A Culture of Extraordinary

A star gazer with sights on the milky way

Lightweight steel corporations are the last to come to mind when thinking of exceptional companies. That’s not the case with Alcoa. They revolutionized the industry.

In 1987, Alcoa appointed Paul O’Neill as the new CEO. It was his decisions that led investors to advise shareholders to sell-off stock of the already tumbling Alcoa.

Years later one investor said looking back, “It was literally the worst piece of advice I gave in my entire career.”

Optimizing the workforce is just now starting to be a priority for companies. For the newly appointed CEO of Alcoa to say he was going to solve all of their problems through improving workplace safety, you can see why the investors were skeptical.

What O’Neill knew that most didn’t was that good habits spread to other new habits. He knew he had to transform Alcoa’s culture, and he would focus on one habit – workplace safety. If they can succeed at having zero workplace safety accidents, other positive effects will occur, such as an increase in productivity and less PTO days.

Keystone habits

Workplace safety at Alcoa is what is known as a keystone habit, or a habit that ripples and causes other habits to form. An example at the individual level, making one’s bed in the morning, causes us to be more productive. Every company has their own keystone habits that can be promoted for overall stronger employee engagement. When Alcoa started to promote workplace safety, what was once exceptional, such as cutting their incidents in half, soon became the norm.

When Paul O’Neill retired 13 years later, Alcoa’s net income was five times higher than when he started, because workplace safety habits spread to other good habits that helped the company grow their bottom line.

The cycle of exceptional behavior

Start a culture of exceptional behavior

Coincidently, Recognize is working with companies to improve workplace safety. They have identified specific behaviors that are causing workplace safety incidents. To fix this problem, Recognize is providing the platform to easily reenforce positive habits that prevent incidents. What are habits in your company that need to become the norm? Utilizing an employee recognition program with built-in behavior-changing mechanisms will help.

Observe habits

To determine the success of your new program, begin measuring against your already established KPIs in structured and unstructured data. Structured data is true/false binary survey questions or multiple choice, time on email, time on social networks, number of incidents, and other information that is organized. Unstructured data is email content, recognition content, phone call logs, and other types of freeform text.

Inside Recognize, we provide surveys to collect structured and unstructured feedback from your employees. This helps to determine the outcome of the behavior change program. Correlate this information with data you receive through other channels, such as safety incident records, to connect to tangible results.

Evolve the habits

This is where things get interesting. The effect of creating a culture around exceptional behaviors is they stop being exceptional and start being the norm. At which point, we evolve the behaviors your company is actively promoting towards being even more extraordinary.

By utilizing an employee recognition program that saves this data, company leaders can report on past behavior data even after specific behavioral encouragement is retired. This data helps company leaders look for trends in their human capital’s behavior and make hypotheses to further refine their workforce.

Psychology studies have shown that how we dress effects our performance. When participants are told to put on a lab coat verses a painters jacket, the participants wearing the lab coat performed better. This is symbolic of a behavioral-change framework where attitudes and mindsets are encouraged through direct habits and keystone habits. What is your company’s lab coat?

If you have any questions on how to incorporate these strategies into your company, contact us.

The story of Alcoa came from the book Habit.

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Single Sign On with Iframes (eg Sharepoint)

user-experience

Single Sign On is a great tool for implementing seamless user experiences. In order to mix many third party tools together, the authentication puzzle quickly stacks up. Single Sign On via SAML to the rescue!

Implementing SSO via SAML is well documented on the internet, so I won’t go into it here. However, imagine a scenario where you want to implement SSO which integrates a third party application into your main app via an iframe. Iframes are notorious around the web yet are still used quite pervasively in places such as Sharepoint, and Outlook Web Apps.

The difficulty lies in the fact that Identity Providers do not permit their authentication screens to be embedded in iframe. And rightly so. Auth screens collect credentials and having an auth screen inside an iframe makes it real easy for a hacker to steal a user’s account information.

So, how do you work around this?

Popups. Yes, popups.

While working on this problem, I was extremely resistant to the idea of using popups as they also have a bad rap in the internet community because of how they are abused. However, after reading this article, I gave in to the fact that popups are a “necessary evil”.

