The results you get when great work is recognized and rewarded. Organizations that value and celebrate the difference individuals make. Leadership committed to developing their people to do great things.
These themes and more were the focus of the seventh annual Executive Recognition Summit, held in New York City. This year’s Summit brought together senior-level executives, representing industries and organizations from around the world.
The invitation-only conference opened with insights from Dave Petersen, Chief Executive Officer and President of the O.C. Tanner Company. The keynote speaker was Michael Abrashoff, The New York Times bestselling author of It’s Your Ship, who challenged leaders to listen to their team members in order to empower them to contribute their best. Tom Carroll, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer for RR Donnelley, examined the different ways to motivate and engage the different generations in the workforce. In remembrance of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Captain Joe Brosi, CEO of the World Police and Fire Games was honored.
A panel discussion led by Rebecca Winslow Booth of American Express, Taylor Flake of Pepsi Beverages Company, Alan Bradford and Don Stuckey of Baptist Health System Inc., discussed their organization’s respective journeys with recognition-and the impact of appreciation on their cultures. David Sturt, O.C. Tanner’s Executive Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, talked about the importance of making a difference that’s valued by other people.
The conference ended with the presentation of the O.C. Tanner Recognition Leadership Award to FIS-a Fortune 500 company that has employee engagement as one of its guiding principles. The award was accepted by FIS President and CEO, Frank Martire and Lisa Sweeney, Vice President, Employee Engagement, Human Resources.
This paper provides a summary of the best practices shared during the 2011 Summit and reviews how, in these times of challenges and change, many organizations are finding clear success by investing in and recognizing their people.
Dave Petersen, President and CEO, O.C. Tanner
The host of the Executive Recognition Summit, Dave Petersen, opened the two-day event by asking leaders to think back and remember the first job they ever had. From what beginning did their careers unfold? The responses: delivering newspapers, building pools, working in shirt shops, mowing lawns, washing dishes, serving fast food, picking lettuce.
“We all have a start somewhere,” said Petersen. “We all began our career in some way. And no matter where we started and where we are today, we all learned early on that the big part of work is about results. In fact, as leaders, aren’t we all about results? Top line, bottom line, gross margin, employee retention, employee engagement, market share, inventory turns, patient satisfaction, and results. They’re all critical to the health of an enterprise. However, the fact that we’re gathered here today is proof we know there’s another result, a far bigger, more important result. It’s the result that makes all other results possible, and that is the development, the encouragement, the acknowledgment, and the engagement of our people as leaders.”
“Since our first jobs, all of us have learned more and more about getting results. And usually, we measure those results with numbers. In hospital rooms and care facilities, doctors and nurses measure results by monitoring blood pressure, oxygen levels, pain, heart rate and untold other important numbers. But it’s also important to listen and empathize with the patient. Medical professionals don’t just look at numbers, they also apply patient feedback, past experience and extraordinary judgment.”
“In business board rooms, there are pages of spreadsheets, ROI calculations, performance statements, risk analysis, SWAP analysis, forecasts, business plans, PowerPoint presentations, all products of research, measurements and sound thinking, all important factors to consider and study when making decisions.”
“But great leaders also have a feel for things. They can sense when something is working or not. They don’t always need all of the analysis. In fact, they may choose to ignore data in favor of judgment, belief or feel. They instinctively know things that the numbers don’t know. Have you ever had that experience? Of course you have,” said Petersen.
“I’m surrounded by great people at O.C. Tanner and I bet you are too. We depend on them and they depend on us. I think much of our responsibility as leaders is to unleash that individual and team potential.”
Petersen concluded by asking leaders if their organizations had purpose. Did they believe in it? Did their people believe in it? Going forward, leaders should consider, while analytics are important, they can often feel what’s right more than what can be quantified. “Pay attention to that sense, feeling, and intuition because it rings true and leaders can count on it.”
