Finding the Business Case for Recognition

October 24, 2022
43 min

Introducing Mark Hirschfeld

Mark D. Hirschfeld is currently a Vice President of Consulting Services and Strategic Partnerships at BI Worldwide – a global engagement agency. He has been working within or around the field of positive psychology for over 40 years. 


Mark’s lifelong career advancing positive psychology within organizations was not his first path. He began on track to enter the legal profession but that all changed when he met Dr. Clifton – a prominent figure in the history of positive psychology. Mark was drawn to the idea of companies having a mission and purpose. 

Quiet quitting 

“It just hurts me to know that there are people, you know, going to work every day in jobs, where they’re not appreciated, they’re not valued, they’re not given the opportunity to utilize their strengths in the workplace.”

From Mark’s perspective, the phenomenon of ‘quiet quitting’ (performing the bare minimum required to keep your job) is a matter of feelings of under-appreciation and lowered inspiration – leading to critical disengagement.

Although the phenomenon may feel recent to many, Mark notes that the concept of quiet quitting has been floating around for decades. He recalls a colleague referring to people as “Retired while on active duty.”


The solution is then cultivating a culture of recognition and reward which he elaborates on extensively throughout the episode. 

Fighting our evolutionary psychology

In our research, we found that when new associates are recognized, it has a significant impact on their inspiration and their ability to contribute, and stay with the organization.”

Living and working as we do in the modern world isn’t normal in the biological history of humanity. Instead, our ancestors faced ever-present danger and those who weren’t attentive to this danger didn’t make it. The result is that we’re still on high alert for danger – even if it’s not there. 


So, how does this relate to recognition in the workplace? Well, human psychology, focused as it is on danger, tends to assume the negative unless the positive is clearly stated. This means that your associates who aren’t being praised for their work will often assume the worst about their performance. A few moments of meaningful recognition can transform their mindset. 

This strategy has not been put forward without concerns from senior leaders, however. Leaders are often concerned that too much recognition and praise will go to people’s heads. Mark pushes back on this concern — affirming that his research and experience show that no one suffers from too much recognition. 

Recognition is contagious 

“We found that leaders who recognize line managers, those line managers were more likely to recognize their associates, which is evidence of what is called the ‘contagion effect.’”

Here Mark explains how recognition has a way of flowing through an organization. This suggests that senior leaders and executives need to be front and center in any major people initiative if they want it to be successful. They need to start the process of recognition if they want to see a culture change throughout their organization. 

Aligning principles and practices

“As one of my colleagues says, ‘no margin, no mission.’ We need to build a business case for this or any other kind of important initiative that organizations are doing.

People initiatives, just like any other initiative, need to be closely tied to core business outcomes. As Mark points out, even non-profits aren’t freed from this requirement. 

Mark provides examples of what this might look like. For instance, he mentions one company that kept track of employee recognition. They found that those employees who received recognition every 90 days showed substantially higher engagement scores than those who weren’t. That engagement can then be associated with higher levels of productivity and overall investment in their work. 

Advice for champions 

“It’s an exciting time to be to be in this work and see organizations embrace the importance of really creating an awesome, meaningful workplace.”

Many business leaders and executives are still not on board with people initiatives and recognition campaigns. Mark and I ended our chat by discussing strategies for those championing recognition in their organizations. 


Here Mike reiterated the need to connect recognition to a business case. He points out that, given the proliferation of data, it’s easier to make a business case for these sorts of programs. Mark suggests finding a specific use case for recognition such as connecting it to employer marketing, increasing sales, or improving metrics important for HR. 


Adam  0:03  

So Mark, welcome to the podcast.

Mark D. Hirschfeld  0:05  

Delighted to be here.

Adam  0:06  

I was thinking this morning, every time I’ve ever connected with you, you’re smiling. You’re positive, you’re Mr. Optimism. So I wasn’t surprised when I asked you last week if you’re familiar with positive psychology, but I was surprised to your fashional and personal connection to Dr. Clifton. And of course gallop, which is part of your career, I’d love for you to unpack for our audience here, your connection to Dr. Clifton, and maybe even how you met your wife and your decision to go there versus law school.

Mark D. Hirschfeld  0:36  

You bet. So just delighted to be with you. And I’m gonna take your viewers back to ancient history 19 181, I was studying to be an attorney, which I guess would have been a perfectly fine profession. But in my last year of college, I met Don Clifton, Dr. Donald O. Clifton, who was the founder of a company at that time called S ri in Lincoln, Nebraska, which is where I was studying. And through a mutual connection, I became acquainted with Don. And as he began to tell me about his business, I said, Well, what kind of business you’re in? And he said, Well, Mark, you know, we’re in the, we’re in the research business, and we’re in the business of helping people to discover and develop their strengths. But that’s, that’s really not our mission. And that kind of took me aback, I didn’t really understand I’d never heard a business person talking that way. And he said, you know, our mission is to help people be heard, and to help people discover and develop their special uniquenesses the things that they’ve been gifted, and do that in a meaningful kind of work environment. Well, I kind of got caught up in that. And much initially to the chagrin of my parents who thought, you know, they weren’t quite sure what I was going into. But later on, I fell in love with Don and this career. And so they trained me in graduate school to become a senior researcher. And then along the way, I met this lovely woman, Nancy, who, at Gallup, and we’ve been married now going on 38 years. And so a lot of my personal and professional life is, is, you know, designed. And that my path, as a result of my meeting with the really, you know, one of the founders in positive psychology, and I spent 10 good years there and was looking for another opportunity, something where I wasn’t on the road as much we’d started the family. And Don said to me back in the 90s, you know, Mark, you’re, you’re kind of, you know, you like recognizing people have a, you know, that kind of personality, and he knew of a local recognition business that was up for sale, and I came from a retail background. And I thought a lot about that. He said, maybe that would be something that you should do. Well, it took me 20 years to finally get to where Don thought should be my next step, which is my current employer, and at called bi worldwide here in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. And that’s a big part of what we do. So I finally made it dawn, I’m a slow learner. But that’s, that’s my career. And it’s just been a wonderful place to, to spend, spend, what I will probably be the fourth quarter of my my career, doing great things and helping new people to be, you know, recognized and celebrated in the workplace.

Adam  3:24  

That’s fantastic. And mark the words you said, you got caught up, or you got caught by this idea of positive psychology and strength. You know, it was about six years ago that I read Sean Akers positive psychology and I was exposed to Dr. Seligman and Gallup and since then my life wasn’t the same. And it could be that I’m not very, I’m not good at many things, right? There may be a few where I’m really good. And the idea that I have the permission to focus on the things that I’m great at and are good at to make them great. And on this journey of folks that once they’re exposed to positive psychology, and then they look at the current workplace, and the lack off, what is common sense is not common action in the workplace, which is where Mark, I’d like to take us next is talk even though the conversation will be on the future people on the ships, I’d like to talk about the current landscape. And you and I touched on the great resignation, we talked about this new term, quiet quitting, and then you introduce me to great assessment reassessment. Mark, let’s reflect on the current landscape. Before we dive further into positive psychology.

Unknown Speaker  4:31  

You bet. So obviously, a number of things have been happening in the last three years, whether it be you know, the pandemic, the things that happened at 38th, in Chicago, here in Minneapolis in my hometown with George Floyd. You know, lots of significant societal upheavals that have impacted the workplace. And, you know, one of those being a concept that has come into To the nomenclature, the so called Great resignation. It’s a term that has been around for a few years, but popularized here just about a year ago, that that actually has been around for many, many years. 20. So years ago, a colleague of mine who came out of the military, described the folks, the term he used was retired while on active duty, which I thought was a really good imagery in terms of people who weren’t necessarily leaving the organization, but not also leaning in and providing their best effort and contributing, you know, in additional ways, which is kind of, you know, what we’re trying to do, obviously, and engaging and inspiring folks. And so that that’s become, you know, something that companies have been thinking about. And, and so quiet quitting the great resignation are are things that we’ve been studying for quite some time, which essentially are, folks are not as happy in their workplace, they in there may be various kinds of things culturally, that are impacting, you know, them to be, you know, demoralized, even in some ways. And, you know, aside from the fact that, that obviously, has tremendous impact on the productivity and retention of associates, you know, it just, it just hurts me to know that there are people, you know, going to work every day in jobs, where they’re not appreciated, they’re not valued, they’re not given the opportunity to utilize their strengths in the workplace. And so, you know, I think, the, the, the pandemic, and, you know, what happened with Mr. Floyd, you know, in some ways, sort of amplified some conversations, I think we probably should have been having anyway, about what kind of workplaces we should have. But just and then add in now, that we are, you know, literally at full employment, employers are having, you know, tremendous difficulty, you know, attracting people there, there are more job openings than there are applicants according to what’s going on. And so I think this is this is really forcing the hand of employers to say, you know, what can we do to build an awesome workplace where people can utilize their strengths where they can do work with collaborative teams, where they enjoy working together, and, you know, can tussle things around in a productive way, and that when they achieve good things, they are properly recognized and rewarded for it for that effort. And so, you know, in some ways, obviously, all of these very, very difficult things have had many, many negative consequences. But I do think this has given the lots of employers the opportunity to to say, what are we trying to offer to people here at work? And how can we be better and utilize some of those basic principles of Marty Seligman and Don Clifton, and others that had many years ago, I think foretold where we should be ultimately heading in creating engaging inspiring workplaces.

