Power of Positive RecognitionWhen I was in college, I took a psychology class on learning and motivation. One of the most poignant moments from that class was a story about the power of positive recognition.

My lab instructor told us that one of his undergrad groups decided to play a game with their professor. When the professor stood at the right-hand side of the room, they were very attentive, raised their hands to participate, and made eye contact while he talked. When he stood on the left side, they withdrew their attention and didn’t respond to him. Within three classes, the professor was delivering lectures entirely on the right-hand side of the room.

Imagine using recognition to have the same effect on your employees. Recognizing positive behaviors encourages employees to do more of them.

People have a need to feel “seen.” This notion feeds the four pillars of the Employee Experience: Connection, Meaning, Impact and Appreciation. Ideally, employees want to experience these pillars in a positive way. But lacking that — punishment and negative feedback is at least feedback. It carries the strength of connection and impact (even if it’s negative connection and negative impact). And it hits hard – it takes 5.6 pieces of positive feedback to counter one negative piece.

At a fundamental level, how do you want to motivate your employees? With positive recognition, or punishment? In their book Primed to Perform Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi argue that positive motivation is critical to employee performance.

How can you boost positive motivation?

Five tips for using positive recognition to boost motivation:

  1. Embed positive recognition into your culture. Ideally, adopt an automated system that employees like to use. Take a tour of our platform to see how you can use Kazoo to boost positive recognition.
  2. Create a system for regular, public peer-to-peer recognition. What manager can see all the great things their employees do every day? Regular, public peer-to-peer recognition gives managers actionable data and insight into what their employees are working on.
  3. Review your employees’ strengths in regular 1-on-1s. See our webinar on a manager’s guide to effective 1-on-1s for more ideas.
  4. Clearly communicate corporate goals, values and objectives. Give employees a structure to know when they are doing something right.
  5. Automate recognition and incentives for regular tasks. Save yourself and your employees time with a system for automated recognition of predefined actions or service awards.

For more times on using recognition to drive business-building behavior, see our guide on Building a High-Performance Culture.

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About Kazoo
Kazoo is the employee experience platform powered by the science of motivation and the mission of improving the lives of employees everywhere, one company at a time. Founded in 2013, Kazoo grows company culture and improves bottom-line performance metrics through its robust engagement platform that delivers recognition, rewards, incentives, and team insights. Named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of Best Company Cultures in 2017, the Austin-based SaaS company and its technology platform are built on the four pillars of employee experience: connection, meaning, impact, and appreciation. To request a demo, visit www.kazoohr.com

Connection: Feeling connected to managers, colleagues, company, and community.

Matthew Lieberman, a neuroscientist at UCLA and author of “Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect,” describes human connection as a superpower that makes us more productive, happier, and healthier. His experiments show that when people feel lonely or socially isolated the parts of the brain that feel physical pain light up. When we have the ability to connect to someone we care about? The pleasure centers light up.

“Employee experience is engagement and bonding between the company and employee themselves…. Engagement between all employees across the whole company is the most essential element for employee experience.”

The pleasure of connection is so important, that its impact on your employees is greater than a boost in salary. Studies show that if you have a friend that you see on most days (especially at work), it’s like earning $100,000 more each year.

That connection leads to measurable company benefits. A Harvard Business Review study showed that when a group of bankers were forced to back each other up during scheduled time off — the whole team was more productive and motivated. Cho and Perry’s study on managerial trustworthiness showed that a connection to a manager is one of the two biggest factors in building intrinsic motivation. Gallup shows that employees who could connect their work to company goals were 3.5 times more engaged.

Connection doesn’t always happen naturally in today’s work environments. It is difficult for geographically dispersed teams and remote workers to have casual hallway conversations. There are five generations in the workplace today – and cross-generational connection sometimes feels awkward. Some companies and industries have (inadvertently) celebrated the individual contributor to a degree that discourages team connections.