Remember that the end goal here is to provide a seamless experience as much as possible. The central idea is that once a SAML flow is initiated in an iframe, a page is rendered that does the following:

1. Renders javascript to open a new window and send the user through the actual SSO/SAML flow.
2. Renders a page in the iframe that instructs the user that the popup may be squashed by the browser and to allow it, or to click a link that manually opens a new window to go through the SSO/SAML flow.
3. The page that is rendered in the iframe also continues to check(via js) whether or not a logged in session has been established. Once the user is logged in, the iframe page can be reloaded showing the logged in user content.

When a browser squashes a popup, it usually gives an indication it did so and provides an option to open it. However, this is not always obvious. This is why we give an explicit link to open SSO flow window.

This approach took about a half day to architect, and about a week of hair pulling trying to get SSO to work without popups. I recommend going the popup approach. In fact, it is probably the only way to get this to work.

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Employee Nominations the Smart Way

A tree

We are staying true to the goal of using psychology principles instead of profit as our north star in Recognize’s product roadmap. We want your staff to be motivated intrinsically, and not just by monetary rewards. That’s why our nomination system doesn’t incorporate any cash value. Companies can choose to add monetary rewards for employees who are nominated or awarded, but that is for them to decide, not us.

How does Recognize employee nominations work?

The nomination system makes it really easy to democratically decide who is to be awarded for special mention. Staff can secretly vote on who deserves any award.

Examples:
+ Employee of the month
+ Employee of the year
+ Safety Award for construction companies
+ Innovation Award for consulting companies

Choosing a nomination badge

Choosing a nomination badge

Sending a nomination for employee of the month

It is a lot like sending a social recognition

The admins go into the Company Dashboard to see who has been voted the most times for a nomination and the reasons employees gave for that nomination. Since staff are voting, it is easy to see runner-ups to whomever you choose as the winner.

Viewing nominations in Admin Dashboard

Viewing employee of the year votes
Viewing reasons for nominations

Viewing reasons for nominations

To set up a nomination, it is as easy as creating a badge. Go into the Custom Badges and enable “nominations” on a badge. That’s it!

You should also change the sending limit. Typically you will want to allow someone to nominate once a quarter. So change it to once and a quarter. And make the points worth zero

Creating a nomination badge

Creating a nomination badge

You may want to also create a badge that is the award version of the nomination. When you decide on a winner and award them in the dashboard, you can send a recognition for that accomplishment only the CEO or an admin can send.

Creating custom roles

Creating custom roles

Now it will be easy to see who deserves recognition at your quarterly and yearly ceremonies. Admins and leaders will simply login to Recognize, see the nominations that occurred all year, and make decisions on who to mention and why. No more favoritism, no more last minute illogical decisions. Recognize is helping companies recognize and award their employees in ways grounded in science and not solely gift card profits.

Contact us to learn more

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Top Three Tech HR Trends for 2016

Emerging Tech HR Trends in 2016

Get over hiring difficulties and talent development. As we enter 2016, we welcome a promising year of new HR trends with changing mindsets and increasing integration of technology. Here are the top 3 Human Resource predictions to watch for.

High Demand of Data and Analytics Tools

Big Data is an emerging trend and plays a vital role in gathering, processing and analyzing data, thereby being the lifeline of business lifecycles. Any new-age business wanting to stand out from the crowd needs to be at the top of their game as far as data analytics is considered. Business decisions are getting increasingly data-driven, and for a good reason. Data is what helps you plumb the depths of your workforce so you can strategize HR operations right from recruitment to meeting employee goals according to shifting trends. According to Julie Stich, Director of Research at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, “Employers are trying different things to see what works for them—a lot of it depends on company culture.”

Increased Focus on Employee Recognition

Experts believe that the key to increased productivity lies in employee recognition and engagement. In fact, it is directly linked to better performance, profitability and customer engagement—outcomes that businesses of all types are seeking. If your employees feel appreciated for their efforts, it is natural that they will actively contribute to your organization’s growth. If employee rewards are a part of your workplace culture, you can also do away with talent retention worries. If you’ve used Slack’s team-based messaging software or Yammer’s collaborative social environment for businesses, you already know what we’re talking about. “We’re seeing an evolution here; it’s becoming more about total employee well-being” says Stich. With platforms like Recognize on the rise, it is clear why employee recognition is on the HR’s radar this year.