Adam  7:53  

Totally. There’s this holy grail of how do we reach potential human potential in the workplace? Right. And then there’s the current state, and well, you just mentioned and and I think it’s it worth us just quickly highlighting things were bad before the pandemic, the disengagement just it was it was awful already. And it was now magnified by I don’t even know what margin, right between the fact of the that it’s really, talent market right now is difficult for organizations. So folks know this, they understand it, but also there’s the stress, anxiety, political, as you mentioned, social, cultural, economic, you you, you mentioned a topic. And that is all part of the mindset that we’re seeing in organizations today. And that it is an opportunity for organizations. But I also think the leverage there is pain, pain, like because companies, often they don’t act, right, because it’s the right thing to do. They may overlook it. And they may have the desire to have an initiative, they may talk about a town hall, they may bring in a speaker, but ultimately, they’re going to act on necessity. Not all organizations, not all. So right now, I think that let’s start with how is this current state impacting performance of the organizations because we understand they track and they track their KPIs. They’re important. Mark, how important is the current mindset, and the current level of whether it’s quiet quitting or reassessment or the or, you know, how is that all impacting performance of their organizations?

Unknown Speaker  9:31  

You know, we have a number of organizations that we’re working with, for example, and I’ve just for purposes of illustration, some quick service restaurants, for example, and they are just having tremendous difficulty hiring and retaining staff. And you probably have seen this I know that I’ve run across that several times where I’ve gone to a restaurant and, you know, they their hours have been depleted because you know, the restaurant is closed. was that at some times when it should be opened because they can’t properly staff. We’ve seen this in various industries, automotive, for example, where, you know, they need service technicians, and there’s more work to be done. And there are service technicians. And so if they can find, and retain, you know, people to turn wrenches to fix our cars, and that, you know, the business is out there. And so these are some of the challenges. It’s not a matter of that, that there is an opportunity in the marketplace to create and develop and maintain customers. But it’s just becoming more clear that, again, the demographics are one thing but but also, what’s becoming clear is that there are certain employers who are very much setting themselves apart, because they have realized that that they need to lean into this and create a very different kind of work experience than maybe what happened before. And so that’s that’s really the the interesting thing that I think a lot of companies are saying, well, you know, why? Or why are we losing good people to that company? Well, that’s because that company is is leaning in and saying, you know, we’ve got an experience that will fit what’s important to you. And I think I think more more folks that, that I’ve talked to are saying, you know, they’re being pickier, and they can be picky, because there are, it is very much an employee’s market out there. And so finding that value proposition that attracts the kind of folks that you want to attract, just again, truly mission critical and inextricably linked to to the bottom line. And so these are our conversations that are absolutely happening at the highest levels, and every company that we’ve had an opportunity to work with, because it is it is we would figure out this problem. Or if we don’t figure out this problem, it’s going to, you know, meaningfully impact the bottom line.

Adam  11:55  

And there’s common sense to this, looking at from an employee perspective, the employee experience perspective, would you go to an organization that’s going to, you know, just keep you two getting 123 Done? Or will you look at an organization that cares about your growth that cares about your potential, that’s, that’s deploying the latest ways in order for you to be on the path toward reaching again, I’ll use the term, your, your full potential. So I like to go there next mark. And as I was reading through through the collateral that you’ve sent, and the case studies started to think about you guys, almost like a recognition scientists. And specifically, let’s start with why recognition what why give recognition, such importance in the world of creating change and employee experience?

