Thursday, May 17, 2007

Employee Recognition is About Encouraging Volunteerism

I attended a very well delivered workshop yesterday on Employee Recognition, facilitated by Suzanne Shell. Good insights, practical tips, free of what a colleague of mine calls "consultant gobledigook," and a genuine, enthusiastic approach.

This morning, as I reflected on the session, I began to sense, perhaps inaccurately, an implicit underlying assumption that "if you do this, you will get that." In essence, predictable cause and effect. At least, nothing explicit was said by anyone in the room to put forth an alternate view point. But as we all know, people are highly unpredictable, and often do surprising things, or take no action at all, in the face of overwhelming reasons to the contrary. (I have way too many examples of my own.)

Suzanne definitely made the point about ensuring that recognition is timely, specific, and most of all sincere. And I think she's absolutely correct. Recognition is another form of feedback, requiring all three to be effective. (More so if you recognize behaviour that will have future value as well.)

But I think an equally important mind set for effective recognition is to think about employees, in particular those who perform knowledge work, as volunteers. They have freedom of choice - from whether to work for a particular organization, to how much attention to devote to a situation or conversation, what is a priority for them, who to lend credence to, and what information is valid and useful.

A number of people I've spoken to lately have referenced a Gallup survey conducted in the US that uncovered that on average 27% of employees are engaged, 59% disengaged, and 14% are actively disengaged. I don't think that employee engagement can be conscripted, nor can it be gently manipulated into existence - perhaps over the short term, but it's not a sustainable.

I believe that the recognition of alignment of specific behaviours with corporate mission, vision and values communicates and reinforces an explicit framework that provides information for individual, informed decision making. Armed with clear direction, and clear expectations as communicated by a small number of explicit examples of aligned behaviours - Suzanne correctly emphasizes the importance of transparency, communications, and "sharing the news" - employees can more effectively decide if they want to be part of the organization. If they do, then they can make better decisions about how to be effective in the organization.

Encouraging volunteerism is an important part of a manager's job, and employee recognition is no doubt an important element.

No comments: