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Shuck: EVP explores the optimal way to recognize employees

Posted By By Jess Myers, RPI, Wednesday, November 15, 2017
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If you want to win football games, it’s simple. Just look at what Tom Brady does, and do that. If you want to make money, study what Warren Buffet does, and copy it.

If only life worked that way. It does not.

In his recent webinar hosted by RPI, noted recognition expert and researcher Brad Shuck, PhD, notes that copying the practices of what other successful companies have done to reward and recognize employees doesn’t always work. Your efforts are more successful when they are rooted in principles, not practices.

“Recognition is not about parties or casual Fridays, it is an underlying message of value that tells people they matter,” said Shuck, who is an associate professor of human resources and organization development at the University of Louisville.

In his new RPI-sponsored webinar, entitled “New Rules of Recognition: Moments You Can Leverage,” Shuck tells his audience that successful recognition is less about individual initiatives and more about creating a strong winning workplace culture that can be sustained over time.

“There are lots of ways to recognize employees, but what are the optimal ways to do it?,” he asks early in the presentation, then proceeds to answer his own question.

Shuck believes strongly in the concept of Employee Value Proposition (EVP), which asks why a talented person would choose to work in a given workplace. EVP puts the responsibility on the employer, not the employee, and it strongly encourages not only getting talented people in the door, but keeping them engaged once they are in the door.

He states some important numbers related to EVP, noting that 93 percent of employees who feel recognized and appreciated say they will go above and beyond on behalf of their employer and 91 percent are unlikely to leave.

“EVP breeds and fosters creativity, and encourages employees to give their best ideas,” he said. And creativity is at the heart of his call for a principle-based strategy around employee recognition. It’s easy to look at a renowned company like Google, which famously offers employees three meals per day and has offices with rooms for gaming and napping, but that model is not one that every office can easily or practically replicate.

By objectifying the practices of other companies, Shuck feels you may miss the human element, hence his call for focusing more on principles and establishment of organizational culture rather than focusing on the practices that others use to attract and retain good people.

The full webinar is available free to RPI members in the RPI Learning Center. For more of Dr. Shuck’s insights, his Twitter handle is @drbshuck.

Tags:  culture  engagement  human resources  organization development  recognition principles  recognition research  Shuck  talent development 

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Saunderson: Stop Trying to Create a Culture of Recognition

Posted By Jess Myers, RPI, Monday, July 31, 2017

We hear the word “culture” tossed around plenty, especially in the context of companies, and the drive to create a culture of recognition. It sounds nice, but it’s a fruitless use of time, when one considers the nature of cultures, says one prominent recognition expert.

Roy Saunderson, the Chief Learning Officer for Rideau Recognition Solutions, admits that he’s always been a big believer in culture, but he disagrees with efforts to create a culture of recognition.

“I believe a culture is what your organization values, the explicit ways in which we do things in an organization, and that culture drives recognition giving practices and use of the programs,” Saunderson said in a recent interview. “I think you can only have one culture.”

Having been in this industry for more than 20 years, Saunderson acknowledges this idea is a departure from earlier in his career. He once taught the idea that you could create a separate culture of recognition in an organization. Today his beliefs have evolved.

“When I first started I used to have a whole workshop on how to create a real recognition culture, and actually several years later I had to refute that, and say that I don’t believe what I once said and I need to tell you why,” said Saunderson, who has been a member of RPI’s Best Practices Committee for a decade. “The post I wrote said ‘How many cultures can you have?’ I believe culture drives recognition. The organizational culture drives recognition, either for the good or bad, and recognition reinforces that culture.”

Saunderson believes the clearest example of culture driving recognition is in the healthcare industry, and knows the territory, having been a Speech-Language Pathologist earlier in his career.

“Healthcare is notorious for not doing a good job in recognition. When you look at the culture at a healthcare institution, they are so focused on patient care, which is wonderful. The irony is that the caregivers and nurses are so focused on serving that same patient, where does that recognition come from?” he asked, rhetorically, noting that the most common recognition healthcare professionals receive is from their patients. “And so no amount of culture is going to make that change, unless we’re saying ‘We have some of the best employees to serve our patients, now start putting the employee first.’ Patient satisfaction is an outcome of how we treat our employees, rather than the focus.”

