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

Lost purse leads to amazing customer service!

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Being the slightly ditzy person that I am (I know it’s hard to believe!), I once again found myself in a situation where I’d lost my purse and was having to go through the process of cancelling my cards. The fact that the most likely reason for me losing it is because I left it on top of my car and then drove off is another story!!!!

Anyhow, the reason I write this short and sweet blog is because on a trip to my high street bank, I experienced some of the best customer service I’ve received for a long time. Two ladies behind the counter bent over backwards to help with what I needed and were absolutely lovely in the process. So I decided to find their manager and let them know what a great job they’d done. I asked one of their colleagues if I could speak to their manager and you could see immediately that they thought that someone was in trouble! The manager came out and couldn’t have been nicer but was also hesitant to begin with and surprised when all I had to give was positive feedback. The best thing for me though was seeing her immediately take some action to feed this back on to the two ladies who had made my day.

It made me a bit sad to think that for the most part we are so used to hearing how we could “improve this”, “make this better”, “try harder” that recognition for a job well done comes as a surprise.

When you’re out and about – whether at work or at play – if you see somebody deliver great service, go out of their way to help you or just make you smile – let them know that it makes a difference to you!

Appreciation changes everything!

 

Not another recognition programme!

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The more I get out there speaking to companies and actually spending time out in their businesses on the front line, the more it ignites an even deeper passion in me for what we do. The impact, the culture, and the special moments we help create.

At OC Tanner, we have cutting edge technology and tools, we have an extensive award and voucher catalogue, we provide reporting and all the stuff that you need in shiny packaging, we have research, case studies and evidence to prove the ROI…

However, when it boils down to it, does any of this really matter if your managers don’t see the value in it? If their mindset means that they don’t understand the important role that appreciation has to play in driving the performance outcomes in your organization?

Companies need to invest in the training. Exec teams need to be challenged to think about appreciation as a vital part of their business strategy. Managers need guidance as to how to recognise their teams in a genuine, fair and effective way to role model what good looks like. Appreciation and its role needs to form part of an employee’s journey: from induction, to receiving a promotion, to evaluating performance.

It also needs to be owned by the business not just HR. We need to help you find your champions all over the business. We need to engage your leadership team, L&D, Talent, Communications, Reward, GM’s , Store Managers – basically as many people as we can physically get to!

It is my job to show you that recognition should never be seen as just a programme. It is my job to convince you that to do this right, you need to invest where it matters. It is my job to help you as much as I can, by spending time out in the business to dig out the champions, to drive the sustainability of this for the long-term and bring appreciation to life to make it business as usual.

This appreciation stuff is really important, it makes a difference to everyone at every level…let’s make sure we do it properly.

It’s not just and never should be ‘just another recognition programme’!

Quote and image shared from http://www.quotessays.com/appreciation.html

How do you nurture the dormant seeds in your organisation?

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The rather fabulous Kevin Ames from the OC Tanner Institute delivered his ‘Appreciation Experience’ keynote at an event in Leeds a couple of weeks ago. He is such an inspirational speaker and even though I’ve heard him speak several times now, he inspires me with something new every time. He talked about dormant seeds being brought to life with the right nourishment as an analogy of the people working within our organisations. This really resonated with me. How do we create the right nourishment to help people realise their full potential?

1. Plant the right seeds.

Before a person even joins your company, how do you recruit? Do you recruit based on cultural fit and values? When they join, how are they feeling? If I think about my own experience, it would be a mixture oBlog picture 2f nerves, excitement and expectation but we’re all different. We might be petunias, snapdragons or sweet peas. When we join an organisation, it’s not just about making sure we have the right equipment on our desks, it’s about helping people feel part of the team and the organisation right from the word go. It’s helping people understand how they fit. How do you onboard people where you are? How do you make them feel valued in your team? Here’s a link to a great blog that delves into this in more detail.

2. Water your seeds regularly.

Your watering can is filled with the great work that people do in your organisations.Blog picture 1 All you need to remember is to tell people how they’re doing right from the start, to ask for feedback on how you’re doing as an organisation, to let them know that they’re on track, to spotlight when they live one of your values so they do more of it. When somebody recognises us, we blossom, we flourish and we begin ‘sprouting’ those seeds of potential in an environment of trust. Here’s another blog to get you to focus on the simple things to keep your people watered. When we go out to speak to individuals in large organisations, often the reality can be very different to what you might think it is. Water your seeds, regularly!

