Employee Recognition Can Help You Find New Leaders

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Oct 24, 2017

Even as “the changing world of work” has become a de facto part of most of our lives, a challenge remains in this seemingly frenetic pace. Rather than becoming more accustomed, a majority of organizations find themselves still struggling to keep up with the acceleration and the complexity.

Keeping up requires a change in mindset, balancing performance with potential, and balancing results with creativity. Changing the status quo requires more strategic approaches to the ways in which individuals are both rewarded and recognized, alongside changes to other traditional HR structures and processes.

The forces of change aren’t surprising to many. What has changed, however, is the way in which these changes are now interacting and overlapping. According to Gallup, the increasing mobility and flexibility of the workforce, alongside emerging technologies and more collaborative yet asynchronous work are prime examples. The imperative for leaders is in the creation of a compelling vision and how to motivate employees around that vision.

HiPos Lacking in Leadership

Unfortunately, those seem to be the skills that are lacking among high-potential (HiPo) employees in leadership pipelines. Recent research published in the Harvard Business Review found that nearly half of participants in HiPo programs are below average when measured on leadership effectiveness.

Instead, these employees seem to be recognized for qualities more related to past performance, like honoring commitments, delivering individual results, and cultural fit. Lacking were critical skills related to the employee’s leadership potential: chiefly strategic vision and the ability to motivate others.

A portion of these findings might be explained by a “how/best” mindset that has traditionally guided organizational decision-making. Leaders seek out which decisions are the best and then how to implement them. Where data from past performance or best practice exists, that mindset is both effective and efficient. However, that same mindset presents a barrier in response to situations that are novel or uncertain, situations that require creativity in response to change.

How Recognition Fits In

To be future-proofed, organizations need to move away from the types of processes and structures that reward a “how/best” mindset and past performance. Instead, they will need to place more emphasis on how to identify and develop a broader range of employee attributes, including potential and creativity.

One way that business and HR leaders can shift the emphasis is through the strategic use of rewards and recognition. Not only will that contribute to a more positive employee experience overall, but social recognition can also provide leaders with the data on which individuals are being recognized for their innovation, their curiosity in solving challenging problems, and for experimenting with new processes.

Alongside an integrated approach that includes more coaching and continuous conversations, an organization can develop the potential of its employees and demonstrate on a day-to-day basis how creative approaches are contributing to organization success.

How does your organization reward potential and creativity?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on  Recognize This!