Madison Performance Group

Did you watch the season premiere of “Mad Men”? The character of Joanie gets lectured by a young MBA-type (who had just become the new Director of Marketing for a key account) on the four Ps; product, price, place and promotion.  This show transports its viewers back in time, but as someone watching, you didn’t need the condescending (almost misogynistic) tone of his comments to tell you are listening-in on a conversation taking place almost four decades ago. As a person who talks with marketing executives all the time, I found it quite revealing that this new “marketing” executive wouldn’t even think to include people and promise as 5th and 6th P.

Yes, for decades marketing has ignored employees. Not so much today. Contemporary brands are built to convey a promise; or more specifically the promise of an experience. As a result they have become very people dependent. That’s why the most progressive marketing executives are working proactively with HR leaders to target the organization’s internal audience—its front line workers. They are the real people who represent and deliver on those products and services and ultimately live up to (or break) the promise the brand is designed to represent.

HR leaders who work with Madison and use our technology to support their employee recognition programs know the value of people and promise in their brand equation.  Our system allows organizations to translate brand attributes into behaviors and actions that individual employees can understand and relate to. Our approach helps employees understand their roles in delivering on the brand promise—no matter what role they play in the value chain. Something the marketing bosses of the “Mad Men” era never quite understood.

The song “Happy” has certainly gotten its share of acclaim lately. But the real hit among smart HR folks is not a song but a book called The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.

I must admit I was a little skeptical before I picked it up. The title is enough to give you pause.  How much real world practicality would there be within I wondered? Lots is the answer! Now, I must admit I read the whole thing with my rewards and recognition hat on so my insights are through that lens. With that caveat in mind here are my take aways.

Achor first starts with the very definition of success. He tells us we have been preconditioned to want more no matter how much we obtain. Better jobs, bigger homes, we have been taught to never be satisfied. As a result those feelings of success we work so hard to achieve get delayed, postponed or even ignored altogether. In my opinion, companies should keep that in mind when they think about their reward programs. More specifically the role they should play in making their employees experience success.  Reward them more and do so more often.

He also talks about the lack of positivity in the workplace. When it comes to their mental outlooks most employees are negative or neutral.  When people feel more positive they are also more productive—31% by his estimate. More importantly, they embrace conditions that others might see as stressful. Positive employees are more resilient. They don’t burnout and they turn over less. Do you need to know more?

Achor says 90% of our outlook is based on how we perceive the world around us. Seems to me that companies that recognize an employee’s efforts, and applaud their accomplishments, would certainly be adding an air of positivity to the atmosphere.

It’s fairly common to assume that the motivational focus of HR and sales operations executives are separate and distinct. That’s probably why vendors in the reward and recognition space offer distinct platforms to each group. But a recent paper talks about The Great Balancing Act of Sales and HR and suggests that the commonality of purpose between these two disciplines is growing.

We are already seeing a bigger role for HR at the sales compensation planning table.  While sales leaders are putting together plans that reward top performers (and their teams), HR is busy monitoring the impact rule structures may have on any unexpected attrition of good to average performers who felt left out of the equation.

We also see HR chiming in on the issue of sales rep engagement—something we have talked about extensively here. HR knows that if goals and objectives are not presented in a manner that clarifies someone’s role in the organization than engagement fades and that’s not good for anyone.

HR is becoming more active in making sure that sales results don’t come at the expense of company principles or brand attributes. In this regard, HR is busy working with sales (and marketing for that matter) to make sure that the customer’s overall experience reflects the company’s core values.

Why bring all of this up now?  Well, in order for the different stakeholders within an organization –like HR and sales and marketing—to have symbiotic relationships, it’s important that they work from the same reward’s platform. Having the ability to construct, communicate, reinforce and monitor behaviors requires an integrated effort.

Can agents from different disciplines still cooperate in a rewards environment that has them operating from separate platforms? Well, yes, I guess so. But why would you want to?

Think about the advantages of having everything in one place and then give us a call. We will show you how to get the consistency you need so that no one group’s strategy gets lost (or misunderstood) across programs.

The other day I was “voluntold” to be on a project. No that’s not a typo. It’s a new expression (albeit tongue and cheek) I’m hearing more and more within companies. It’s used to describe how people are “volunteered” to be put on projects without any real say. Since many people in businesses today have absolutely zero slack in their schedules; it’s basically like being ordered to give up some free time. You could see how that might be met with some resistance.

In an age where we are all tapped out, getting people to give up their discretionary time is a tough thing to accomplish. So many demands are made of us throughout the day (either at home or at work) that it’s difficult for people to say yes even if they wanted to. Being “voluntold” puts a cramp in their schedule.

So what’s the best way to alleviate the time-tensions we all face?  Recognition is the answer.  Acknowledging employees who have given up their time and who enthusiastically contribute both their ideas and their efforts is essential.

Keep in mind you don’t want employees to resent being on a project or approaching any extra work with a negative sense of its value. Recognition does so many things to put a positive spin on ancillary assignments. It acknowledges the sacrifices people sometimes make to pitch in, it motivates them to engage and speak up with an idea and it rewards them for their efforts and insight in making the task come to fruition.

So the next time you feel like you need to “voluntell” someone to work on an extra project, remember recognition is an easier way to get people to want to work on additional assignments.

The latest edition of Workforce Magazine reports that employees are working more; that they are “stressed and pressed” on the job and that companies that ignore them run the risk of losing them.

At Madison we have been saying just that for some time now.  A few years ago I published, Why Recognition Still Matters: The Argument for Employee Retention and Productivity Programs in a Soft Economy. In it I stressed that many workers are doing more out of fear than anything else. I pointed out that while layoffs and downsizing had helped organizations experience a windfall of “per-employee productivity” and helped profits, they had also placed a strain on employee morale and engagement. I cited a survey that indicated employees felt overworked and under appreciated. I even called people who were “lucky enough” to have jobs “over employed” on national television. I cautioned that people were working hard not because they wanted to, but because they had to keep their jobs and that the whole “over employed”, hyper-productive employee dynamic was far from sustainable.

I’m glad to see that Workforce agrees. I just hope the companies out there that rely on people to be their biggest source of competitive advantage feel the same way. Many companies have a false sense of security about employee retention right now and that’s a huge mistake.

Let’s face it; businesses have experienced a strong post-recession growth period. Profits are strong and market valuations are at an all-time high. To maintain those high levels of productivity, organizations will need to rely less on employee anxiety and more on recognition techniques that are proven to prolong an employee’s desire to contribute. Without taking action now, employers will be left with a “recession-damaged” workplace culture populated by disenfranchised employees who will leave for new pastures at the first opportunity.