3. Keep your seeds warm.

For me this is about opportunity and well-being.Blog picture 3 Essentially caring for your people and providing them with the right environment to want to stay and thrive. If we go back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, are our people’s base requirements being met, how do we know because only then can we encourage our people to really start to grow and develop.

4. Move your seeds to natural light when they’ve sprouted.

So you’ve been nurturing the potential in your people, encouraginBlog picture 4g the day-to-day effort, now you can start seeing the fruits of your efforts as they start to produce results. Shine a light on their accomplishments, show them that you noticed and help those other seeds push through the surface by demonstrating and communicating what great looks like!

5. Maintain and watch your plants.

Plants need care just as people do. Care doesn’t have to be the touchy feely stuff, care can just be the simple act of communicating to your team that you have their back. That you will act with honesty and integrity and talk to them in a respectful way about all the great things they are doing and to be open with them about areas for improvement always being specific so that learning can happen. Be consistent, be sincere, be fair in all of your interactions. Get to know your team, read their signs, talk to them, spend the day with them, give them space to think, to absorb, to learn and to grow.

6. Harden off your plants.Blog picture 5

Help your team navigate the challenges of the workplace. Help them to understand who their ‘go to’ people are early on and let them know that your door is open but you are happy for them to go forth and prosper, to make mistakes and to learn. The workplace is an ever-changing landscape. We need to give our people the tools and the skills to create their own paths, their own futures. Appreciation can change the course of someone’s day and it doesn’t have to cost anything. Always remember that you have this powerful skill on the tip of your tongue!

7. Maintain your plants.

Blog picture 6Maintain the morale of your people and use recognition and appreciation to do it! For most of us, the one thing we feel when faced with change, is a degree of self-doubt. These are the weeds that we need to dig out and remind people that they were recruited for a reason, because we believe in them and the potential they have. You might also read this as weeding out the bad eggs in your organization. Remaining positive and true to myself I would argue here that everyone has potential; every person is a dormant seed that can flourish in the right environment. Maybe appreciation could make all the difference if we do it every few days for even the most challenging of people out there even if it’s your boss, maybe see the difference a little positivity and appreciation can make if you send recognition upwards.

So hopefully I’ve given you a little food for thought there on how you could nurture the dormant seeds in your organization and create an environment and a culture where flowers of every shape and size prosper and flourish!

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Unpacking my suitcase…how appreciation helped me on my journey!

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I know I go on about it all the time but appreciation really does change everything. I often think the most powerful way of getting this across is by telling my own story.

A few weeks ago I celebrated my first year with OC Tanner. It was a great year, a challenging year, a scary year, an emotional year and lots of things in between. I’d moved from a company where the focus was always on ‘what you’re not doing’ to a company that really does focus on the positive. This was an amazing shift and exactly what I hoped it would be but I also didn’t quite trust it. I always had the fear that at some point, the truth would reveal itself and I would be in the grasp of another company who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk.

“Unpack your suitcase’ said Ian

The amazing @Kingfishercoach (Ian Pettigrew) very kindly gave me some strengths coaching recently and he perfectly described how I felt…”I’d found my home but hadn’t unpacked my suitcase”! What a great analogy…there was a part of me holding back, a part of me just waiting a bit longer just to make sure it was right, that I fitted in, that it was the perfect company in every way. Ian’s suggestion to me was to go away, unpack my suitcase and be my big-hearted positive self! So I have and the positive reinforcement from my peers has helped me get there much faster.

Celebrating one year with OC Tanner

These are some of the things that people said at my one year anniversary…

“The most refreshing thing about you is your motivation and drive to really make a difference in the work place. You really DO want to create a better place to work for people and your passion for this is truly inspiring to me and the whole team”.

“I have to say you are one of the most passionate appreciateologists I have ever met. Your passion shines through every time you speak about our company and what we do. I am sure you have all seen the movie Miracle on 34th street where the little girl manages to get the whole of America to believe in Santa Claus one by one. This reminds me of Dawn and I picture her in a meeting speaking about OC Tanner and eventually everyone round the table saying ‘I believe’!”.

