreover, happiness.

His thousand quid save in the bank, the realization of his true friends, and the shame of feeling sorry for himself behind him; Mike Skinner picks up the empty cans that have cluttered his path to success. He draws the blinds and sets out to live his life, unsure of potential results but empowered in knowing the only person capable of keeping him from ultimate success is himself.

"It's the end of something I did not want to end, beginning of hard times to come. But, something that was not meant to be is done and this is the start of what was..."

- Dave