Article: Building a people-centric and magnetic culture: Insights from O.C Tanner’s Workplace Culture Strategist


Building a people-centric and magnetic culture: Insights from O.C Tanner’s Workplace Culture Strategist

"Organisations miss the mark on recognition when it feels generic, infrequent, and when it fails to recognise personal impact in a timely manner," says Ryan Jensen as he highlights key findings and solutions from Global Culture Report.
Building a people-centric and magnetic culture: Insights from O.C Tanner’s Workplace Culture Strategist

Every year O.C. Tanner Institute publishes a Global Culture Report that uncovers and examines the latest trends, issues, and perceptions shaping workplace cultures uniquely from the employee perspective.

In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Ryan Jensen, Senior Speaker and Workplace Culture Strategist, highlighted key findings from the report, which covers insights from 40,000 employees across 27 countries. He also emphasised how employee recognition is one of the most powerful tools in building a thriving, people-centric, and magnetic workplace culture.

Here are the edited excerpts from the interaction:

Role of recognition in employee engagement, retention, and overall morale

“Our research shows that employees today want to be acknowledged and recognised more than ever. They need to feel gratitude from their peers, leaders, and the organisation itself so that they know that they are on the right track, valued, and doing great work, said Ryan. He adds, Recognition must be frequent, timely, and authentic. Its true power lies in transforming it from a transaction to a meaningful part of daily employee life. Our research finds that when recognition is truly integrated into a work culture, employees are 9 times more likely to feel valued and supported to navigate through change by their organisation. However, only 21 per cent of organisations have successfully integrated recognition into their work culture, so there is a lot of opportunity out there for companies to improve.”

Highlighting some of the best practices, Ryan said that only the best organisations focus their recognition programmes in three distinct areas by (1) encouraging effort, (2) rewarding results, and (3) celebrating careers. These areas can help organisations achieve a critical mass where employees are giving, receiving, and observing recognition as a natural part of their everyday culture.    

He shared Ocwen case study as an example, saying, “the company employs over 4,000 employees in India and is one of the largest servicers in the US that focuses on mortgage servicing, lending, and reverse lending programmes with employees also based in the Philippines. Several years ago, Ocwen surveyed its global workforce and found that its people wanted recognition to be more consistent, with better visibility around who was being recognised.

Ocwen partnered with O.C. Tanner to design and launch its “Applause” recognition programme which empowered employees at all levels of the company to recognize daily efforts and significant achievements with options to align them with company core values using eCards for peer-to-peer recognition, spot awards for instant recognition, customer service awards recognise excellence in customer service, performance awards to recognise consistent and outstanding performance of individuals or teams, and special mention awards given by senior executives to recognise individuals who deliver exemplary performance. Even more, a company-wide Applause Wall of Fame created global visibility for all employees to see the great work being done throughout the organisation. 

Launching the Applause programme signalled a culture shift from recognition in silos to recognition as a global organisation. It also created consistency for how leaders appreciate their team members and employees were motivated by the transparency and standardised approach in the ongoing recognition process. The programme has been very well received by employees. Since launch, Ocwen has seen considerable jumps in engagement scores on the rewards and recognition parameter and positive feedback on quarterly pulse surveys. Furthermore, 97 per cent of employees have given or received recognition through Applause, a number that has exceeded the industry benchmark every year. An HR Assistant Manager reflected on the impact the programme has had since its launch by saying, “today we can proudly say the Applause programme is part of the DNA of Ocwen.” 

What are some common pitfalls or challenges organisations face when implementing recognition programmes, and how can they mitigate these issues? 

“A key part of recognition is ensuring employees know what great work looks like and aligning recognition with the company's core values. This focused approach reinforces the behaviours and results that matter most to the company, said Ryan

He added, “For instance, consider an R&D company that values "agility" and aims to foster a culture of innovation. They can promote this by nurturing an environment of empathy and resilience, consistently emphasising agility. By rewarding outcomes achieved through idea-sharing, collaboration, and transparency, they reinforce this core value. Leaders and peers should be empowered to recognise innovative efforts, aligning awards with agility. Additionally, giving employees flexibility in their work approach boosts their perception of leaders as resilient by 148 per cent. Our research shows that such perception increases engagement by 582 per cent and fulfilment by 233 per cent. Consequently, employees will be more motivated to deliver innovative results that drive the company's success and growth.”

