Employee Recognition: Let us give thanks

you-are-more-than-awesome-you-re-amazing

Employee Recognition is only just beginning to, um, get the recognition it deserves.

It is particularly important for law firms as research on lawyer’s personality profiles (including MBTI research and brain imaging data and studies by Carol Gilligan) all show that lawyers are great at critical analysis but less so at the touchy-feely stuff, or in fact any of the feeling stuff. In plain English, it is far easier for a lawyer colleague or boss to point out the 3 things a junior did wrong than it i for them to pay a tribute to something someone did right. Because lawyers are trained and paid to criticize and see flaws and ways of improving things.  And because this way of viewing the world the default setting, most lawyers are not even aware of this.

It would also be helpful for lawyers to understand the 3 basic types of Employee recognition that I have just read about in some fascinating research entitled:  Employee Recognition: a Lynchpin Value for Cultural Transformation by Judith Mills and Joan Shafer. Here they are:

PAST Accomplishments i.e.: work done goals achieved contributions

PRESENT Acknowledgement of the importance of particular talents, current contributions or character

FUTURE Promise of potential: promotions, positions, projects

Which type do you think would be the hardest for lawyers? Yip, the middle one: Acknowledging WHO someone really is, their character does not come naturally to lawyers – it’s far too right brain.  Law firms tend to recognise employees more often than not, on accomplishment – while sometimes what people most need is recognition of who they are and what they bring to the workplace aside from the obvious accomplishments of winning a case or bringing in a new client.

A firm called Sullivan & Cromwell held a training session in 2006 for its partners on associate appreciation. This presentation encouraged partners to give associates feedback, to say “thank you” and “good job” and to return associates’ calls as quickly as you would a partner’s or clients’. The firm also arranged periodic associate lunches with the chairman of the firm and implemented a 360 degree review process – to give associates feedback from subordinates and peers as well as supervisors. In 2007 the firm’s attrition rate dropped from 30 plus percent to 22 percent. (The Happy Lawyer p.195)

Still not convinced?

Here’s another interesting piece of research mentioned by Mills and Shafer:

Employee Recognition affects the bottom line. In their book “The Carrot Principle”, Gostick and Elton demonstrate this. In response to the question ‘My organisation recognises excellence’, the results show that organisations that scored in the lower fourth quartile had an average return on equity (ROE) of 2.4%, whereas those that scored in the top fourth had an average ROE of 8.7%. In other words, companies that most effectively recognise excellence enjoy a return that is more than triple the return of those that are least effective.”

How people are lead and managed is important. People who report the highest morale at work, 94.4% agree that their managers are effective at recognition. In contrast, 56% of employees who report low morale give their manager a failing grade on recognition and only 2.4% of people who have low morale say they have a boss who is great at recognition.

Two final pieces of advice that I’ve gleaned from Mills & Shafer

The people delivering the recognition need to:

Match what and how they deliver recognition to what is meaningful to the employee. To do this they need to strengthen their powers of observation, feedback systems and articulation skills.

And importantly:

When acknowledgement is needed, it has a more powerful punch if it is delivered by someone high up in the organisation.

For recognition to be effective, the recipient needs to:

  • Trust that the recognition is true.
  • Respect the source of the recognition.
  • Believe that there is no hidden motive behind the appreciation.

People are not aware of all the gifts they have to offer. It is a transformative act to tell people how they have affected others’ lives. This not only increases their self-awareness, but empowers them to express themselves more freely to others. It reduces the fear belief of ‘Am I good enough’? Do not assume that other people know how effective, good or talented they are.

CVA data (CULTURAL VALUE ASSESSMENTS) are a powerful tool for gathering data on the issue of employee recognition.

An analysis of 106 CVA’s show that it is not just lower level employees that want to be recognised but people at all levels “including the CEO, senior leadership, middle management, and staff. People at the top have just as strong a need to be appreciated as staff, possibly because it can be lonely at the top. This is evidenced by the response senior leaders demonstrate during Leadership Values Assessment (LVA) debriefs where their strengths and contributions are acknowledged by their colleagues. They are almost always touched and surprised by how highly regarded they are and the extent and richness of their strengths. This feedback from others enhances their confidence and belief about themselves in all they have to offer.”

Mills & Shafer have also developed a great model showing 7 levels of Employee Recognition, that aligns with the 7 Levels of Organisational Consciousness.

I am SO excited to be taking this cutting edge work being done in corporates around the world, and bringing it to my niche market of South African law firms. The Barrett Cultural Transformation Tools mentioned here – the CVA and LVA – are such brilliantly simple yet powerful ways to deepen an organisation’s understanding of dynamics which have a huge effect on the firm, but aren’t readily visible.

I am finalising the LEARNS product: (Lawyer Engagement & Recognition Nexus Survey) designed specifically to assist law firms in understanding the nexus, or connection between:

  • Employee recognition patterns
  • Employee engagement patterns
  • Attrition rates
  • Firm profitablity

It is early days but the Centre for Integrative Law gets closer every day to its vision To be South Africa’s leading  consultancy for emergent thinking in integrative ways to practise and teach law.

Click here for more details.

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