Building Connection into your Employee Experience

While you can’t force employees to be friends, you can set up an environment that encourages employees to connect. Here are some ideas:

  • Communicate your core values. Having a clear set of core values helps employees connect to the company, its mission, and the community.
  • Encourage regular one-on-ones. Many studies show that employees leave managers more than companies. Regular coaching sessions between a manager and employee strengthen that connection.
  • Recognize teams. Instead of just recognizing heroic individual efforts, recognize teams that work together and back each other up. Public acknowledgment can create positive peer pressure to work together.
  • Create cross-team collaborations. Even if work projects don’t lend themselves to working across a team, asking employees from different groups to work together on company or department kickoff meetings, volunteer projects, or cross-team learning opportunities can strengthen connections across an organization.
  • Build trust. Open communication, transparency, and making it safe for employees to share ideas builds trust between managers, teammates, and executives. That trust is at the core of solid connections.

About Kazoo
Kazoo is the employee experience platform powered by the science of motivation and the mission of improving the lives of employees everywhere, one company at a time. Founded in 2013, Kazoo grows company culture and improves bottom-line performance metrics through its robust engagement platform that delivers recognition, rewards, incentives, and team insights. Named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of Best Company Cultures in 2017, the Austin-based SaaS company and its technology platform are built on the four pillars of employee experience: connection, meaning, impact, and appreciation. To request a demo, visit kazoohr.com/demo-request

The start of the school year brings special excitement – opening up a new notebook to write on the first page, establishing a new social circle and learning from new teachers. It’s an opportunity to re-invent yourself as an individual, friend and student. Once we’ve graduated and started our careers, we might feel that we only get a chance to “start fresh” when we change jobs. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Every employee can benefit from using back-to-school time to check in internally and chart a new course for the remainder of the year and beyond. And this opportunity for to re-visit employee development should happen continuously throughout the year – not just when kids are heading back into the classroom.

Long after school ends, we continue on as individuals, friends and students. Here’s how employees can examine themselves as each of these, and take action to improve.

Individual

For many, school is back in session in late August and September. This is the perfect time employees to re-examine individual employee goals for Q4, and how they can set up success for 2018. If employees start thinking now about what they want to accomplish in the year ahead, they can use Q4 goals as stepping stones.

Friend/Co-Worker

We get by with a little help from our friends, right? A lot of us get through challenging work situations by leaning on our co-workers and operating as a team. Now is a great time for employees to reach out to gather peer-to-peer feedback to help them take a step closer to reaching team goals.

Student

Are employees getting the support they need from coaches and mentors? If not, it’s a good time to seek new leaders who can fill that role. Now is perfect for having those one-on-one check-in conversations to help set goals for the quarter ahead and envision what they hope to accomplish in 2018.

How are you continually pushing yourself (or your employees) to perform better? Are you asking them to revisit their employee goals? Requiring them to provide peer-to-peer feedback regularly? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Motivation research clearly shows that four pillars of the Employee Experience build an employee’s intrinsic motivation and give them positive reinforcement to engage with their job:

  • Connection:​ Feeling connected to my manager, colleagues, company, and community.
  • Meaning:​ Knowing my company, and the work I do, has meaning and purpose.
  • Impact:​ Knowing the work I do impacts my colleagues and my company for the better.
  • Appreciation:​ Feeling acknowledged and appreciated for my contributions.

Why these four pillars?

Behavioral science shows that employees perform best when they have positive “intrinsic” (internal) motivation — meaning that they get so much pleasure from doing their work that their work itself is a set of rewards. In other words – they do best when they like their jobs.

Intrinsic motivation isn’t just a nice-to-have; it has tangible results. Employees’ intrinsic motivation levels have a direct correlation to companies’ rankings on “Best Places to Work” lists. And, intrinsically motivated employees are more engaged – and therefore perform better.

However, building intrinsic motivation is tricky. Using “extrinsic” (or outside) motivation tools like bonuses, incentives, perks, or competitions is straightforward. While those extrinsic incentives can work for short-term performance boosts or to gamify mundane tasks, the London School of Economics has found that extrinsic motivation can ruin an employee’s intrinsic motivation if the perks are applied to work an employee enjoys doing anyway.

What does work? Connection to a team and management, feeling like your work matters, and giving and receiving appreciation — i.e., the four pillars. (See Rewards and Recognition Systems that Work for more on the science of motivation.)