Unknown Speaker  12:46  

Well, if you if you go back into the literature that again, Dr. Clifton, and Dr. Seligman and others have been working on, you know, our brain is very much one where, you know, we fill it, we have vacuums, and if we’re not sure about something, we fill things in that vacuum. And sadly, just human nature and evolutionary psychology would say, we tend to, to do that in the negative we think, Oh, I’m, I’m probably doing a horrible job. I just, you know, I’m probably the worst employee they’ve ever had, when, when, in fact, that may not be the case. And so what what we’re doing when we, you know, truly and meaningfully celebrate people’s successes, we’re, we’re fighting that kind of evolutionary psychology and say, no, no, you’re doing well. And what we found is, is that that sort of affirmation, even in the smallest things can make a significant difference. So for example, we found in our research, that when new associates are recognized, and that just has a significant impact on their inspiration and their ability to contribute, and stay with the organization, and in one of the studies, I was really interested in we I saw kind of the, the overall quantitative results, but we also had gotten some commentary from from newer associates and I was, you know, kind of interested in like, okay, you know, somebody’s been here for 60 days, what, you know, what, what could they have achieved, you know, they, I found the cafeteria, you know, I was I was just, I was just, you know, truly interested in we dug into this and found that, you know, people getting recognized like, oh, Adam, you know, I can’t believe we were so far behind on this project for a client and the client was very concerned, you came in and immediately began to make an impact, and we’re back on track and our client is happy, you know, thank you, Adam. For for, you know, leaving in so so I think, you know, just throughout the entire employee experience, including with new associates with more tenured associates, maybe we think, oh, you know, that that old geezer Mark he’s been around for a while, you know, he’s fine. He doesn’t need to be recognized. Well, no, Mark still needs to be recognized. And it just, it really fires in us some very emotional kinds of things that that you cannot get, you know, through through other things. And so so you know that that part of recognition, we found along the way can can meaningfully impact success. And one of the studies I sent you with the we were very fascinated with a large retailer, where we found that that recognition, and not just recognition, but recognition that was aligned and supported to their corporate values, actually predicted better, same store sales and customer satisfaction. And what we again learned was, it’s not just recognition, but like, you know, you did this well, you know, you leaned in, in this kind of way to help, you know, a customer who was upset and Associates again, you know, have that vacuum. And so when we fill that in the associate says, oh, you know, that’s what you want. Okay, I can do that and repeat that, that behavior more, more effectively. And again, that study that I sent you a very much verify that so that’s why, you know, folks think, oh, you know, just recognizing people, I’ll do that if I don’t have anything else better to do and whatnot, we need to lose that mindset and realize that it is a tool amongst many, many other important tools. But a tool that if properly used and properly focused, absolutely can make a significant impact on the business results. Organizations desire.

Adam  16:36  

There’s so much brilliance there, Mark, because I want to highlight for a second and just just pause there is that our default is kind of this negative Tetris. It’s our survival mechanism, right? The folks, you know, back in the day our ancestors have they saw the trees move, and they were curious what’s coming out, right? They’re not here anymore. Because, you know, Nature took its course. So we buy through survive, we assume the negative. And now we’re living in this world, that’s considerably different. And what you’re saying is recognition is our way, maybe a way, not the way or one of the ways for us to be very intentional, I even looked up the definition of recognition can seem self evident, but I did look it up. And it’s acknowledgement of some things existence, just taking a moment to recognize some things exist, well, you know, you’ve made this impact that you’ve created, you yourself, are not going to be able to see it. You need someone else to be the one. And more importantly, not just someone else, peers are good. But where I’d like to check in with the markers, what’s the importance of the manager? When we think about recognition? What is their role?

Unknown Speaker  17:48  

You bet. I’m a student of classical languages, which probably don’t, you know, help in a lot of ways. But if you look actually at the derivation of recognition, it is to receive, and to see again, things and oftentimes as managers, they see those things, but need to see them again, in terms of documenting that in some kind of way, either a written letter, or maybe, you know, some kind of economic value attached to to something to say, you know, I did, I did see you I didn’t miss that. And, and what we found just one, a couple of things here, but but one study that we found was that leaders who recognize line managers, those line managers were more likely to recognize their associates, which is evidence of what the so called contagion effect. And so, you know, executives can set the tone that then leaders will follow, and then that that will contribute to recognition at at an associate level. And so, you know, those are some things that we kind of think about culturally, the other thing that we do is just a question, you know, mindsets or attitudes that leaders might have one of them that just came up recently, and I stole this shamelessly from Dr. Clifton, I was with a group of leaders and we were talking about recognition and an individual in the group raised the hand and asked a very, you know, serious question, thoughtful question. And said, Mark, you know, I think I’m with you on this recognition thing. But, you know, I worry that if I recognize people too much, you know, they might take that might go to their heads, you know, that kind of thing. And so, I recalled what Don lovingly did in a similar kind of group many, many years ago. He said, Well, let me just think about that for a minute. Okay, in this group, and there were, you know, 100 managers in this group, I said, you know, if anybody who’s suffering from too much recognition, just, you know, raise your hand, did anyone raise their hand and they never do, Adam, and we laughed and I, you know, in the good spirit of The gentleman took it in good stead. And I said, Okay, you know, could could we recognize people too much, if we’re not, you know, really tying it to some specific behaviors, if it’s, you know, for, for things that are unimportant outcomes, sure. But but there is I guarantee you a dearth of opportunity of things where we’re missing where people are doing, you know, again, even small, you know, progress toward a goal, where we can affirm that progress, and they’re going to be more likely, according to the research to achieve that goal, we can celebrate our top performers and do that in a meaningful way, where they’re more likely to stay with our organization versus going to the competitive competition. And again, the research that we’ve done, and many, many others that just that case has been settled. And so but, but still, some of the attitudes that maybe folks have, and in some cases, we found, that those managers have attitudes that they learned from from another manager who brought those mindsets. And so just really, you know, thinking through those things, with managers and helping them to, to understand that there is tremendous opportunity to engage and inspire their associates with, you know, really meaningful recognition, and in doing so, can advance their team and their organization’s productivity and, and strategic goals.

