A time for ‘thanks’giving…

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It’s that time of year which I love – the run up to the craziness of the festive period!!!! I’ve already sat happily snuggled up on the sofa with my family watching the Grinch! Home Alone and Elf will follow shortly (the best Christmas films ever!) and my fist microphone has already made an appearance alongside crazy mum dancing to Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is YOU-UUUU!’. Our Christmas lanterns are made for the annual Stony Stratford lantern parade and the plans are in place for our Christmas tree purchase and no doubt, lots of mulled wine quaffing too…

However, despite my continued enthusiasm and love of all this, this year I have a different perspective. For the last two months, every Monday evening along with an amazing bunch of volunteers, I’ve been working on the Soup Run in Milton Keynes. Every Monday evening we go out on to the streets of Milton Keynes to give out hot drinks, soup and sandwiches kindly donated by the likes of Pret, Greggs and others. The Soup Run is there to support the homeless in MK but also those who find themselves in need for various reasons.

Over the last 4 years at OC Tanner, I have traversed the UK and other countries by plane, train and automobile and in that time, I have noticed a huge increase in the number of homeless people everywhere I go. Every train station I come out of, every coffee shop I visit and increasingly it has made me sadder and sadder to see people without hope. We all need hope.

This was my trigger to do something about it and this is just the start of my journey I know. Like with anything though, its interesting to see that in just a short period of time, what I see of the world has fundamentally changed. I notice more, I see things I didn’t see before, I have more compassion for people in general.

We all judge the world through our own experiences – I am no different and this is how my perspective has changed. Often, homeless people are tarnished with the same brush – ‘they’re all on drugs’, ‘if I give them money, they’ll just spend it on booze’. My husband was the one who challenged me to think differently. He has always been the most generous giver to anyone on the streets coming at the world from the angle that ‘if it can happen to them, it could happen to me’. This is the truth in all of this – we never know what’s around the corner, we never know what life is going to throw at us. Let’s throw those thoughts out of our heads and recognise that we are all human and we only have one life – let’s use it to put smiles on people’s faces and make a difference where we can.

At work, we hear a lot about ‘purpose’ and people finding their purpose at work. For me, it’s more than that. Giving something back outside of work has helped reinforce the purpose inside of me about my work and indeed who I am. It resets my moral compass and gives me a sense of wellbeing which has the knock-on effect of giving me a better perspective about work in general and how lucky I am to have found a job that pays me and where I can make a difference.

Our latest research at OC Tanner looks at the amazing effect on engagement when we give recognition at work, more than when we receive. Giving has this effect on all areas of life. It makes others feel good and it makes you feel good too. This is why things like #randomactsofkindness work. It makes you think about your day slightly differently.

My plea in all of this is to think about this when you’re out and about. Look up and look around you. Spend a few pounds on a coffee for someone who needs it or just talk to someone who looks lost and lonely. What I’ve discovered through doing the soup run are people who are so grateful, so polite and who just appreciate a kind word, a smile, a joke alongside a cup of warm soup or a cuppa.

Donate to your local food bank when you can, buy a pair of gloves in Primark and give it to someone who looks cold, rally the organisations you work for to make a difference and let’s all work together to make our world a better place!

I leave you with a Christmassy quote from the Grinch, not a video of me singing to Mariah Carey which the world is not yet ready for!!!!

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Giving a lifetime: It’s bigger than a gift card!

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This blog is prompted by three separate stories I’ve heard over the last month or so and all to do with retirement – stories that have left me sad and wanting more than anything to be able to do something for this generation of our workforce who have given 40+ years to the same organisation.

This is SO important as it is unlikely ever to happen again. The world has moved on and only in rare occasions will we see people staying in the same organisation throughout their whole career. That’s why on the one hand when we talk to HR Directors about re-framing long-service awards, we’re going out there encouraging companies to recognise the earlier milestones. We do this because it creates the opportunity to talk about an individuals’s contribution much earlier on in their career – to communicate that they matter and hopefully instill in them a sense of loyalty and pride even if they do move on somewhere else.