Saunderson’s idea is a simple one: stop trying to create a culture. Instead focus on employee recognition, and from that engagement will flow. Employees will see your culture in the way they are treated, and that will reflect in the way your organization works, for better or worse.

“So how you organize your culture, your values, and the whole purpose for why you are in business, will just emanate throughout the whole organization,” he said. “Your people will know whether you care about them or not. Learn from the challenges of the healthcare industry, where employees often think that the organization focuses so much on the patient, they forget about us.”

A video sample of Roy Saunderson’s presentation on “Real Recognition, Real Results” can be found here.
“Real Recognition, Real Results” can be found here.

Tags:  best practices  communications  Culture  recognition strategy 

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RPI Success Stories: CalSTRS

Posted By Jess Myers, RPI, Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Established more than a century ago, when much of the Golden State was still the nation’s unexplored frontier, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) has grown to serve more than 900,000 educators in the nation’s most populous state. As of 2017, CalSTRS is the largest teachers’ retirement fund in the nation, providing retirement, disability and survivor benefits for educators who cover every level of schooling from pre-Kindergarten to community college.

With a portfolio worth nearly $200 billion, CalSTRS is the 11th-largest public pension fund in the world. It’s also a great place to work as evidenced by CalSTRS receiving the 2012 Best Overall Program award by RPI. CalSTRS, headquartered in West Sacramento, Calif., receives honors like that one due in part to successful employee recognition programs based on the Seven Best Practice Standards.


Their journey to better employee recognition began in 2008 when CalSTRS made a commitment to creating a culture of recognition. Part of their employee survey is devoted to recognition questions. They also did focus groups and spot surveys to determine recognition preferences and which existing programs to keep.

As a result, they transformed highly-valued programs that dealt with internal and external customer service, yet kept the personalized elements that staff and managers found meaningful (example: balloon deliveries to an employee’s work location).

The Recognition Design Teams saw the need to reinforce Core Values, so they designed a specific informal program to recognize the desired behaviors and actions.

Recognition Strategy

Through extensive benchmarking with private and public-sector industry leaders, internal surveys and the efforts to two employee design teams, CalSTRS established a thriving culture of appreciation with active use of seven recognition programs within the strategic recognition platform.

Virtuosity – CalSTRS Powered by You

The CalSTRS Employee Recognition Program theme, Virtuosity, was developed to support and enhance the CalSTRS brand, and specifically to communicate appreciation to the staff for their valuable work.

From their own materials:

Vision – Our culture of appreciation powers a thriving workplace where each person is valued.
Mission – We design and deliver fully integrated recognition programs, processes and tools that support our Strategic Business Objective 4.2: being a destination employer, as well as our Balanced Score Card strategic initiatives.

The CalSTRS case study is included in the course materials in the Certified Recognition Professional program. For more information on CRP certification, please visit To view a webinar on CRP, click here.

Tags:  culture  recognition  recognition strategy 

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Don’t Get Skunked: The Health Risks of a Dysfunctional Workplace

Posted By Jess Myers, RPI, Friday, June 9, 2017
You come home from the stereotypical “bad day at the office” feeling like you need a drink to calm down. You eat a big meal – bigger than normal – to take some comfort and forget about the stresses of the workplace. That night, you have trouble getting to sleep, replaying the previous day’s workplace stress in your head. Happens to all of us, right?

If that happens routinely, you might be getting “skunked” by a dysfunctional boss, or a dysfunctional workplace. That’s the term coined by Brad Shuck, an associate professor in the University of Louisville’s Department of Educational Leadership, Evaluation and Organizational Development has coined for bad workplaces that literally can be hard on your health.

If you’ve ever come across a skunk in the wild and felt the full brunt of their natural defense mechanism, you know what a smelly situation it creates. You let off an odor that affects those around you, and you need help and time to get that stench off.

The effects on your long-term health from working in a challenging environment can be similary damaging.

“Think about incredibly high stress, high pressure work environments,” Shuck said in a recent radio interview. “The mechanisms that people use to cope with that stress – excessive drinking, overeating, a lack of exercise – can directly contribute to long-term health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure.”