Adam  21:25  

And Mark, you said the word meaningful. You know, it’s interesting, because when my first career was investment banking, and I had my butt kicked every day, there was no recognition. And there was no expectation of recognition. And, you know, just thinking some of the managers that grew up in that era, and there are many of them, are entering this new era. And they’re probably some who say, amazing, this is exactly how it should be. I already praise my kids when they do well. And I practice that in my life. And they’re probably some all the way in the other spectrum. Absolutely not. Right, to warrant my recognition, you’re going to have to go above and beyond set unreasonable goals, and then go beyond those goals. And maybe in five years from now, I’ll say great job. But vast majority, I would imagine, are somewhere in between, right? And there are many managers who you ask them to recognize they will. But does it? Do they mean it? Right? What does it mean, there’s maybe there isn’t a good or bad recognition, but they’re certainly meaningful in meaning less recognition. Right, thank you for the report. over and up, or thank you for the report, I can see what it took. And you went beyond above and beyond and you connect that to our vision and value that talk to me Mark about how does a manager make a meaningful recognition?

Unknown Speaker  22:53  

Well, a wonderful question, Adam, and as the great philosopher and comedian George Burton says sincerity is an important quality, if you can fake that you can do anything. And and no, we can’t fake it, it absolutely has to be sincere. And what we found is that people like to be recognized in different kinds of ways. So that as a manager can find out some of those things. I’ll give a personal story. The manager who brought me into the firm by Nat, who who’s now retired, and still a dear friend, he found out that although I do lots of public speaking and whatnot, I actually prefer recognition more in private, with someone in this particular case, my manager, who I cared about, and so, you know, we found a great deli, in the Twin Cities that, you know, when I had, you know, some success, we went out to lunch together, and I can, you know, many of these are years and years ago at him, and I can still recall very fondly those that that was meaningful to me, someone else might like to be on the stage, someone else, you know, might like various kinds. So to the degree in this, again, is very much from what Dr. Clifton again proclaimed around, you know, individually individualizing, our approach to managing people and whether that be how people learn, or how they’re recognized, or that, oh, you have this particular strength, Adam, let’s figure out how we can utilize your strength in the team versus Mark having a different strength and we can utilize that, that sort of that notion of individualization that Dr. Clifton, so very much, you know, espoused and, and again, the literature very, very clear if we, if we stop, you know, treating people, you know, management by cookie cutter and just, you know, stamping out things and really finding out, you know, what are the uniquenesses including, you know, how people prefer to be recognized. Again, that’s, that’s one of those things can go from something that is perfunctory, truly meaningful and inspirational in a way that that folks will remember that forever.

Adam  24:56  

And that’s interesting. So we think about the importance of rock cognition and we think about managers are different. And their team members, their, their reports are different. We also know there’s so much on the managers, right? In frozen middle, or there’s so many terms to focus on how we describe because they have from the top, of course, the pressures and, and from those who are reporting to them. How do we think about Mark, enabling the managers? What’s their workflow? And in the context of common senses and common action, right, if more information was the answer, we’d all have perfect abs and the billionaire’s, it’s not just about the information, it’s how to go beyond and how do we activate it? So what can we do? Right, and when I say we, we as the organization, working those that are listening to this, whether they’re an l&d Change Management, innovation, HR operations, what can they do to enable the managers?