 

Rise of Integrated Workforce Management Systems

Any organization dealing with over 50 full-time employees will be aware of the monthly requirement to report and track data, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. If paying penalties or spending hours collecting data from multiple systems is not an option, integrated human capital management solutions come into the picture. While we’re on the topic of data, it is worth mentioning the focus on prevention of data breaches in 2016. The digital era poses various threats such as hacking of employee and customer data and has a direct impact on the business community, so time for companies to pull up their socks for extensive data management and security!

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How Successful People Make Introductions

Rock climbing bouldering in Bishop Buttermilks

At a party in Palo Alto, David Traub calls me over, “Alex I want you introduce you to someone.” Turning to his colleague, he says, “Alex has an amazing spirit and is a great eye for design. He’s working on something groundbreaking in the world of workplace positive feedback. Alex, I think you will get along really well with my colleague Tim. I’ve never met anyone like him, he is one of the kindest and most successful investors I know in social enterprise .”

People like David Traub and Allan Young both taught me how to introduce people. They have a natural gift of seeing the best abilities in people and highlighting those abilities when they make introductions. It shows that they act with selflessness and look for the positives in people.

Benefits of this approach:

  1. The people introduced will be pleasantly surprised by the attention you have given them.
  2. People may not even know about those positive characteristics in themselves. It may boost their confidence and better prepare them for the conversation that will follow post-introductions.
  3. It shows sincere care because the compliments are real.
  4. It sparks the start of a new conversation between two strangers.

I’ve been practice this approach for a couple of years now and can see the benefits. I think about people’s abilities before introducing them. When I make introductions, I say what is amazing about these people and why they should be introduced. I’m not as good as David or Allan yet, but I’m getting there.

Reposted from Alex Grande’s LinkedIn post.

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What Millennials Want In a Company

Company leaders are showing a real concern for what is to come with the largest generation – millennials. Millennials want autonomy, they want things to matter, and they want to be mobile. This different mentality from previous generations has been a two-decade-long shift first from video games, then internet, and now mobile.

Millennials on the phone

1. Instant, Always-on, Global Information.

The millennial comedian Aziz Ansari gave a comparison to the millennial mindset in the context of gay marriage. He said, “Two dudes are kissing? I’m about to watch every movie ever, right now! They [millennials] don’t care at all.” Instant global information has made millennials see the world in a whole new light. They look past issues that are not important in the global scheme, because now with Twitter and Facebook they can connect on a deeper level with people all over the globe about any issue as soon as events unravel.

2. Mobile

An endlessly expanding encyclopedia is in your pocket. Every person you have ever known is a short search away. College students complete their studies from anywhere on ultralight laptops. Being anywhere and still connected is the new norm.

3. Instant Feedback

Pinball to Nintendo to Gameboy to mobile computers, instant feedback has gotten more omnipresent. Millennials expect results fast. Increased internet speeds are inflating millennials already hyperactive expectations.

A Blueprint for Companies Seeking to Attain and Retain Millennials

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves” – Vicktor E. Frankl.

1. Autonomy and Idealism

By incorporating autonomy and causes, companies can reap the rewards from both a marketing standpoint and an employee’s lifetime value to the company. Companies with skunk groups for independent innovative projects receive both innovative ideas and prototypes, but also increase employees dedication to the company. Follow the startup incubator model by cycling through groups of people, or batches, in the skunk group. Then, many people can be a part of the skunk group generating more employee to company rapport.

To show your company cares, involve environmental or social initiatives. Give a percentage of profits to a charity, match employee donations to nonprofits, or create your own ice bucket challenge. Make a culture staff is proud to promote and show the company trusts its employees.

People looking at ipads around a desk collaborating

2. Mobile

Working from home can lead some to become complacent. The solution is to make working from home a privilege and not a right. If staff shows up for meetings on time, communicates effectively, and complete tasks on time, then they can work from home. Be transparent on what exactly has to happen to make working from home a reality. If done right, your staff can be producing quality work from a Mexican beach.