“Your energy and enthusiasm knows no bounds and I love the fact you’re so full of great ideas even if sometimes slightly on the wacky side and you’re always willing to go out of your way to help others’.

“You have only been here for one year but it feels like you have always been here. You are the glue that keeps this team together, always good for a hug, a coffee and a chat. I know you were right for OC Tanner when you kicked me under the table when I interviewed you!”

How do you think I felt when I heard these amazing things being said (and also printed off so I could keep and remember them!)…yep that’s right, on top of the world. I felt valued, I felt noticed, I felt that people really cared about me too and also that I fitted right in.

We do walk the walk here. We do practice what we preach. We are not perfect but what is perfect. What we are though is driven to make a difference. To get companies to go out and appreciate their people. To recognize what great work looks like and to tell people when they see it happening. To value the contributions that people make not just once but throughout the course of their careers. If I can help companies on that journey through my amazing job then that makes me happy!

How has appreciation made a difference for you?

Look Up…remember a smile is the best curve on your body but how will you know if people can’t see it!

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I watched a really powerful YouTube clip earlier today called ‘Look Up’. If you follow me on social media then I posted this on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter too. Here it is again if you missed it…

I am as guilty as the next person of looking down A LOT and feeling a physical twitch when I don’t have my phone to see what’s going on in the world…and yes I do this when I should be spending time with my family too and am consciously trying to stop myself doing this! The clip really made me stop and think about the moments I have missed or not appreciated fully as I was half looking at my phone or screen at the time.

I’m not saying that I’m going to stop using social media or get rid of my devices! I love it from a work perspective and have really enjoyed getting to know new people through twitter (and meeting them in person I hasten to add!), share content, build connections and keep up to speed through LinkedIn and keep friends and families up to date with our lives when we can’t see them as often as we would like through Facebook. I think these are all great things and I think connections can be made through finding like-minded people when blogging, etc…the danger comes when it becomes addictive and you define yourself by your online presence and digital communications rather than much stronger bonds that are formed when you are physically in the same room looking at another person and seeing the twinkle in their eye when they smile, seeing the enthusiasm in their face when you hit the nail on the head and find a common interest). When you realize that you’ve said completely the wrong thing and you can see it in their face.

I came across a great article in the Huffington Post that really made sense too and include it below by Karen Van Bergen (thanks Karen). Karen wrote the article below and this paragraph really resonated with me:

Deep, satisfying relationships require attention, focus, interest — and most of all — our actual physical presence. Whether it is with your clients, your coworkers, your partner, your children or your friends, you must be physically and mentally present. If you want to build true connections, you must take the time and make the effort to actually be with the people to whom you wish to connect. It sounds so obvious, but it is so frequently missed.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karen-van-bergen/where-should-we-meet-sustaining-real-connection-in-a-hyper-connected-world_b_4221484.html

At OC Tanner, we talk a lot about creating human-to-human connections within companies through recognition moments. For larger companies, technology needs to be the enabler to facilitate these moments but that’s not enough. The technology has to prompt and give people the opportunity to bond with their teams. It has to get people thinking about how powerful it can be to physically get a small group of people together and talk about the great work that is going on. How far-reaching it can be to actually listen to someone receiving recognition in a genuine and sincere way so much so that they go away and think about how they can ‘get me some of that’! Our nature as human beings is to feel connected, truly connected to others and be in the same room.

Do something different today…

So do one thing today (and yes you can use technology as the enabler to do this!!) – arrange to meet a friend, set-up a meeting with someone you haven’t seen for ages, turn your devices off for the evening and knock on a neighbours door…my first blog talked about ‘A smile being the best curve on your body’ – go out today and share that smile with someone else!

Over and out!

Thanks to thingsweforget.blogspot.com for the image!

“Vision gives pain a purpose” – inspiring words from Kelly Clark and the power of an emotional connection!

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I normally come back from our Salt Lake City office inspired by something and funnily enough this time was no different! My inspiration this time was from the Team USA snow-boarding champion Kelly Clark. What an amazing lady – amazing because of what she’s achieved but more than anything because of who she is, what she stands for and the integrity and gratitude that she showed when telling her story. I also felt truly proud to work for OC Tanner. You might not know this but we create the Team USA rings for the Olympics and even created the medals for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. Here’s a link to read some really inspiring stories.