But let’s not forget about those long-servers too…just imagine the amount of change they have experienced in the last 50 years or so – changes so significant that the way that we work has completely evolved and become something that employees in their early 20’s just wouldn’t be able to comprehend.

The first story comes from a financial services company in the city. A colleague had worked their 41 years and in the couple of weeks running up to his retirement he sent out an email to the people he’d worked with in that time to let them know. It was a group email and the responses were over-whelming. The group then rallied together to do something for him. Nothing would have happened if he hadn’t have pro-actively done this himself. After 41 years, he would have walked out not knowing the difference he had made. How would that make you feel? I’ll say it again 41 years!

I saw the next story on Facebook and you can see the write up here:

http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/14568253.Waitrose_store_s_act_of_kindness_towards_nurse_goes_viral_on_social_media/

For those that don’t have the time to read the whole article, the story is similar to the first one. A woman retires from the NHS after 54 years and her local supermarket surprises her with flowers. She gets more recognition from kind-hearted supermarket staff than the organisation she has committed 54 years of her life to. Now I don’t know the facts around this so I’m hoping that it’s not this at all but still. Our people are out there making a difference for us every day and the very least we can do is say thank you. Thank you for your loyalty, thank you for sticking with us through all the changes, for passing on your expertise to new people joining us and for being part of who we are.

The final story came from a recent conversation in the pub. A chap I got into conversation with had retired that day after 52 years and he sat there looking genuinely sad with tears in his eyes. He’d been given some  vouchers as a parting gift but with no final presentation, no gathering of people to say thank you. He was sat in the pub with his friends who had rallied together and bought him a nice bottle of scotch. His exact words were, “I just wanted some reminder of the time I’ve given to ‘x’ company. A watch or something like that, something I can look at and be proud of everything I achieved. Something to show my family, something to show off to my mates in the pub.” We are sentimental creatures us human-beings, we create emotional connections to the organisations we work for despite the highs and lows.

Our founder Obert Tanner once said this:

“One could say we sell two values: the value of beauty and the value of kindness. The kindness is a company’s willingness to recognize, with dignity, an individual for what he or she has given to that company. After all, giving the productive years of one’s life, the daylight hours of each working day – this is the ultimate that an individual may give to any company.”

Think about the experience you are creating for those people reaching their retirement. What can you do to make sure their parting feeling is one of pride? What can you do to make sure that they feel part of something truly special and that they walk away on their last day, content that they committed their working life to you!

Find out more about service awards here at octanner.com

3 years and counting…appreciation from the top down!

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Today marks my three year anniversary at OC Tanner. We celebrated it last Friday as some of the team are away this week but it’s felt like one of those amazing extended birthdays where it ends up being a week of loveliness and still today the messages keep pouring in! Ecards that people must have taken the time to schedule so they arrived today so they didn’t forget…that says so much to me about the culture of appreciation we have here and how deep rooted it is in all that we do.
Like with any cultural piece though this doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time, it takes energy, it takes effort and it takes belief. We have the same challenges as any organisation, we just keep working through it and the messages keep coming from the top, role-modelled by our leaders and this cascades all the way down to the front line. I listened to a podcast by our CEO Dave Petersen a few weeks ago and as I started thinking about this post, I think his words will really get you thinking about how we make people feel in the workplace and what a powerful thing appreciation is.
If you have time to listen to the podcast, fast forward to around 4:18 where Dave talks about how appreciation events are an indispensable part of our culture here at OC Tanner.
He explains how if he’s in his Exec meeting and he knows that someone is celebrating a 25 year anniversary or is about to receive a silver award for the Great Work they have done then he will leave the meeting. He will not miss them as he wants everyone to know how important they are to him. Every time he’s involved, he loves listening to what colleagues are saying about each other as they know better than he does what they do on a daily basis.
Here’s the powerful bit for me though. He talks about going back to his office feeling confident. Grateful that he is surrounded by great people doing great work. He hears about our people doing what they are doing and he feels like we can do anything because he hears what people are saying about each other when they are expressing their appreciation. And as a leader, this is really important to hear. Outside of the numbers, outside of the data, those stories come from the people here at OC Tanner who are trying to make a difference every day and without the channels that we have in place to allow those stories to come out, it would be much harder for him to hear, in such a genuine way, all of those great stories.
And this is not just an American thing. I’ve seen THE most powerful moments of recognition happen within companies across the UK and generally it’s not about what you give that person, it’s how you make them feel.
Have a think about the leaders in your organisation? Have they ever viewed recognition and appreciation in this way? What would change if they did? Valuing our people is often viewed as the pink and fluffy stuff for some unapparent reason. Our CEO doesn’t see it that way. Valuing people in a genuine way linked to our business outcomes is one of the most powerful communication channels we have at our disposal. It makes visible what great looks like, it connects people in ways that technology cannot and it shines a spotlight on the potential in all of us to come to work each day and make a difference. Taking the time to share those stories is all it takes!
It’s three years for me today, I’m hoping it’s going to be much longer. Appreciation changes everything…it has for me and it can for you too!

