Katie Sillo: Can you provide us with some background on yourself as well as Globoforce and its online programs?
Derek Irvine: Globoforce has been in business since 1999, and over that time we’ve become the leader in social recognition programs for some of the most admired companies in the world today. We have another proven methodology to employee recognition, called strategic recognition. When a recognition program includes both a social and strategic approach,,our clients can get very dramatic improvements in employee engagement, employee retention and measurable adoption of culture across their company.
In my role as Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting, I’ve worked with nearly all of our clients over the past decade. I joined the company near its beginning in 2000, working with our clients to help them achieve their ambitions in terms of setting a strategy for strategic and social recognition, and offering consulting services in areas like communications and training.
In terms of my own personal background, for many years I’ve worked in management consulting, performance improvement and building brands at Johnson & Johnson. I’ve also worked in some famous Irish brands, including as worldwide marketing manager for Jameson Irish Whiskey.
What was the old way of thinking about recognition, and how has Globoforce revolutionized the way employee recognition is done today by engaging more forces and moving businesses forward?
Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley and myself co-authored a book about two years ago called Winning with a Culture of Recognition on exactly this topic, where we looked at the old way of employee recognition and compared it to our new innovative approach. When you think about employee recognition traditionally, you often think of prizes, trophies, or other such gifts. Old school recognition also tends to focus on an elite few people who get these prizes, and often it’s the same people.
So you end up with elitist programs that are very focused on the prize. And when management comes to look at the success of those programs, there is very little data that can really prove whether these activities were successful in driving the business or not. Our approach for what we call “strategic recognition” is to do quite the opposite of all those things. First, rather than being focused on an elite group of people, we want almost all of the organization to be involved. Because in any organization it takes that middle 60 percent to 80 percent to truly move it forward, and they deserve recognition too for doing their tasks dutifully and with quality on a day-by-day basis. So the type of recognition programs that we encourage have a much wider participation and are much more focused on the praise, the feedback and the positive psychology that is created within the organization rather than the prize.
And then thirdly we bring great data to our programs, where we’re able to show management that having positivity among those 60 percent to 80 percent of employees truly does impact employee engagement, and gives them a measurable way to see their culture evolve and be supported. So that’s the difference between the two. You could say traditional recognition is sort of soft and fluffy, whereas strategic recognition is more rightfully associated with hard data-driven management practices like Six Sigma.
How can enhancing engagement really impact an organization, and do you have any supporting data to share in this area such as retention rates?
When we started Globoforce it really was an opportunity for employee recognition to play a much more determined role in an organization, because that can have a dramatic impact on employee engagement and retention. One client that comes to mind when it comes to retention is Quintiles, a global biopharmaceutical-services company. They came to us with high levels of turnover t, and employees felt that their efforts weren’t being sufficiently recognized in the company. We deployed a strategic- recognition program that led to a 13 percent improvement in employee retention rates.
Meanwhile, boosting employee engagement scores can have very significant impacts on a company. Towers Watson conducted a survey that showed that every 15 percent improvement in employee engagement tends to equal a 2 percent improvement to the operating profit bottom line. That’s a real business proposition that can mean a quantifiable impact on a business. For our client Symantec, where we went in and consolidated traditional recognition into a truly strategic-oriented program, and they saw a 14 percentage point improvement in their employee engagement score within a year. We see real hard results coming through as a result of deploying strategic recognition, and this has a clear impact on the bottom line.
In what ways is Globoforce nurturing engagement and supporting programs that align with an organization’s objectives?
How do you move employee engagement? A lot of different initiatives in companies can move employee engagement, but not all of them are of equal weighting. What we discovered over the last number of years is that recognition can be an extremely powerful lever in moving employee engagement; in fact it’s one that punches significantly above its weight, and which HR really needs to pay more attention to.
There’s a book written by Kevin Sheridan, a consultant in employee engagement surveys who works for Avatar, called Building a Magnetic Culture which found that recognition accounts for 56 percent of the difference between why an employee might feel engaged or disengaged. So let’s say you have two different employees; one is kind of feeling down in the dumps and not so engaged, while the other is highly engaged. Looking at millions and millions of employee engagement surveys shows that recognition accounts for 56 percent of the reason for how they feel about perhaps getting feedback from their supervisor. Does the manager thank them for doing good things? When they put in the extra effort, does the organization spot it? So the way that we help organizations nurture engagement is by helping them to really see the power and the potential and the leverage that employee recognition can have.