Kelly represented the US for her fourth consecutive Winter Olympics in Sochi and over her career has brought back one gold and two bronze medals. The year she didn’t make the podium was one of the most challenging things she’s ever had to overcome. What she learnt from this though was a great perspective as to the value of what things cost. If you think about it, at the Olympics, everyone who competes works so incredibly hard to get there, most people will have their own story to tell but only three people have something to show for it in each sport.

“Vision gives pain a purpose”

Kelly knew that she wasn’t ready to give up and she decided that the ring that OC Tanner had given her way back when she was 18 years old was the key to staying focused on that dream of getting on that podium again. She said to herself,

“What if I wear this ring every day? Why? Well when I wake up in the morning and want to sleep in, I reach down and feel that ring on my finger and remember why I need to get up and get out. When I’m out on the slopes practicing all day every day, I can feel the ring under my gloves and look and remember all that I’ve done and all that I can do. When I’m having a bad day, it reminds me what I’m capable of. It’s something that’s with me every day to inspire me to carry on, to drive me forward and to keep me focused on the end goal of being on that podium again.”

What gives something value? It’s the cost to you, not in a monetary sense but in a way that’s personal to you. It’s a symbolic reminder of your personal journey to reach your goals.

For me it really reinforced in me this immense sense of pride in the exact same experiences we are trying to create in organisations all over the world every day. If we bring it back to the point I made earlier about the Olympics and the fact that everyone works so hard but only the people on the podium get a medal, do we do that in our organisations? How many people get touched by recognition in your organization? And if we look at how hard most people work, is it right that only a select few should get recognized?

Surely we should be inspiring the people that work for us to do more great things as often as we can by recognizing the little things (that lead to the big things) along the way. We should be encouraging them to set goals, believe in the company’s vision and mission and recognize them for their on-going effort.

Our people bring an immense amount of value to our businesses every day and often there is some degree of personal cost to them in terms of time, energy and commitment, surely we can take the time to say thank you, you did great, we value you, you make a difference! I know the cynics out there will say, well that’s what we pay you for. My argument to that would be, times are changing. People want to feel part of something and feel valued for their contributions. We are more educated and socially-aware than we’ve ever been and we also have visibility to everything else that is going on in the world through the internet and social media. Companies that genuinely value and look after their people will lead out.

We all need a purpose, something we believe in and often work ticks that box for a lot of us. Use that to your advantage, create a culture you feel proud to be a part of, reinforce that pride through recognition. Don’t give vouchers when someone does something great – what lasting value does this really have and how does this really make someone feel?

Our founder Obert Tanner once said: “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.”

The beauty for Kelly was in the ring – the symbol of her journey, her tireless commitment to her vision of becoming a true Olympian. What would inspire you to get out of bed every day? To go to work? To make a difference? We create emotional connections with things we can touch and feel. We remember the moment it was given to us and why. We share stories with colleagues, friends and family. It becomes part of our legacy. Think about the journey your employees go on in your organization and how you can make that journey special and meaningful with amazing memories of human connection along the way.

Thank you Kelly for inspiring us with your story and for reminding me why I work for a great company! (and apologies if I got any of the story wrong!!!!)

You are nothing without your people – how do you let them know?

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My job is to try and connect with people. To create relationships. To find commonalities. To share insights and to help move things forward for the better. This is what motivates me. People. I work for a recognition company. We love saying thank you as individuals and as a company. We believe in it. We work here because we fit within the culture and we live and breathe it every day. Recognition and appreciation for us is easy to quantify and when you get it, it’s obvious.

How do you know that you are the right fit for your company? 86% of people leave in their first year or become actively disengaged. Why? Is this because of false expectations in the interview process? Is it because you started work and realized that it wasn’t what you thought it was? How do you know that you are on track? How do you know you are valued? How do you know that you make a difference? What is great work in your organization and how do you know when you’ve done it? How does your company celebrate success? What opportunities do you have to develop and grow? What does good look like?

The simple act of recognizing people for what they bring to the table can change a person’s day, week, month, year. It says to them – we noticed, we value you and we want to celebrate all that you are. It’s knowing your team well enough to recognize when they’re struggling and being compassionate and caring enough to say ‘go and spend the day with your family’. It’s being clear about what ‘living the values’ really means and taking the time to explain this to people at all levels of your organization. It’s training managers to be consistent and fair in how they give the recognition, supporting them when they need it and giving them the tools to make this is as simple, quick and easy as possible. Recognition shifts the balance of the conversations you are having every day to the positive. We need to do more of it…every day! Simply thanks!