Tom Carroll, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, RR Donnelley & Sons
With a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, Tom Carroll leads 60,000 employees worldwide for RR Donnelley & Sons-a 10 billion dollar, Fortune 250 Company. A renowned executive coach and facilitator, Carroll shared his insights on the generational make-up of the American workforce and the life experiences that affect them. Why is this important to understand? Because as Carroll said, “Life experiences really set our beliefs. Our beliefs cause us to attribute value; what we value motivates ourselves. And when leaders understand what motivates, unexpected and exceptional results follow.”
Carroll explained how the different generations are influenced by everything from world events and national issues to what’s happening in the community and with families-and how that sets the tone for the dominant emotional tenor.
“If the United States is a person,” asked Carroll. “What’s the emotional tenor, the emotion that you’d attribute right now? Stress, fear, depression, anxiety, frustration, uncertainty? That sets a tone. It sets the tone for your family. It sets the tone for the work environment. It sets the tone for the country. It sets the tone for your kids.”
By looking at these factors and how they affect the different generations, we can see the impact of the predominant tone of each period, helping answer the question, “How are we influenced by what is going on culturally?” By highlighting the people and events that affected each generation, Carroll made the connection to what needs should be met to help each person contribute their best:
Quoting Abraham Maslow, “He that is good with the hammer thinks everything is a nail,” Carroll urged leaders to not just view the world from their perspective but consider how employees could be motivated and influenced differently. To effectively motivate and engage employees, leaders should understand their employees’ generational make-up and the ways they view work in the world and how they want to be recognized.
Rebecca Winslow Booth, American Express
“American Express has over 60,000 employees in 45 different countries. We have people in every generation and a diverse set of businesses. When our team was put together in 2008, our recognition program was on hold. But we wanted to take a look at recognition across the company and understand how it could be made fun, different, and better. We wanted to have a single global branded platform giving us central oversight into how and where recognition was going. Flexibility, equity, and consistency were important. Because we are one American Express, we wanted employees to be able to recognize any other employee in the company, regardless of business unit and country. We looked to align with our brand and our values. Our employees feel a strong sense of pride in the brand. So everything from how the system was named, the color palette used, all of the communications that went out-was all designed to resonate with our employees and with our brand. We now have every single employee in American Express currently on Reward Blue. And in its first year, we have close to 200,000 instances of recognition on the platform.”
During the question and answer period, Booth offered this insight for using appreciation to bring an organization together in times of change. “Wherever your organization is going, you can use recognition to incent the behaviors that you want to see in the new organization. So if it’s more innovation, if it’s flexibility and being open to change, maybe people are being asked to do different things than they were doing before. Recognize the people that are role models in that area and you can help more of that change along.”
Taylor Flake, Pepsi Beverages Company
“A division of PepsiCo, Pepsi Beverages Company has almost 300,000 employees worldwide with 50,000 in the United States and Canada. A frontline-focused organization, we make the soda in our plant, put it on our trucks, merchandise the product, and service the customer. This means we have people out servicing the customers and not behind computer screens. In 2007, we had a very formalized recognition program. But as we looked at our employee satisfaction survey, we found that while we’re good at recognizing results, we didn’t do a good job of saying ‘thank you’ for the effort of helping people along. During our leadership meeting, each one of us wrote a thank you note. A simple exercise, but it really started this idea of making us more of an appreciation culture. Now, our recognition program, True Blue, has three phases: True Loyalty, True Effort, and True Results. We have an appreciation week and immediate recognition with on-the-spot checks. The thank you notes continue and we’ve focused on web-based training for leaders on how to deliver recognition. We also have something in our talent management system called ‘manager quality performance index’. It’s just a 12-question survey that goes out to all employees and then it’s baked into your performance appraisal at the end of the year. Recognition is one of those questions. Just another motivator that the way you recognize people will be in your performance appraisal.”
Alan Bradford, Baptist Health Systems, Inc.
