No doubt, employee morale is low at companies that are downsizing. So I sent a note to several people whose opinions I respect with the question: “Do you feel that CEOs acknowledge the value employees bring to the success of their companies? Can you share a personal experience you’ve had working for a company and how the company recognized and rewarded employees?” Here are several thoughtful answers (edited for space). I start with an executive recruiter who is in a position to know what a lot of CEOs are doing to reward their people.
Stacy Lauren Musi, Managing Director
Chadick Ellig Executive Search
There have always been both many types of CEOs and leaders. The highly regarded leaders, whether CEO or a business or functional head, recognize the vital importance of their employees, and recognize and reward them … the paradigm for successful leadership in Corporate America continues to move away from the old-school “command and control” approach to an inclusive, consensus-driven, team-oriented model.
Well-regarded leaders acknowledge the contribution of their employees and seek to recognize and reward their top performers accordingly. Historically, this has been done with promotions and monetary gains. But, particularly given the current economy where money is tight and stock options are under water, CEOs and others have to be more creative in the reward systems.
So, in addition to the traditional salary increases, bonuses and equity grants, today, I am seeing other types of rewards:
• Public recognition in front of peers and colleagues. Being given an official company performance award or even just being acknowledged publicly can be motivating to the honored employee as well as to others who would want to be selected for future recognition.
• Particularly to the up-and coming generation that is hard working and ambitious, career growth opportunities go a long way towards keeping them engaged. This reward can include: being selected for a special task force; having the opportunity to participate in an off-site; being given a coveted developmental assignment; or simply being chosen to be mentored and groomed by a well-regarded leader.
• Lastly, I am seeing that more and more, rewards include a wide variety of special privileges or perks. This can include time away from the office (whether it be additional vacation time or the opportunity to work from home); a trip; a complimentary dinner or gift card, etc. This can be particularly effective with middle or lower management, and these perks often include the entire staff. For instance, one leader shared that after a successful quarter, she took her team bowling, and another leader, who was on a tight budget, closed the office at 2:00 on a Friday and threw a wine and cheese party for her staff to thank them for a good job and to encourage a team spirit.
I once had the managing director at a PR agency lavish me with a big bonus when I saved a key client. I really felt that he valued and empowered me. But the trust was eroded when he lied about me to the same client months later. He didn’t want to work with the client anymore, so he blamed it on me, saying that I wasn’t happy working on the account, and his duty was to keep me happy. It wasn’t true. When he found out I refuted his statement to the client, he gave me a tongue-lashing. He wasn’t consistent in his support of me, so I never trusted him again.
I think that most CEOs do a pretty good job on the front of acknowledging their employees. One company I have worked with offers what is known as a “Visa Bucks” program. With the program, when an employee accomplishes something that has a positive impact on the company, they are given $50 or $100.00 Visa bucks to spend at partnering local retailers. The announcement of the “Visa Bucks” winner also receives quite a bit of public/verbal acknowledgement which, at the end of the day, is what most employees want to know…that their boss recognized their great work.
Another idea which I have recently learned from a senior pastor is an acknowledgement program known as the “Barnabas Pack.” This is actually a peer-to-peer acknowledgement program where the entire leadership team votes on the one employee who really gave 110% during the month. The award is given at the first of the month at a staff meeting and once again, is great, because it is coming from the entire team, which makes the award meaningful.
Some CEOs do acknowledge the value their employees bring to the success of their companies. I have a feeling this happens more often, or more visibly, in smaller companies. CEOs who recognize the value contributions, and communicate this, not only have greater business/financial success (from Megatrends 2010), but they also create a much more loyal employee team –critical in the current economic climate.
The challenge seems to be when money gets tight, revenues are down, or the CEO’s own behavior or contributions are being called into question. In those situations, which I’ve seen far too often, the leader will sacrifice another employee in order to save face or solidify their own position.
Miriam Battson, Marketing & Sales Director
The Pettibon System, The Pettibon Institute
Enlightened CEO’s DO acknowledge the value the employees bring to the success of their companies. You can also feel it when you walk through the front door. Employees have a sense of ownership and taking pride in your work. There is a company in Seattle that has a gym, numerous classroom/conference room for their own “university” classes, full blown cafeteria, wine bar, fitness classes, etc. , all at no charge to the employees.
In Gig Harbor, the owners of The Pettibon System have been encouraging the employees to read “the Great Game of Business” by Jack Stack. What it’s doing is showing the way to a mindset shift of employees taking ownership in the outcome of the organization and specifically in their work. As we begin to implement the game within the company it’s been fun to watch the communication lines open even more. The net result is engaged and happy employees who are being proactive with customer service related issues. They are feeling empowered to do the right thing and help create the future. As an employee, I feel very blessed.