Since we were talking about the bottom line, what is the typical time Globoforce recognition programs start to generate results, and how are organizations able to sustain them?
The time frames come in three phases. Phase I is getting your company deployed and getting a recognition program in place, which can happen in a handful of weeks. Phase II is to have all the furnaces to be blazing in effect, and for employees to be really getting behind it in a social fashion, with high-frequency recognition happening. When that starts to kick in, it usually takes about six months to a year to see upward moving employee engagement or retention scores. Phase III then is the potential impact on operating profit, because naturally if you boost employee engagement, you can have higher productivity, safety levels and attendance. You have greater attention to detail across an organization when employees are engaged. This last phase and its improvements in operating performance can come anywhere from two to three years down the road.
Now how do we keep our client companies sustained? In the book Winning with a Culture of Recognition, we talked about the difference between a recognition program and building a culture of recognition. And in our experience the difference is that a recognition program is something that HR owns and develops and pushes at the organization; whereas a culture of recognition is something that is owned by everybody, not just HR. A culture of recognition is a way of doing things that the entire organization needs to own. And that’s what we really encourage with our social and strategic approach. It’s about inviting all employees in, it’s about crowdsourcing an enormous amount of positive feedback in the organization, and it’s about encouraging very high participation levels. We don’t want it to be just focused on the elite few. And when you structure it in that way, you’re much more inclined to see a culture of recognition emerge for the long term, and that’s how we maintain the sustainability of this in our client organizations.
How does the real-time feature help employees feel connected to the organization and see how their efforts contribute to its success?
Suppose you were planning a trip to Paris in March. If you were planning that trip maybe about 10 years ago, the first thing you would probably need was a guidebook. There were perhaps only about half a dozen good guidebooks out there, and if you bought something like Lonely Planet you would be making your decisions about Paris based upon the experiences of that travel writer. If you fast forward to today when planning a trip, one of the first places you might go is TripAdvisor to see real crowdsourced input from fellow travelers about hotels you should go to, best attractions, etc. You see the ranking of which places really do seem to be popular and not popular.
So that’s an example of the impact on travel as a result of opening up to social technologies. This same dynamic is happening now in HR, and through social recognition we can widen the inputs to include crowdsourced feedback of employees. This empower employees because their feedback is being asked for and heard. At the same time they’re receiving the positive recognition themselves because their colleagues are giving authentic live feedback as they are accomplishing things in their organizations.
It’s very self-fulfilling. The energy that it generates has self-sustains an organization and keeps it moving forward together. A high-performance culture is a good way to keep the engines going.
Your organization has a large global reach. How would you say that these capabilities permit an effective recognition strategy
Globoforce certainly has a large global reach, as we’re in more than 140 countries around the world. We offer our solution in about 25 different languages, and we have upwards of 25 million different reward options as part of our choice rewards. Now why is that important? It’s because we live in a world of globalization. Almost every company is thinking worldwide these days, even if worldwide is just across to the Canadian border if you’re in the United States. But many companies have footprints from Asia to Europe to North America, so we provide that global capability. It’s really important that employees feel they’re being equally treated wherever they are in the world, and we’re capable of doing that.
Was Globoforce’s additional mobile enhancements intended to further extend this reach? And how has mobile been able to strengthen the program’s success?
Globalization and mobility are major trends. Workforces are more mobile, with people working at home, executives traveling and sitting at the airports, etc. Being able to interact during that quieter time, rather than just feeling disconnected from the office, allows employees to hear about great things happening in the company or capture some feedback right there rather than waiting to get back to base camp. So our technology solution has been scaled to work end-to-end and not just some clever app.
For us it was really important that our technology worked end-to-end over the mobile to allow that level of access. And that stretches to our social capabilities.Within our solution we have social features like a newsfeed where you can see the recognition happening in real time, which also works on a mobile phone. So you can imagine yourself sitting at a New York airport, as I was last week, due to a delayed plane. One of the first things that I do is get out my mobile phone, and see about every 12 seconds or so a new recognition moment coming up for the group of people that I happen to be watching. It’s quite incredible.
