During challenging times, whether it be a global pandemic or major organizational changes, employees may feel stressed, anxious, disengaged, and fearful. It’s in these times that employee recognition is more important than ever. Showing that you value and appreciate employees can help inspire and give them hope, and no one knows this better than BASF.
BASF is one of the largest producers of chemicals and related products in the world, with more than 20,000 employees in North America. Recently, BASF decided to shine a spotlight on recognition and appreciation as a way to connect with leaders, and in turn, empower those leaders to make employees feel seen and valued during the COVID-19 pandemic.
BASF regularly conducts webinars for all North American managers. Prior to the pandemic, the company had planned to speak about creating a culture of recognition and appreciation in April. But with the uncertainty and changing environment that the crisis brought, the HR team knew they needed to shift the focus beyond just recognition program activities. The conversation started with a simple question to the managers: How are you feeling right now? They wanted to understand how managers were feeling both as leaders and as individuals.
What they heard was that managers and their teams were experiencing an unprecedented amount of change but there were bright spots in how leadership is helping their employees. Many were dealing with multiple new challenges—taking care of children while working from home; taking care of elderly parents along with their own families; etc. They also heard that managers felt like they were struggling to institute boundaries between work and personal life, to adjust to working remotely, and had a general concern for the safety and wellbeing of their employees. The discussion yielded great conversation between managers having similar experiences and shared learnings across the group. One manager recalled how her senior leader is supporting her team by simply acknowledging that disruptions throughout the day are going to happen and it is ok. It is ok to pause a meeting to answer the door for a delivery or address your child who needs help. This example of support reduces stress and anxiety employees are feeling as they manage their new work environment.
After a month in quarantine, we are at a greater risk of employees feeling distracted, unmotivated, and burned out. BASF knows that recognition and appreciation are important, now more than ever, to help employees stay engaged and feel seen and valued.
O.C. Tanner’s weekly COVID-19 pulse survey shows how much recognition can help. A survey of healthcare workers found that frequent recognition (at least once a week) leads to a:
• 59% decrease in feeling fearful about COVID-19 in the workplace
• 68% increase in engagement
• 48% increase in trust that leaders have their safety and wellbeing in mind
At BASF, every moment of recognition is an opportunity to connect employee contributions back to their purpose and values. But during the pandemic, the company also encouraged managers to recognize additional behaviors that employees were exhibiting. Things like:
• Embracing a positive attitude or lifting team member’s spirits
• Using collaboration tools effectively to keep the team connected
• Supporting team members in staying safe
• Being resourceful and creative
• Taking care of family obligations and still doing great work
• Quiet heroes who are working behind the scenes to make success happen
Done well, recognition not only focuses on what employees are doing, but how they are doing it. During times of great change, stress, and uncertainty, leaders may default to micromanaging their people. But recognition redirects focus to the positive things that teams are doing, the individual strengths each employee brings, and empowering teams to do their best work. Says Samantha Elliot, Total Rewards Programs Lead, “Recognition and appreciation are really an opportunity to show your employees they are seen, they are heard, and they are valued. It’s important to understand the value that each of your individual employees is bringing to the table and appreciate who they are as a person, both the impact they make and the character traits that contribute to the diversity and success of your teams.”
Despite changes in the working environment for most employees, BASF recognizes the opportunity to still create meaningful service anniversary celebrations focused on the relationships these employees have built and the impact they have made over time. With new working conditions, the company is encouraging managers to:
• Record video comments, which appear in the employee’s online Yearbook.
• Set up virtual lunches using teleconference tools and invite peers to share stories of that employee’s accomplishments and how their contribution strengthens company culture.
• Include family members in celebrations since most families are now together at home.
• Write a custom post on LinkedIn to congratulate and celebrate that employee.
Elliot says, “We are celebrating our employees’ careers, not just their number of years here. Our employees are building relationships and memories with each other; we are a family and that’s the feeling we want to capture when we celebrate a career milestone. Managers are in a position to help create those memorable experiences that tie the employee back to something bigger, especially during these times when everything feels so uncertain.”
Recognition may look a little different today than even a few months ago. With social distancing and working remote, managers must rely even more on virtual tools like eCards, LinkedIn, Microsoft Teams, Yammer, and emails and phone calls. But depending on technology means creating a meaningful experience is even more important.
BASF encourages managers to be thoughtful in creating a great experience. Giving a shout out to an employee during a team call could be a welcome surprise. So too could inviting an employee to a virtual lunch with a senior leader or creating a shared virtual team experience for employees to connect with one another on non-work-related topics. Taking the extra step to think about how to make recognition personal and sincere can create peak moments for employees, despite being physically separated.
Through this time of uncertainty, BASF employees remain grateful. During these ongoing webinars, managers have expressed gratitude in spending more time with their families, working for a company that puts safety and agility at the forefront, and for technology solutions that allow us to stay connected. In these challenging times, appreciation can inspire people to rise up and stay strong. It might look a little different, but recognition is just as important as ever.
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