“We’re a ministry at the Birmingham Baptist Association with four hospitals and the largest primary care network of Family Practice physicians in Alabama. What really drove us to recognition was the research commissioned by O.C. Tanner and how it builds a case for increasing engagement with our employees. Our recognition strategy was focused around our values of integrity, compassion, advocacy, resourcefulness and excellence, or ICARE. There are very specific behavioral anchors behind those values and that’s where we drive engagement. On our recognition journey, we did experience caution points or considerations along the way. The first one is the strategy-how we presented it to the organization in making the business case for recognition. Through our engaged employees, we know that we can do things that help our patients. We can improve our operating performance and our cost per patient. We can increase our HCAHPS scores or patient satisfaction and improve the quality of care-everything from infection rates, re-admission rates, and ultimately, mortality. What does success look like for us? Our goal is to be at the top percentage in all of these performance measures in the nation. We think it’s the right thing to do for quality of care, and being able to thrive in our market.”
Don Stuckey, Baptist Health Systems, Inc.
“It is a journey that you’re on toward changing to a culture of recognition. As we look at the caution points along the way, you have strategy, as well as the need for leadership support at the top and throughout your organization. We have support from our CEO, our executive committee, and our hospital leader. Another area is training. Using the tool is easy, but the training needs to happen on the importance of being specific and timely with the recognition. That’s not intuitive for people. To give our training the face of Baptist, we sent four people to O.C. Tanner for training so they could then train our people. Communication is another factor. Every Monday morning I send an email to 260 of our leaders to remind them about Because ICARE. If you’re going to make a culture change, you’ve got to constantly be reminding people. We also use dashboard metrics to hold each of our hospitals accountable. We say, ‘This is your goal and this is what you need to achieve’, and then once a month, we tell them how they’re standing on their dashboard, not just in terms of Because ICARE, but other things as well. Any manager or leader can go in and see who is using the tool and coach the people who aren’t. We’ve got 4,500 employees and we’ve sent 9,000 electronic thank you cards. 87 percent of all our managers have sent at least one. Is it making a difference? Our employees tell us so and positive results are coming in. What have we learned? You’ve got to have ownership, somebody in your organization who’s got to be the appreciation evangelist you have train, communicate-and you have to measure it.”
Captain Joe Brosi, CEO of the World Police and Fire Games
Each year at the Executive Recognition Summit, O.C. Tanner pays tribute to people who remind us of the potential that exists in all of us for greatness. Past Summits have honored our Olympic athletes. With the Summit taking place just days after the 10th anniversary of 9/11, David Sturt made a special presentation to Captain Joe Brosi of the Ladder 55 Group in the Bronx and the CEO of the World Police and Fire Games.
In accepting the recognition, Brosi explained the mission of the 2011 games that had just concluded in New York, “The 2011 World Police and Fire Games became an opportunity for us to celebrate humanity through sports. Why the World Police and Fire Games? Why did this become our stand, our mission, our moment of greatness? It’s the Olympics for police officers and fire fighters with 17,000 athletes from 79 countries, competing in 70 sports, 150 sporting events in 50 venues throughout 3 states over 10 days. For 2011, the theme of the games centered on: honor, remembrance, gratitude, and resilience. Honor for the service that police officers and fire fighters offer their communities every day. Remembrance for the ultimate sacrifice that many individuals made on that day and have continued to make since. Gratitude for the support received from around the country and the world. And resilience in the ability to show that we’re still here. We rebuilt our city, our families, and we moved on, and that’s a tribute to the resolve that we have as Americans.”
“I’ll humbly accept this recognition on behalf of the hundreds of fire fighters and police officers that gave so much and sacrificed so much to accomplish this mission. To the thousands of volunteers that came out and supported us, and to the 417 first responders that made the ultimate sacrifice 10 years ago.”