3. Instant and Transparent

Support communication tools that support working from anywhere. Give staff immediate feedback. Tools like Slack and Yammer for staff to communicate, and Recognize for employee recognition and rewards should be part of your overarching human resources and company communication strategy.

Companies must embrace with open arms a new way to operate. The industrial revolution is behind us and from the perspective of millennials, the world needs new modalities if we want to keep a healthy planet for the future.

I myself am a millennial. I founded Recognize after discovering the power of employee recognition at former employers. I want to help all companies have a simple employee recognition strategy. It makes work more like a game. When things are more like games, they are more fun and more profitable.

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How Games Can Influence Your Company’s Productivity

How to influence employee productivity

Games have an important evolutionary aspect

There’s a reason why trivia night has become so popular at bars. It’s the same reason why Words with Friends and Farmville are frequently downloaded games. But games are not just a waste of time. Hidden underneath these common games lies a deeper evolutionary aspect we are just uncovering.

Jane McGonigal, a researcher at The Institute for the Future and a professional game designer, predicts that in the 21st century solutions to problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, global conflict and obesity will be found in games, and that we need to be playing games more than we already do.

Really?

McGonigal says that the amount of combined time in years humans spend playing games can only be compared to how long it took the first human being to walk up right.

“It turns out that by spending all this time playing games, we’re actually changing what we are capable of as human beings.”

“Evoke”, a social network game designed to empower people to think creatively about critical problems, is changing behavior for the better. It combines graphic novel stories, the same way many video games do, and has unique missions directly tied into looming issues we face today. The result, people learn to survive major global disasters through gameplay.

Why would games be the most effective way to get people to face things like hunger or drought?

As of right now, people are using games to escape from everyday stresses that range from personal to global.

“We feel that we are not as good in reality as we are in games. And I don’t just mean successful, I also mean good as in motivated to do something that matters.”

Hopefully every employee that works for you is passionate about the mission your company is on, but it never hurts to add more incentives. Since many games are social by nature, they weave a tight social fabric.

Recognize, a social employee recognition platform, is an enterprise SaaS platform with gamification mechanics built in. It harnesses team-building through the reward system and uses ‘leveling-up’ the way one does in a game. Bosses and managers can implement recognition of completed tasks both big and small to reward employees for a job well done.

“There are lots of different characters who are willing to trust you with a world-saving mission, right away, whenever you show up in one of these games. And then gamers receive so much positive feedback that they feel they can achieve more in online worlds than they can in real life. What this feedback triggers is a sense of urgent optimism.”

Gamers are notoriously focused and on-task for so many hours that they lose themselves in these worlds, and by understanding why the game is so enthralling may lead to a more focused and committed workplace.

When tasks through Recognize are completed, it builds trust and a positive feedback loop within a team. That has a great affect on everyone involved and it gives employees a tangible sense of accomplishment that perhaps they would normally only feel in a game.

How to influence employee productivity

There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’

How Games Saved a Civilization

McGonigal shares a story passed down to us by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus who says dice games were invented in the kingdom of Lydia during a sever famine. Tension amongst the people was high, so the king came up with a solution: They would only eat every other day. On the days they didn’t eat, they played dice games.

The people were so engaged in these games that they weren’t paying attention to the fact that they weren’t eating. They survived for 18 years like this.

The famine didn’t get any better after 18 years, so the king divided his kingdom in half and ordered one final game to be played. The winning half was sent on a journey, an epic mission if you will, to find a new land that could support the remaining half of their civilization.

How to influence employee productivity

Could this be the key to the Roman Civilization?

Scientists have since discovered that the Etruscans, the founders of the Roman Empire, share the same DNA as the ancient Lydians, suggesting that this story is true.

That means that one of the greatest civilizations in history was founded on games as a solution to what seemed like an immovable problem. Not a bad thing to model your own company after.

So, next time you catch Joe or Tina playing Farmville at work, why not give them a pat on the back and ask them if they want to play a game with you?