Shuck, a renowned expert on employee engagement, is co-author of a study on the topic entitled “Skunked: An Integrative Review Exploring the Consequences of the Dysfunctional Leader and Implications for Those Employees Who Work for Them.” He developed the term, along with co-authors Dr. Kevin Rose, Dr. Matt Bergman and Dr. Devon Twyford. In the study, they noted that somewhere between 13% and 36% of employees in the United States work with a leader whose approach could be described as dysfunctional.

That’s trouble, not only for the employee, but for the company when you consider long-term healthcare costs.

“The essential idea is this: when you work in a place that is dysfunctional, meaning high chronic stress and lots of negative things going on, that impacts your long-term health,” Shuck said. “Leaders who work in these kinds of places are called ‘stinky’ leaders.”

Shuck jokes that “stinky” is not exactly an academic or highly technical term, but sees it as fitting.

“A dysfunctional boss will do the same to their employees as a skunk does to people in the wild,” Shuck said. “It takes a real effort and intentional healing to move on from a dysfunctional work situation.” The good news is that for the first time, research by Shuck and others is able to show a real return on investment for companies who intentionally develop engaging places to work. If employees are engaged, feel appreciated and are happier at work, they’re healthier. Productivity and profitability go through the roof. Higher levels of engagement equates to better workplace health.

As Shuck notes, even for a medium-sized company, the potential savings in healthcare costs alone run into the millions.

So if those bad days at work are becoming more frequent, and leading to unhealthy behaviors, he stresses that employers and employees alike should be aware, and make sure they’re not getting skunked in the workplace.

Tags:  Culture  Human resources  Leadership  Management responsibility 

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RPI Success Stories: Cleveland Clinic

Posted By Jess Myers, RPI, Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Founded nearly a century ago, in 1921, Cleveland Clinic has grown from a small surgical practice into one of the world’s most renowned names in healthcare. From its base in Ohio, Cleveland Clinic now has facilities in three states and three countries, with over 1,400 beds.

Known as a great place to go for care, Cleveland Clinic is also renowned as a great place to work due to its top-level employee recognition program. The clinic received the RPI Best Practices® Overall Excellence Award in 2015. In its participant guide entitled “Building a Blueprint” RPI took a closer look at Cleveland Clinic’s methods of assessing and improving its employee recognition programs in this case study:


Cleveland Clinic currently utilizes the annual employee engagement survey to gauge employee satisfaction with recognition programs. The scores for the Q4 question on recognition have increased year over year from 3.26 in 2009 to 3.95 in 2013, while at the same time employee engagement and patient satisfaction scores are on the rise. These indicators, along with the high utilization of the program, point to the overall satisfaction with the recognition program.

Recognition Strategy

Driving change is a challenging task for any organization. In 2010, Cleveland Clinic, with over 43,000 employees—including 3,100 physicians and scientists and 11,000 nurses—embarked on a remarkable journey; the creation and roll out of an enterprise-wide employee recognition program called Caregiver Celebrations.

Driven by a passion for patient-centered care, the clinic embraced a new vision statement, “Striving to be the world’s leader in patient experience, clinical outcomes, research and education.” While physicians and nurses are the primary caregivers in any hospital, the increased focus on the total patient—and not just the patient’s clinical outcome—drew attention to the vital role played by other hospital employees. Thus the new organizational imperative, “we are all caregivers.”

Caregiver Celebrations, which is a part of the Total Rewards strategy, is a recognition program that is designed specifically to drive the clinic’s overall mission of “Patients First,” improve employee engagement, and ultimately, deliver world class care to patients. Fundamentally grounded in Cleveland Clinic’s core values, Caregiver Celebrations is built upon a rewards and recognition technology platform that enables recognition to flow to and from key stakeholders, including staff, patients, and supporting partners.

Extremely flexible and easy to use, Caregiver Celebrations uses totally customizable programs and powerful analytics to deliver robust recognition tools, highly reliable metrics and continually fresh award experiences.

The Cleveland Clinic case study is included in the course materials in the Certified Recognition Professional program. For more information on CRP certification, please visit To view a webinar on CRP, click here.


Tags:  culture  employee appreciation  RPI Best Practices  Workforce recognition 

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