Mike Abrashoff, Bestselling Author and CEO of Grassroots Leadership
The New York Times bestselling author of It’s Your Ship, Mike Abrashoff, delivered an inspiring keynote at the 2011 Executive Recognition Summit, hosted by O.C. Tanner. He focused on the amazing results that occur when you openly communicate and instill in the people you lead, a true sense of ownership. How any organization-like the ship he commanded-can go from being the worst to the best by creating an environment where people would want their own loved ones to work.
When Abrashoff was first given command of the USS Benfold, it was regarded as one of the worst ships in the Pacific fleet, a ship where its own crew did not feel safe. Abrashoff knew he had many problems to address. But he also knew he had to focus on the one variable that he could influence: his crew. “It all came down to employee engagement. It all came down to recognition. It all came down to leadership, which led to every sailor feeling ownership and accountability for the results. You can ask a team to accomplish a mission but you can’t order excellence. Excellence only comes about when, us, as captains, as leaders, create and lead those engaged associates so that they take just as much ownership for the organization as you have for it.”
Instead of assuming the typical command and control leadership style, Abrashoff tried something different. He met with each crew member one-on-one, encouraging and empowering them to share their ideas on what should change and how to make things better. As he told each one, “This is your ship.”
“That’s how Benfold became a hotbed of creativity and innovation. It didn’t come because the Captain ordered it from his Captain’s chair. It came because the crew knew that it was in their own best interest that we’d be ruthlessly efficient and get everything done to the best of our ability, with the scarcest of resources. It all came down to us deciding that we’re going to challenge the way we do business and realize that we need to make the leap from just being managers to being leaders.”
Outlining the steps he took, Abrashoff called out key points leaders should keep in mind to get powerful results from their people:
“We tried to create a culture where we weren’t going to be satisfied unless we were number one. Everything we did, we were playing to win. What we tried to create was a sense of teamwork, a sense of camaraderie, a sense of esprit de corp. This all led to unity of purpose, where we stopped focusing on our divisions, and started focusing on the things that united us.”
Using recognition and acknowledging crew members for the value they contributed, drew the best out of them. And uniting his crew with this purpose of doing their best led to amazing results. Benfold’s retention rate went from 8 percent to almost 100 percent. In his last year, Abrashoff ran the ship on 75 percent of its operating budget. In just 18 months, the ship went from being one of the worst in the Pacific fleet to being named the ship considered to be the most proficient in overall combat systems readiness. And, four years after Abrashoff left, Benfold and its crew won the award for the best ship in the entire U.S. Navy. “If I learned one thing after almost 20 years in the military, it’s that if you treat your people poorly, you’re never going to be disappointed. They’re going to perform poorly. If you treat them like they’re the best, if you set high expectations and train them, give them the confidence and recognize them, they’ll perform like they’re the best. My former chief engineer called me one day to say, ‘You know Captain, we tried to recruit our people each and every day even though we already had them on board. If you think about how much time, money and effort you spend recruiting the best talent, it is far more economical to retain the best talent you already have.’”
“We’re leading in extraordinarily difficult times,” concluded Abrahsoff. “A lot is being asked of us. Those of us who are left in organizations are working longer and harder than we ever have. What we need to do is to understand the sacrifices that people are making. They’re looking for leadership, they’re looking for recognition. They want to do their best. We need to impress all of this upon our managers and leaders and create a sense of urgency around it.”
David Sturt, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, O.C. Tanner
With a passion for understanding how and why people make a difference in organizations, David Sturt has been researching great work and the impact appreciation has on it.
“What is it about great work that is so valuable and relevant to all of us?” said Sturt. “It’s about people doing things that make a difference. They have made a difference that is valued and that somebody loves. Think about it in your own companies. Every single success, every product you offer, every service, every good thing that’s happened in your company has come from somebody having done some piece of great work. It’s fundamental. It’s the thing that moves things forward.”
Sturt explained the importance of appreciating great work. “Why should we appreciate great work? To appreciate something is using judgment in understanding the value of something. Appreciate also means to grow. There’s an important relationship between appreciation and great work that we often can overlook. If you focus solely on the great work side, you may have been part of an organization where only performance mattered. Appreciation was never given when somebody made a difference. There were no conversations around the value that was received. What happens? You get high performance that starts to taper off. People just get burned out. They feel like, ‘I’m just stuck in a machine here.’ It doesn’t quite work. It’s not sustainable.”