 

Sources:

http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world/transcript?language=en

www.urgentevoke.com

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Introducing Employee Engagement Score

Cockpit

It is important to provide a metric that measures how focused a company is in recognition. It encourages companies to recognize more than the favorite outgoing employees, and to find new people to recognize. The result is more recognition across the organization.

Recognized employees in last seven days / Total employees = RES

The metric is intentionally designed at the organization level to encourage collectivism. Companies need visibility that the work they do benefits the company. Most Western companies focus on the individual performance, where RES helps focus at a higher level. When others are recognized, employees can instantly see the RES go up. Thus, workers know their contributions help the whole organization, collectively.

Four levels

The RES has four levels for engagement. They are simply separated by 0-25, 25-50, 50-75, and 75-100. Shown below is the color scheme.

RES

RES

RES

RES

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Move past individualism for greater organizational success

Wayne Brockbank wrote on Harvard Business Review the necessity for HR to focus more on the organization rather than solely focusing on the individual. The Recognize team believes the same: a duality of both individualism and collectivism within the organization. Traditionally western companies focus on the individual and are blind to the benefits of collectivism. The following are ways Recognize employee recognition app showcases the organization.

Recognize promotes collectivism in two ways: Employee Engagement Score (RES) and teams functionality.

Recognition Engagement Score (RES)

The RES is the measure of how many employees are recognized in the past week compared to how many total employees are in the organization. It is a metric dedicated not to the individual performance, but to the organization. It shows the degree to which the organization is focused on recognition.

Recognition Engagement Score

Recognition Engagement Score

Team leaderboard

Recognize also encourages what we call collective gamification through the team leaderboard. Every recognition is tied to a point value in Recognize. At the end of each month the team with the most collective points is celebrated and the points reset for the next month. Teams now can work together to reach the most recognitions.

Team leaderboard

Team leaderboard

The Recognize team fully agrees with Wayne Brockbank cry for western organizations to begin thinking at the collective-level of the company to understand that the group is stronger than the sum of its individuals.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

― Aristotle

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Employee recognition for startups

Entering Startup

Entering Startup

“The Ducky goes to… David!” Leann Arkema, the VP of operations at Breakthrough, announces to the company of 14 employees. Everyone claps while David smiles and stands. “I accept this reward…”, David begins. Everyone quiets down as David reports some of the successes that week and thanks everyone for thinking of him for his hard work. Next week David will pass the Ducky onto someone else to be highlighted at the team meeting.

Employee recognition isn’t only for large companies with budgets for online solutions, like Recognize. Homegrown employee recognition works well in small centrally-located companies with passionate employees who are creating culture as they go. A recognition program in this setting can go a long way if it resonates with the team and is highlighted in monthly or in weekly meetings.

“The holder of the chalice presents a colleague with this commendation for feats of strength and stamina in the line of duty during our Friday Hour of Awesomeness.” – Peter Shanley Director of Strategic Programs at Neo

At the innovative interactive agency, Neo, they pass around a chalice to the employee of the week that went above and beyond. They call it the Neo Unicorn Cup. “Holder of the chalice presents them their commendation for feats of strength and stamina in the line of duty during our Friday Hour of Awesomeness.” Says Peter Shanley Director of Strategic Programs at Neo.

The Neo Unicorn Cup

Neo Unicorn Cup

Personalized employee recognition

The mascot is a large duck at Breakthrough, an online therapy startup. Leann Arkema says “The ducky symbolizes something that looks calm, but under the water the legs are moving very fast. That’s how we like to think at Breakthrough. We are relaxed while we work very hard.” Leann added a twist to their employee recognition program, the ducky is signed by the recipient. The ducky is now covered in memories of recognition.

Framework for startup employee recognition

  1. Choose a trophy for the monthly recognition. Ideally a company mascot or special symbol
  2. Email company introducing the program
  3. Pass the trophy around on a weekly or monthly basis in a team or company meeting
  4. Allow the last winner hand the trophy to the new winner
  5. Email company who won the trophy
  6. Keep the trophy on the desk of the winner for the week or month
  7. Add something special to the program to make it unique to your organization

Employee recognition works at startups to Fortune 500. What’s most important is tying the program to company culture. Companies will engage staff when they include a public, fun, and equal recognition program across the organization.

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