Unknown Speaker  25:53  

You know, one of the things that, that I’ve really valued in my 40 plus years now is the potential for for technology to support some of these things. You know, when I started, we didn’t have opportunities to use technology in various kinds of ways. And, and technology won’t solve all of our problems, to be sure, but there’s a lot going on, maybe you’ve seen, there’s a wonderful report that came out from Gartner that showed how, you know, we we started out, you know, trying to predict things in terms of outcomes, which is really good. But you know, going more to the next level of saying, Okay, can we once we predict like that recognition makes a difference? And then say, for example, going back to the early illustration, that recognition predicts the effectiveness of helping to onboard new associates, well, then the next level is to go from predictive to prescriptive, you know, to offer managers, you know, little nudges, and information to say, hey, you know, Adam, Mark has been on board now, for a month, is there something in particular that you might want to call out in terms of his success, those kinds of things, because, you know, managers to be sure are busier than they’ve ever been, you know, more direct reports, you know, Peter Drucker back in the, in the late 50s, when he wrote concept of the corporation that, you know, the average, you know, supervisor had five employees, you know, those those days are gone, right. And so, yeah, to try to enable these kinds of things can be helpful. But then I still think, some old fashioned leadership, that we know from a best practices point of view, and this is true in any kind of initiative, inside an organization that, as you well know, that when leaders are actively involved in this process, when they are going beyond George Burns, and being real sincere. And again, I think, importantly, helping to build the business case that we’re doing this, not just for check the box, but when we celebrate successes for people, you know, that really, ultimately helps, you know, the individual feel more, you know, valued, and not just a cog in the wheel, it also helps for our organization. And so I think it’s, it’s a combination of both the, you know, high high tech and high touch, and a lot of good work, where, where most of the companies that we see are really leaning into this are again, outpacing their, their competition.

Adam  28:30  

And let’s draw a direct line here from, you know, all the way from a small action, how it leads to organizational performance. And in some way, it’s really thinking about organizational performance, performance connected to individual behaviors. And multiple times mark, you mentioned, onboarding, right? I actually have here the book for the first 90 days from Michael Watkins, he is going to be joining the conversation here in a couple of weeks as well. And early wins, right? How do we get folks to start that relationship in the right way as as any relationship and it’s important how you begin it? So Mark, let’s take it from, you know, join the organization, right? The managers taking a moment to give me a meaningful, meaningful recognition that is authentic and real. This isn’t to check the box. This isn’t I saw a pop up it may be reminds me, but I delivered in a way that’s very real. And we’re seeing from that we go all the way to performance, right? And what kind of performance could we talk about that performance being they’re now able to deliver faster, their onboarding gets them to be more effective? Could it be revenue, could it be customer service, mark which which of these performance measurements can I look at? If if we nail recognition?

Unknown Speaker  29:49  

You bet. So with with regard to the onboarding process, at least from what we’ve seen and deferring to the expertise of your of your upcoming speaker, but Some of the things that we’ve seen that when we’re again, using recognition as part of, again, a more comprehensive onboarding process, what the literature at least that I’m familiar with says, we’re really trying to solve for two things. We don’t want avoidable turnover, that we hire somebody, and then for some reason, they become disillusioned, demoralized, and say, Look, this is not for me, and they leave. And obviously, you know, the expenses of recruiting and retaining someone and then leaving are very, very high. Some of the studies I’ve seen, you know, the equivalent of two to three times the person salary, just walked out the door. So, so there’s no real costs that are affected with that. But then the second one is, is you know, time to competency is a term that’s oftentimes used to, you know, that that point in, in new associates life where they get up and say, you know, I got this, I feel confident enough to go out into the marketplace or do my job in a way, one project that we did with a client, we were helping them to onboard some new sales reps. And in sales, of course, there’s a very, very clear outcome variable of you know, sales, customer satisfaction, that sort of thing. They onboard a group of new salespeople, and about this time, they were actually launching a new product. And, and with a better more robust onboarding program for these new associates coming in, they actually outsold the the the 10 year and salespeople in this new product. And so, you know, if you do this, right, and build a true experience, for which, you know, again, a lot of other things need to be happening. But as people are making progress, we’re acknowledging that we’re celebrating those successes, you know, of course correcting and coaching also, as we need to do that. Absolutely. Those kinds of, you know, better retention, speed to productivity. And in one case, you know, the new the new focus on the block, beating the 10 year, folks quite quite a remarkable outcome. When we really think about these things intentionally.