He said, “Organisations miss the mark on recognition when it feels generic, infrequent, and when it fails to recognise personal impact in a timely manner.” And shared shared recommendations from the Global Culture Report that can help mitigate these risks effectively:

#1 Customising recognition experiences– Recognition needs to be personalised to the individual employee in ways that aligns with their styles, what’s relevant to them, and that is customised to their recognition preferences. When that’s done right, recognition moves from feeling like a transaction to a meaningful and purposeful experience for the individual. For example, recognising an employee in front of their entire department might mean the world to them but could be a nightmare scenario to another employee that would prefer a more intimate, less public setting. 

#2 Frequent recognition efforts by leadership team – The more our people see senior leaders giving meaningful recognition frequently and in ways that are personalised to the recognition preferences of the individual, the more your people will begin to feel a cultural shift and experience the importance of expressing appreciation through timely and genuine acts of recognition. 

#3 Consistently improving recognition programmes and tech – Organisations need to regularly assess how to improve their recognition initiatives to ensure they are fresh, current and (most importantly) can reach their entire employee population. 

#4 Recognition becoming an organisational value across all levels – Recognition isn’t just a leader’s job and should be seen more than just on a quarterly or annual basis. Make sure genuine recognition is consistently seen coming from every level of the organisation in ways that encourage daily efforts, reward above-and-beyond achievements, and acknowledge contributions over time. 

#5 Persistent efforts in peer-to-peer recognition – Peers often see so much more than leaders do and frequent recognition with personalised notes of appreciation go a long way to build a culture of collaboration, inclusiveness, and trust across the company.

“With these consistent practices, recognition becomes contagious, and gradually transforms into a way of life and a natural response to great work. From being just a reflection effort to who we are and more sustainable over the long-term, concluded Ryan.

How can culture initiatives be tailored to address challenges of frontline workers? 

The Global Culture Report found that 80 percent of the global workforce, particularly employees who spend minimal time behind a desk, feel more disconnected and unappreciated than ever. Ryan added, “The O.C. Tanner Institute identified two major discrepancies (access and enablement) in their work experience that organisations and leaders need to remediate to help these employees feel connected and valued.”

He emphasised that to increase access, organisations need to invest in the resources, tools, and opportunities that will help this essential part of the workforce stay connected. Then, enable them by supporting their needs, understanding their viewpoints, and recognising their contributions in ways that are truly meaningful to them.” 

For example, creating a diverse recognition programme means pairing on-the-spot tangible awards with symbolics or other forms of recognition across easily accessible channels to ensure that all employees have access and are enabled to give, receive, and redeem recognition in equitable ways, no matter their job or location. 

“We found that providing these employees with high access and enablement can improve the odds of their willingness to stay 3+ years by 208 per cent. When coupled with recognition to help them feel seen and valued, not only are they staying longer, but they will be much more focused on delivering great work to the organisation,” said Ryan.

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Turning employee appreciation into tangible initiatives and support structures 

"Appreciation is an emotion, but feelings of appreciation aren’t enough. Without expressing approval and gratitude through purposeful and meaningful recognition, employees won’t ever know how you feel about them," shared Ryan. 

He added, "The key to success in the coming 5th industrial revolution is to blend the best of human and technological strengths in ways that elevates the experience for employees, their organisations, and even our societies at large. Recognition is a central piece to helping organisations build people-centric cultures but achieving the scale that is needed will require leveraging recognition technologies that enable people to put their human touch on appreciation and recognition, regardless of the job or location of any given employee."

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Topics: Leadership, Employee Relations, Strategic HR, #HRTech, #EmployeeExperience

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