Cheap Recognition is Worse Than No Recognition

Recognition programs are used by employers to drive performance and achieve certain goals that are important to the overall success of the organization. Done correctly, a well-defined recognition program can drive extra effort from employees who love recognition, and see it as a way to track their personal performance. Set a high watermark and watch in amazement as your team’s competitive spirit reaches new levels – to win! It actually makes the day-to-day work much more enjoyable when there is a “pot of gold” at the end. Even a simple and inexpensive plan to publicly recognize employees for a job well done can make a huge difference in performance and morale. It creates and ignites that competitive spirit that pushes us hard to win. It’s a good thing. We love to win!

Unfortunately, it works the opposite way as well. Recognition plans with no specific performance metrics yield, well, nothing. In fact, a lousy recognition plan or the absence of any plan just sends the wrong message to the troops. Poorly defined plans that are loosely tracked create distrust, loss of productivity and just sends the wrong message. Let me help translate the unspoken message:


That’s not the outcome any organization wants to experience. I’ve seen examples of both and know firsthand the importance of a well thought-out, easy-to-understand plan. Recognition plans need to be clearly written and easy to understand and track. I especially love plans that are specifically designed to accomplish a goal that promotes encouragement by management and by peers. And yes – the actual award and the way it is given needs to mean something. To get the best return for the organization and the award recipient(s), it needs to be a very big deal.
So the next time you think about giving some cheap low-value award to an employee who outperforms your expectations, wins and makes a difference in your organization, don’t be surprised the next time you try to implement a similar plan and get the same message:


Budget Bonuses: Shoe Money

A few days ago I talked to a great HCIT candidate we’d placed years ago, just to catch up. We chatted – did the small talk thing for awhile – and finally got the real reason for the call. I knew it would eventually come out and boy, did it.

The conversation turned to compensation (as it does) and she told me about her deal. The base salary sounded fine when compared with her role and responsibility… and then I asked about her variable compensation or annual target bonus. There was a long pause, followed by (ok, me too) loud laughter at my question. “What bonus?!” she asked. “Oh, you mean my ‘shoe money’? Shoe money? She explained that for the past few years her company had decided to award small bonuses (i.e. $1,500-$2,000) at the end of the year. Her implication (which I get) was that after she pays taxes on the small amount of money, what’s left barely pays for a newly touted “staycation” or perhaps a trip to the shoe store to buy a few pairs of nice pumps.

• That’s it?!
• Are you kidding me?!
• C’mon – why bother?!

The company clearly needs to take a hard look at their compensation package and their 1% – 2% target annual bonus plan. It’s a little low for this hot market. It’s a plan that just sounds bad and will never keep and retain the best talent in the company. I can see it now: “Work hard and meet all of your objectives and I see a trip to the shoe store in your future.” Actually, they’d be better off not paying anything. How demoralizing. What a joke!

Retention is a very big deal in the markets we serve and the battle for talent is already here – that train has left the station. Find a way to keep great people or risk a void in your starting lineup. It’s not all about the money, either. People want to be rewarded for this hard work, but recognition, new and exciting challenges, teamwork, a great collegial culture also matter.

But getting back to the shoe-money…
What are your thoughts? Want the shoe money or should they just pass altogether? I would love to hear the opinions of the readers of HITT and…
I’d like to start with you Ms Darling.

Tell me how you really feel…. I already know you will!

The Play-off Round

You nailed the interview and your references raved about you – ok where is the offer? Hang on… Not so fast – you made the short list and there is plenty of vetting left to do! Making the short list in a C level search, while exciting and certainly a step in the right direction, it’s not over. If you made the “short list” you are likely to be called in for a personal interview or in some cases you have already been in for the in-person interview and the client has decided to bring you back on last time to give others a chance to meet you or let members of the interview team meet you a second time.

Keep your game face on! The fatal mistake that some candidates make is projecting victory in advance – and not preparing for the final round. Many think – if they made the short list and are going back for another visit that somehow the next visit will be a “lay-up”. No need to prepare at all for the final performance. What?

I always try to let candidates know what to expect on each interview, the names of each person with whom they will be meeting with. If I have the information, I also try to uncover what the interview team will be looking for on the final visit. This is not the time to put your interview engine into 4th gear. Not at all. This is where the ‘rubber meets the road’ in most cases.

My advice is always to keep your energy level high, prepare by knowing as much as you can about the organization (and people on the interview team) and to prepare meaningful and intelligent questions to make sure you understand as much as you can about the opportunity, the organization, its people and the culture you may be joining if all goes well. Yes – you are being interviewed by the client. But remember you need to do your own (sort of) interview to make sure you are comfortable with their answers as well. Making a commitment to leave your current employer and joining a new organization is really like a marriage in many ways. Both parties need to feel good about one another before shaking hands and moving to the offer stage.

Take nothing for granted.

Boycotting The Evening News….

These are truly amazing times we are in today. I certainly do not profess to have all of the answers – although I do have a few questions and nobody seems to be able to answer any of them! Most of you are busy running your IT shop and have other things to think about! It can certainly get to you and can have a serious affect on your attitude if you let it! Plus…your staff will smell fear a mile away. The speed of the leader is the speed of the pack.

My biggest question (and I hope I am not alone hear) is why the media continues to fuel the fear and negativity in this market (that is already in the tank). Being an incurable optimist – this troubles me to no end – as I simply don’t get their logic. Every network news producer and news anchor on national television that owns real estate, stocks, bonds and mutual funds for their personal wealth and retirement is sabotaging their own wealth every time they open their mouth. They can’t seem to help themselves.

It’s the lead story every single day and they seem to love every minute of it.

I struggle to understand their logic as their negative economy bashing reporting seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It seems the more they beat this story to death the worse it gets as they inflict more fear in the American people.

Ben Stein did an excellent piece on CBS Sunday Morning yesterday about the media and how they have torpedoed this economy and created more fear than anyone could have dreamed possible.

The media coverage of today’s economy reminds me of (Dirty Laundry) the song by Don Henley

“I make my living off the evening news
Just give me something-something I can use
People love it when you lose,
They love dirty laundry

Well, I coulda been an actor, but I wound up here
I just have to look good, I dont have to be clear
Come and whisper in my ear
Give us dirty laundry

Kick em when theyre up
Kick em when theyre down
Kick em when theyre up
Kick em when theyre down
Kick em when theyre up
Kick em when theyre down
Kick em when theyre up
Kick em all around”

So… Guess what? I have decided that for the next 30 days I will not be watching the news. Nope – not me. I have instead opted to get all of my content (pre-selected) from the web. I am not putting my head in the sand but I am taking a break from watching this junk! Instead, I will be choosing what I digest regarding the news. It will be content that I deem to be important to me, my family, my clients and my business. Based on what I have seen over the past several months from the network news I won’t be missing much. I have already seen this movie – and I don’t need to see it over and over and over…..

I will not allow the media to kick me all around.

Nope. I’m done!