Adam  32:01  

Mindset matters being inspired matters. I know if you know, if I go through weeks where you know, negative encouragement, my ability to perform is is is awful. And then quit quite the opposite happens as as you build up, you pick up momentum, it’s like, a game, when I played when I was younger, a basketball game, every time you score, and you make it you become more on fire until the point where you can throw the ball for all the way from the opposite side of the of the court. But Mark, I’m gonna I’m going to ask you some some harder question here. So in your experience, when we talk to executives at organizations, some get it? Some don’t. Okay, and I want to talk about the ones who don’t get it. And once they get it from importance of recognition, from importance of pursuit of strength and the potential that we started this conversation with? What do you do? What do you do in those cases? Will they get it? Are there some where you’ve seen the they turn and they go, Oh, my goodness, you know that this is the way to go? Or? Or is it about a time when you executives are going to join their organization? Or is it that you find a champion and you work with a champion? What do you do to introduce something like this into an organization that is probably by default, full of skeptics and full of, let’s call them just what it is naysayers. Let’s just work here. Right? This is about getting work done. As I grew up in this organization, we didn’t discuss any of these soft things. Let’s get to work. What do we do?

Unknown Speaker  33:38  

Yes, all those ideas and maybe more that you said, Adam, you know, one of the things in again, I’m sort of a history of this profession. I would say that many years ago in the 50s, a fella by the name of Douglas McGregor wrote a book called The Human Side of Enterprise where he postulated a theory some of your you or your readers may be familiar, the so called Theory X and Theory Y. And, you know, went through the history of how, you know, organization started, they were modeled after the Roman Catholic Church and the legions of Caesar and these were the attitudes and mindset and he called that x. And then he saw some emerging trends. He called those why? Well, there was an article that was actually published posthumously after his death, where he said, You know, I, I created this theory of theory, X and Theory Y. And, you know, people started thinking about, you know, camps that either you’re this or you’re that and he said, I think maybe I was really misunderstood. What I was really trying to get folks to think about is, you know, what are your mindsets? What are your attitudes? And can you make sure that your attitudes are aligned to what you’re doing? What Peter Drucker called principles and practices, and, and oftentimes, you know, seeing those kinds of things to make sure that they’re aligned, is what we need to look at. And so, you know, with some of the things we’ve seen, you know, oftentimes you know, finding it champion, is there a business unit? Who would be willing to say no, I’d like to invest in this. And then you know, oftentimes then some success. There’s one organization that we work with a certain region is kind of the trendsetter and has been successful for many years in this particular region after they do something, some of the other people like, Oh, what are they doing over there. And oftentimes, that becomes sort of a natural rollout for this particular organization. The other thing that that there’s lots of literature in the summer, we published but many other think tanks and whatnot, have have talked about the you know, the value of a recognition program in terms of again, moderating tenure, improving customer satisfaction. And we’ll oftentimes work with our clients to build a performer and just say, Look, if you’re going to invest in a program like this, can you see an expected return? Now with one client that we worked with, it was a really neat program, where they identified sort of five unique outcomes for an audience of there’s around safety and customer interactions and retention and whatnot. And they put together a five star program, where associates were, you know, did particular things as they earn that they got a star, and then as they earned those, then they they got some wonderful rewards that they were able to achieve. And over the years, they tracked that very carefully that, you know, injuries, OSHA recordable, those kinds of things were lower as a result of the program, improved interaction with customers were better. And so you know, it with regard at least in them it well, I guess, I was gonna say in the in the for profit business, but even in the not for profit businesses, one of my colleagues says, you know, no margin, no mission. You know, we need to build a business case for this or any other kind of important initiative that organizations are doing. And, and I think more is that there’s been greater emphasis on that, which I think, you know, organizations really ought to embrace, there ought to be a business case to say if we make an investment, could we see improved safety or reduced turnover? Or better, you know, because we have a more tenured workforce, they’re going to take care of our customers, and our customers are going to say, thank you. And, and, you know, we can feel that emotionally. But we can also measure that improved net promoter scores. And so yes, I think I think the the business case around this is, is there, but but we need to establish that into your point. Sometimes that takes that may be a leader who is willing to step out and say, let’s try this and see what we can do to achieve some better results.

Adam  37:35  

Yeah. And in our audience, there wouldn’t be the naysayers. They wouldn’t be have any interest in this podcast? Well, we have our champions who are fighting the good fight, if you will. They are looking for those internal sponsors. They’re looking for those business unit leaders, and they’re looking to build a case. You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about future state in this respect. And I’ve narrowed it down to this one concept. I think it’s also Peter Drucker, you can’t improve what you can’t measure. Right? So this idea being that if recognition matters as a behavior in we believe, maybe it’s not a belief, we know, right? That it is going to impact performance. Well, if that is the case, how do we measure recognition, because that now becomes a leading indicator to net promoter scores, to safety to revenue, to retention to whatever challenges are facing organism, organization today or in the future? So Mark, what do you think is is the future of people initiatives? One where we measure or matters?