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‘Here I am’ said Smedley the shy chameleon…

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I’m half way through Brene Brown’s ‘The Gift of Imperfection’ which is an amazing if not emotional read which looks at how we can work towards allowing ourselves to have more courage, more compassion and more connection in our lives. It’s about having the courage to accept ourselves for who we are (warts and all!), being strong enough to admit when we’re struggling and we need help, to be brave enough to stop worrying about what other people think. This is not easy stuff to change when pretty much we are bombarded to be the perfect this and that by the media and in the most part by the high expectations we put on ourselves.

Brene then goes on to talk about our need for belonging being different from fitting in. We often change who we are to ‘fit in’ and we only get a true sense of belonging if we allow our authentic, imperfect selves to show. If I think about this from my own perspective, I do try and be myself most of the time but when my own self-doubt seeps and sometimes floods through the cracks, I know for a fact that I start going into myself and have to put on a face to carry on (sticking tongue out!).

I then got to thinking about a book that I read to my 5 year old recently which was frankly brilliant and it had ‘Smedley’ in the title too…random to say the least! In a way, it’s like a self-help book for 5 year olds and approaching 40 year old mothers who worry too much!!!

Smedley the shy chameleon blends in so well that nobody notices him. But bold Sally Skinky sees Smedley’s true talent for standing out.

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Sally Skinky sees something in the little chameleon and encourages him to make small changes to step out of his comfort zone (she’s supporting him all the way) so that eventually he says ‘der der’, big drum roll, this is wholehearted, courageous and wonderful me!! The book is full of ‘woohoo’s’ and every small step is noticed, celebrated and appreciated along the way (see the tenuous link to recognition here!!!).

If grown-up books sometimes overwhelm us, sometimes its good to keep things simple, go back to basics and look at how simple messages can make a difference. Recognising the little things can make a huge difference to how courageous you choose to be, how creative you let yourself be and how much happier you can feel when you set yourself free to be the imperfect and wonderful you!

PS Both books are equally good no matter what age you are…although a 5 year old may struggle with Brene Brown!!!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Here-Said-Smedley-Blue-Bananas/dp/140520135

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gifts-Imperfection-Think-Supposed-Embrace-ebook/dp/B00BS03LL6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391097680&sr=1-1&keywords=brene+brown+%27the+gifts+of+imperfection5

Re-frame long-service awards…make 2014 all about ‘celebrating careers’!

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Yesterday we ran a great session at an organization to challenge their current thinking about long-service awards. I loved it because the group were so participative and open to ideas. Before the session, we asked the group to come up with 3 words to describe long-service awards and it was lovely to see such positive words used…

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In lots of companies, people have lost sight of why they are doing it. Programmes are inherited and there is no real understanding of why it was created in the first place. Yesterday, we hope we got the thinking back on track. We hope we got everyone thinking about the objectives of ‘celebrating careers’ and brought it back to the simple truth that career celebrations give us a unique one-of-a-kind opportunity to focus on an individual and their entire history of contributions rather than any one single event.

When we listen to someone being appreciated, we internalize it. We want some of that for ourselves. Sharing stories from the workplace gives us all something to aim for, something that is easy for us to understand. It turns career achievers into role models. Last week I listened to my lovely colleague James reach his 5 year milestone and it still makes me smile now. People were invited to speak from across the business and it was lovely to see how proud James felt. It was funny, it was real and it was genuine. I want some of that too!

This is not the golden nugget to talent retention or anything else, however, as part of your overall recognition and communication strategy, it reflects the value you as an organization place on your people and the contributions they have made over the years. It reminds people that they work in a great team, that they love their company (hopefully!) and that what they do gets noticed.

Have a think about what you do for long-service and why? It may be time to challenge the legacy and re-define your own objectives…bring it back to your people and how much you value them! Get some people together from across the business today and I guarantee you will find some inspiring stories of amazing recognition moments that are happening across your business as we speak…think about how you can create more through the simple re-framing of long-service awards and the image of a carriage clock to the powerful message that ‘we celebrate you’!