“Appreciation without great work is hollow. People see right through it. When somebody has done a piece of great work, however small or large, and that work is appreciated, it just drives you. You can’t get enough of it. Part of our jobs as leaders is to create cultures where that cycle flourishes, where people are inspired to do great work. When a difference is made, we celebrate and show our appreciation.”
To create cultures where great work is valued, encouraged, and nurtured, Sturt outlined three strategies proven to be effective for thousands of organizations:
At the end of the session, Sturt concluded with these remarks, “Our goal has been inspiring each of us to do our part to appreciate and value great work. We can create cultures where people understand how important great work is. Cultures where people give themselves to it willingly because that’s the stuff they love doing anyway.”
Every year, O.C. Tanner honors an organization for its outstanding leadership in creating a culture that appreciates great work. Four criteria are used in selecting the winner. The strategic nature the company pursues their business goals using recognition. Recognition is actually synchronized with an organization strategy, which is important to success as it helps align everything. The involvement of significant senior leadership in helping drive this is part of the culture. The use of multiple touch points to make it sustainable and truly part of the culture. Finally, being able to measure and attain noticeable results.
This year our winner has seen amazing results as they created a unified culture focused on celebrating all of its 32,000 people around the world. With committed senior leadership that believes in and supports their people, FIS is a company that has grown through acquisition, successfully bringing together multiple cultures into one. The award was accepted by FIS President and CEO, Frank Martire and Lisa Sweeney, Vice President, Employee Engagement, Human Resources.
“Interesting part of O.C. Tanner,” said Martire, “They didn’t try to tell us what we had to do. They listened to us and asked, ‘What are you trying to accomplish? What are your objectives?’ and then they went about executing. But they wanted to know where we were coming from and what we were trying to accomplish. Here’s the reality. We did a major merger of two companies. One was 2.7 billion and the other one was 1.8 billion. We brought the two companies together and I said, ‘Let’s do a survey.” They said, ‘Are you crazy? Why would you want to do a survey now, get these results and be totally depressed?’ I said, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to know what our people are thinking? Why wouldn’t we want to understand where they’re coming from? So then we can go about improving on it. Not to hide from it but to address it. We had two different cultures and everyone wants to say, ‘Which one is right? Well guess what? Neither one is right, neither one is wrong. What was most important was to take the best out of both and make it one culture. The point they made to me was, ‘Frank, you’ve got to concentrate on the synergies. You’ve got to concentrate on the optimization. You’ve got to make sure the street understands what you’re doing and get the results you need.’ I said, “I don’t have to do any of those things. We have people who do that. I have to concentrate on culture because if we get the culture of the work as one, we’ll be successful. There’s no way we could lose.”
“So we focused on the culture. We did the surveys. We feel good about the results we got the second time around, the significant improvement. But I think one thing that stuck out is the ‘why?’. You have to be sincere. When you do these surveys, you better say, ‘You know what? I’m not going to just ignore it, I’m going to do something about it.’ If you say employees are your most important asset, and don’t back it up with action, or you’re not sincere about it, guess what? They figure it out and they know it. So you have to mean it, live it, and really believe it does make a big difference to your company in how you’re doing. Secondly, if you don’t have senior management commitment, you lose. The senior management has to be behind it every single day. Notice I didn’t say once a month. When you meet every single day, you ask, ‘How are we doing? Are we doing the right things? Are we making it a better company?’ And the final point, it is a journey and not a destination. You need to continuously work on improving your relationship with your employees. It’s hard work. It’s a commitment. It’s something you have to do every day. Some days are better than others but you have to be focused, committed and every day wake up in the morning to say, ‘I’ll never take it for granted how important our employees are to us.’”
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