Unknown Speaker  38:41  

Yeah, I think you’re right, that that is, is hair, Drucker’s you know what we count counts. And, and I think, again, with technology and other kinds of things, we’re in a far better position now to to be able to get data that can be used to create some of those insights, just along the line again, and in reinforcing your thought, my my colleague, in our risk managing research director, Amy stern did a did a study in collaboration with a client, we are helping them with some of the recognition program elements and they confidentially through over the fence some of the results of their their employee engagement survey, get their their version of that. And she did some analysis. And what she found, which was really, really interesting was that when individuals in the organization were being recognized, at least that we can see through this data, on average, about every 90 days, those individuals self reported employee engagement scores were substantially higher. And so and as we reported this to our, our, the person who we provided the research to, she looked and kind of in the parlance of the pandemic, she said so so we need to be giving our associates a little recognition booster once a quarter, which I feel like sure that that that fit and then we’ve been doing some of A researcher as we look at the organization, they have various, you know, functions and whatnot, you know, okay, that’s true for 90 days. But But is it that way for their sales organization, their manager, group, management group, etc. And again, is kind of Gartner was saying, you know, as we get some of these things, and we’re able to predict some of those outcomes, how can we prescribe that what can we do, again, to get information in a very user friendly form to leaders to help them again, you know, take action based upon some of those, those insights. And again, that was the pattern in Company A, it might be different in Company B, or Company C. But having that linkage, as you said, the so called, you know, service profit chain, that if we do certain kinds of things, people are feeling better about their work experience. And then that turns into outcomes, key business results that we that we we very much desire.

Adam  40:53  

Amazing mark, again, common sense is in common action, a lot of the survey results you’re sharing are needed to convince those that need to see the data behind it. But ultimately, foundationally we feel better about ourselves. When we recognize for the work we do, it matters, it speaks to our basic needs, whether you think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for love, any aspect of human studies will point that it makes a difference. Mark, this has been an amazing conversation. The last question that I’d love for you, again, the folks that are listening in are champions, they’re fighting the good fight, right to prove the case for the case. And you’ve mentioned already find a sponsor, build a business case? What other advice would you give to those that are starting the journey of bringing these human traits, human aspects, bringing humanity into the workplace, starting with recognition? What other advice would you give them?

Unknown Speaker  41:53  

You know, I think along the business case matter, I can tell you, you know, we’ve talked about some outcomes, there could be some others, or research again, as I mentioned, my colleague, Amy Stern, we found that, for example, when people are more affirmed and recognize that, that they feel more included. And so if an organization perhaps has some emphasis on equity and inclusion, which I hope they do, that there could be another business case built that way. So there’s, and I don’t want to make, you know, this feels like having a recognition reward strategy is the panacea for all kinds of business outcomes, because it isn’t, but you know, finding those kinds of things. And so oftentimes, you know, just broadly starting to have a discussion amongst a good good folks in leadership in an organization about what are the what are the things that we’re trying to drive, and that could be from a marketing position that could be from an employee position. And and understanding those and then figuring out if there is a place for for a strategy where we are doing an even better job of affirming the unique strengths and talents and accomplishments of our associates. I think those are those are the that’s where we’re going. And again, what’s wonderful with a proliferation of data to build an evidence base case, I think is becoming more more straightforward and for someone as I’m finishing out my career to to see some of these things come to fruition and help folks feel more affirmed. It’s just it’s just an exciting time to be to be in this work and see organizations embrace the importance of of really creating an awesome, meaningful workplaces where as Dr. Clifton and Dr. Seligman, Seligman, we’re hoping that that people’s true true gifts and talents can be can be celebrated and affirmed.

Adam  43:48  

And Mark, you’ve contributed to bringing this reality, this reality. So now let’s hope organizations embrace it and they scale it. They love it.

Unknown Speaker  43:58  

The journey continues. Looking forward to that and thanks for this time together. Adam, it’s been a great pleasure.

Adam  44:05  

Same here, Mark, over and out. Can’t wait for our next conversation.

Adam Fridman
Serial entrepreneur, author, and speaker, Adam is a co-founder and one of the visionaries behind ProHabits. Currently, he hosts ProHabits' podcast: The Future of People Initiatives.

Related Articles

See All
May 30th
ProHabits and Mabbly founder Adam Fridman delivering an inspiring ...
September 14th
In recent months, there’s been a flood of statements from busine ...
February 27th
From ground-level managers to senior executives, it’s leadership ...
Develop your people, scale your business.
Grow your people, grow your business.
Get ideas delivered to you
Sign up to read our latest report ideas on employee behaviors, cultures and professional habits.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.