I was perusing the latest Bersin report on recognition (and its related press release and white paper) yesterday, and there is some really powerful information there. You should really check it out. (Also, if you print it out it and carry it around for a while you can get your daily cardio in.) I did agree with some of Paul Hebert’s quibbles, but I wanted to add one of my own.
Bersin noted that senior leadership tends to be out of touch with recognition. They said that while 80 percent of senior leaders believe employees are recognized at least on a monthly basis, only 40 percent of managers and only 22 percent of individual contributors report that their peers are recognized monthly or more often. That’s all very fair and sadly true.
But then Bersin argued that “Senior Leaders Are Not as Important to Employee Recognition as HR Thinks.” The reason? Because the “least common reason employees do not recognize each other is because senior leaders do not do it frequently”. Meaning employees are not really following the example of leadership in recognition.
Okay, but there is a lot more to it than that. The problem with this finding is that it assumes that the importance of senior leadership to recognition lies ONLY in setting an example. Example-setting is certainly helpful, and I don’t mean to minimize it, but I would argue that it is not nearly why senior leaders are most important to good, strategic recognition.
The real value of executive leadership is in their sponsorship and championing of good recognition.
There is a reason that clear executive sponsorship is a best practice in recognition. Core values, business goals, and corporate culture are at the heart of strategic recognition when it is done right. For recognition to be effective it must be driven by those values and it must be empowered.
- Senior leadership is the owner of core values and core goals.
- Senior leadership decides who gets a seat at the table.
- Senior leadership is the pace-setter and ultimate guardian of corporate culture.
I’m going to defer to Jennifer King here for a moment, because on Tuesday she blogged about the growing need for stewardship in company culture, and interviewed some key folks on the role of a “Culture Chief” at the top who is mandated to drive strong company culture. Executive buy-in is a key to that. In fact, in the interview, Tim Delbrugge, Chief Administrative Officer of Welocalize, tells Jennifer: “It’s one thing to have a culture chief for window dressing, but you have to have buy-in from everyone, and the key to that is the CEO. Our CEO has made culture one of our key objectives as an organization.”
So yes, senior leadership needs to take culture off auto-pilot and roll up their shirtsleeves, and setting an example can be a real part of that. But the real value of executive leadership isn’t in being one of the crowd. It is in leading that crowd. Setting strong core values, prioritizing company culture and then empowering recognition programs so that they can be successful.