We recently performed a market research study where we surveyed 750 employees in 600 companies to get their views on the employee experience. 93% of them found that having each of the four pillars — connection, meaning, impact and appreciation — in their jobs mattered to them.

To learn more about how to build these pillars into to your company’s Employee Experience, download our guide: The Employee Experience: Defined.

About Kazoo
Kazoo is the employee experience platform powered by the science of motivation and the mission of improving the lives of employees everywhere, one company at a time. Founded in 2013, Kazoo grows company culture and improves bottom-line performance metrics through its robust engagement platform that delivers recognition, rewards, incentives, and team insights. Named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of Best Company Cultures in 2017, the Austin-based SaaS company and its technology platform are built on the four pillars of employee experience: connection, meaning, impact, and appreciation. To request a demo, visit kazoohr.com/demo-request

While each company is unique, there are benefits to a feedback culture almost across the board. Here’s five companies that are getting it right.

LLamasoft

With 400+ employees across multiple offices in the US and abroad, LLamasoft employees struggled to step outside their comfort zones and challenge each other with critical feedback. They credit Kazoo’s platform with helping them get comfortable with the feedback process to ultimately improve their performance.

Lieberman Research Worldwide

LRW uses Kazoo to offer its employees an alternative to traditional performance management processes, where a single annual conversation serves as a history report of performance. What’s most important to them is creating in-the-moment opportunities for its employees to give and receive feedback. Those conversations happen and arm employees with useful feedback every day.

Patagonia

After using Kazoo for the past few years, Patagonia has continued to see adoption of its program grow. The HR team’s goal now is to improve the feedback employees are given. To drive higher quality conversations, the team is surveying employees to determine where the best conversations are happening and using the platform’s analytics to uncover the anatomy of the best feedback.

Virtuoso

Virtuoso’s goal was to use feedback as a way to better connect its employees to managers and peers, and the company did so by using technology to support those human connections. Kazoo helps them create a domino effect of engaged employees > happy employees > high-performing employees > happy customers.

Waypoint Homes

Paper reviews were creating more problems than they were solving for Waypoint Homes’ employees, so the company decided to take a new approach: continuous feedback. Frequent conversations allow employees to understand what’s expected of them at all times, and by updating goals and expectations regularly they’re able to keep it fresh.

While there is no shortage of employee engagement strategies, one tactic they typically have in common is giving and receiving feedback. Whether it’s a performance review or a coaching session, or a reward or recognition, in each of situation, employees receive some type of feedback.

So, if feedback is so critical to employee engagement, why does the word evoke a feeling of dread? We answer this in our latest eBook, Feedback Is Not the Enemy. (By the way, the word makes employees cringe due to a combination of a chemical reaction in our brains – really – and years and years of bad management practices.)

For companies to get feedback right, it doesn’t happen overnight. To embrace a feedback culture, companies must do these four things:

Cultivate a growth mindset.

If your leadership team doesn’t support and promote collaboration, innovation and communication, company adoption will be low.

Train employees to deliver it.

As we mentioned above, many employees have had bad experiences with managers. Everyone must be trained on providing thoughtful, actionable feedback.

Empower employees to seek out feedback.

If employees aren’t asking for feedback, it might be because they’re not comfortable doing it and have been jaded by previous experience. With the right approach, it will become second nature to ask for it and find value from what’s shared.

Make the process seamless.

If it’s not easy to give and receive, employees won’t do it. The onus is on the organization to set up a framework for feedback.

Feedback isn’t a trendy buzzword – it works.

Lieberman Research Worldwide uses it as a way to energize its 450 employees. The company attributes its four-out-of-five employee engagement score – for four years in a row – to almost 4,000 discrete bits of feedback, coaching and consulting facilitated through Kazoo.

Patagonia has linked feedback directly to employee performance levels. In 2016, the company found that its employees who received higher bonuses were more likely to have asked for feedback.

Coaching. Peer-to-peer feedback. Project retrospectives. There are many ways that feedback can be used to encourage employees through a variety of engagement strategies. Learn how in our eBook.