Thank You!

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Thank you for coming here every day,

For making a difference in your own special way,

For cheering me up and making me smile,

For always being willing to go the extra mile.

For caring, for sharing, for sometimes saying no,

For challenging me and pushing me, it means more than you know,

For living our values day in and day out,

For living our brand, for having some clout.

For believing and trusting in good times and bad,

For telling me to switch off from my phone and iPad,

For trusting me, encouraging me every step of the way,

And not just on Employee Appreciation Day!

I hope you all have a fabulous day today, make a commitment moving forward to sow appreciation into your daily to do list! It will make an amazing difference…I promise!

Storybursting…

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Stories.jpgComing to the end of a year always brings out the reflector in me and I’m hoping it may bring about the end of a severe blogging drought in the world of Dawn Smedley!

This year has been a challenging year both personally and at work. My mum has overcome and battled the big ‘C’ word and is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime with my Dad to see my brother in New Zealand, my children are both now in school and having seen their nativities this week, they just make me so proud every single day and my husband is a legend full stop.

And then there’s work…the appreciateologist has found her rhythm, her pace, her style. I’ve learnt so much this year, pushed myself to do things I’ve never done before and feel enriched and privileged to be part of a community of people who are on the tipping point of something extraordinary. I love being part of this. I love being able to influence this and use all of what I know about appreciation and recognition to help organisations weave this into everything that they do and its working.

I am so lucky to hear all the great stories that are starting to be shared and shouted about. To be inspired by amazing people on the front line making a difference every day, doing the right thing and being recognized for it. Our Yearbook is gaining momentum as a unique way of allowing managers and colleagues to share their thoughts, photos and videos to celebrate contributions overtime allowing those stories to pour out in bucketful’s.

Stories, stories, stories. We hear so much about them. How important it is to share them. For me though, it’s how they make you feel. Stories have the ability to break down barriers, to create deeper connections and meaning to everything and to make often complicated topics, much easier to understand. Stories inspire you and when you’re part of the story, you feel part of something much bigger than yourself.

In 2016, how will you allow the stories in your organisations to come out? How will you use stories to inspire new starters, to demonstrate what good looks like, to nurture teams, to attract and keep your customers, to help your employees feel part of something bigger?

We all want to be part of something, make 2016 all about your story and how your story fits in with what you do. Create opportunities for these stories to come out, they are there right now just waiting for an opportunity to burst into the world…

Wishing you all a fabulously lovely festive period and a happy, healthy 2016!

The Starfish Story – engaging hearts and minds

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As the old man walked the beach at dawn he noticed a young man ahead of him carefully picking up starfish from the sand and placing them back into the sea. Finally catching up with the youth, the old man asks why he was doing this. Because the stranded starfish will die if they are left in the morning sun, he replied. But the beach goes on for miles and there are thousands of starfish everywhere, scoffed the old man, how can your efforts possibly make a difference? For a moment the young man contemplated the starfish in his hand before tossing it gently into the waves. It makes a difference to that one, he said.

A story by Loren Eiseley

This lovely little story was sent to me this morning. In the absence of starfish in the Milton Keynes area this sunny morning, I will be metaphorically be trying to make a difference in my own little way. What starfishes will you make a difference to today?