Can you share some examples of success stories, like JetBlue or others for instance?
In addition to Quintile and Symantec who I mentioned earlier, JetBlue is another good example. They are known worldwide for having an incredible brand and great customer service, and they came to us with a desire to help unite their 14,500- crewmembers behind the brand. They wanted an initiative to make sure that they were continuously strengthening that brand and uniting their crewmembers behind the core values of their company: safety, caring, integrity, fun and passion every day. They wanted a way to reinforce all of those values, and that’s exactly what social and strategic recognition is perfect for. Because when you’re going to have many people involved, you’re going to be asking the crowd for positive feedback for when employees at JetBlue see other employees passionately living out these values.
So JetBlue successfully deployed what is called the LIFT program where crewmembers can nominate and recognize each other in a very seamless and quick way. After just three months JetBlue saw quite a dramatic impact, with an 88 percent improvement in crewmembers being satisfied with rewards and recognition at work. Those crewmembers were saying they felt better about getting recognized for doing great things, so that had a very quick and dramatic impact on the culture.
Let’s wrap up by looking a bit into the future. What is your view on HR and talent management, and how will it need to continue to evolve?
There are three large trends that I see out there. One is the importance of big data, which is obviously not a brand new trend. But if you think back about some of the things that I mentioned about how strategic recognition differs from traditional recognition, and how big data is a key driver of that, then Globoforce certainly is a leader in bringing data to the recognition topic. We’ve invested way beyond the curve in reporting capabilities, predictive analytics and being able to use data to drive important decisions around the talent that you have, by spotting hot spots of who gets recognized for great performance. If particular groups of employees continuously recognize certain individuals for perhaps their level of energy or their level of innovation, those can be important indicators to include in a much richer talent conversation. So I think data’s a big trend in recognition being part of that.
The second major change is the social component, and within social you have the idea of crowdsourcing feedback like the travel guide example. In traditional organizations, you follow everything down the straight hierarchy where your senior management makes the big decision and it gets passed down in a linear fashion. That’s dramatically changing already with all the social tools that are going into the enterprise. So that’s a major trend, and recognition is within that conversation because it’s social recognition that offers the opportunity to capture people’s feedback and how people are thinking about the way that we’re living a company’s values.
Finally, if you think about traditional performance management and the annual appraisal, that can be impacted by some of the trends I already mentioned. The traditional performance appraisal tends to be the single manager’s view of your performance in a year. It tends to be done on an annual basis and can be very structured. There isn’t a single person that I’ve met in my career who looks forward to their annual appraisal. I think that’s going to change as a consequence of social recognition and the opportunity to use social recognition and its crowdsourced feedback. Just imagine the ability to capture all of that feedback that employees are giving to each other about how you live the values during the year, if that can become an additional reference point. So I don’t think the traditional performance appraisal is going to die completely. . But I think it can be significantly complemented by collecting more opinions to get a much deeper and better-rounded understanding of how the employees really performed during the year.
Those would be the three biggest trends: big data, social and the transformation of the traditional performance review.
As Vice President, Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek leads the company’s Insight consulting division. In this role, he helps clients, including some of world’s most admired companies, leverage proven recognition strategies and best practices to elevate employee engagement, increase retention and improve bottom-line results. In addition to his role leading consulting services for Globoforce, Derek also oversaw the company’s marketing and rewards functions from 2000 to 2010.
Derek is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As a renowned speaker, author of an acclaimed blog, Recognize This!, and the co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition, he teaches HR leaders how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. His viewpoints and writings are also regularly featured across all major HR publications, including Workspan, HR Magazine, HR Executive, Talent Management and Workforce Management.
Prior to Globoforce, Derek also spent many years working for leading management consulting firm PA Consulting Group and managed world famous brands of Johnson & Johnson, and Groupe Pernod Ricard (Jameson Irish whiskey). He holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.
Katheryn Sillo is a part of the Content and Programming team at Argyle Executive Forum. In this role, Katheryn works on content development and speaker recruitment for events, specializing in the Human Resources space. Additionally, Katheryn oversees the content platform, Argyle Journal. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in Journalism and minor in Political Science from Fairfield University, where she was captain of the Division I Rowing Team and on the executive cabinet for the Fairfield University Student Association.