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Eric Mosley: Keep employees engaged with clear priorities and crowdsourced recognition

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Eric Mosley, CEO and Founder, Globoforce

As co-founder and CEO of Globoforce, a leading provider of social recognition solutions that help redefine how companies motivate and energize employees, Eric Mosley has a vision to raise employee recognition from a tactical, unmeasured and under-valued effort to a global strategic program with clear measures for performance and success. Globoforce’s clients are some of the world’s largest and most complex organizations, including JetBlue, Procter & Gamble, Symantec, IHG, The Hershey Company, ConAgra Foods, Intuit and Bechtel. Eric’s work has been published in such publications as Harvard Business Review, Huffington Post, Fast Company, Forbes, and Fortune, and he has also presented at industry and investment conferences around the world. He is the author of The Crowdsourced Performance Review and the co-author of the critically-acclaimed books The Power of Thanks and Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Trained as an engineer (his degree from University of Dublin, Trinity College, is in Electronics, Computers and Telecommunications Engineering), Eric and his team are finding ways to identify and reward top-performers that are accurate, fair and based not only on qualitative, but also clear, quantitative feedback as well.

What single skill do you believe is the key to your proficiency (i.e., effectiveness) as a CEO?

Prioritization. Prioritization is such a misunderstood skill in today’s workplace. The workplace and work in general have changed so much over the last 3 to 5 years, never mind the last 10 to 20 years. We are all under a barrage of enormous levels of inbound communications. And being able to rise above it is a key skill to being effective.

Many of us sit down and work directly from our e-mail. I quickly realized that by doing this, I was working to other people’s agendas. It was critical to turn the tables and prioritize so I could focus on the projects that move the needle for my company and allow me to have an impact as CEO. When you look in the past, at any given work week, with all the meetings and the agenda of work streaming from your e-mail, you quickly see that 70%-80% of it doesn’t move the needle. It’s only in hindsight that we can see this. The trick for me has always been to ask, how do I keep this in mind for each week in the future? For the rest of the year? By not restricting yourself to the agenda of your e-mail, or what your calendar dictates, allows you to work on what is meaningful and what sparks change for your organization. This is especially hard since our social world has ramped up the amount of interruptions that just didn’t exist say even 5 years ago.

How have you cultivated this skill?

I think the key to prioritization is to change your own mindset. When you get to a certain volume of inbound communications and requests for your time, the first step is realizing that you can’t service all those inbound communications. And then to not suffer guilt from ignoring a lot of those queries and requests for attention! So it’s about changing your mindset and moving from a first in, first out kind of e-mail box organization of our lives to a Twitter-like stream where you know that you are never going to see every tweet in the world, but you learn to judge what is important and what’s not and curate your own daily to-do lists.

What are the trend(s) influencing the practice of employee recognition?

There is a big shift out there to cater to the human side of work across all industries. Recognition from big companies, from its leadership and executives, becomes increasingly important. We also see a big move toward mobile. So using mobile to facilitate employee recognition is a major secular change. Even in our industry, the website is no longer the first port of call, and the mobile interface becomes the first port of call. In general, mobile has changed not only how we interact with products and services, but also how we interact with people. We are seeing a lot more crowdsourcing and the leveraging of the word of the people in organizations. Especially in the consumer world where crowdsourcing is everything from YouTube to Tripadvisor influencing and igniting people’s conversations and decisions. Social recognition programs capitalize on both these trends and help us spot great performers and provide positive reinforcement in an organization. That is critical to employee engagement.

What are some issues facing organizations when it comes to employee engagement?

The #1 reason employees become disengaged is they feel no one appreciates the work they do. They are doing great work, maybe even the best work of their lives, but think no one is noticing. And maybe people have noticed, but we’re all so busy and driven by the incredible amount of tasks we have to do, we don’t feel we have time to share our delight with somebody else’s work. When disengagement occurs, people are less likely to go above and beyond the call of duty if they aren’t going to get rewarded in some way. And this reward doesn’t have to be monetary, it can be emotional. Leaders have to understand that to have a more engaged workforce, employees are human beings first and they have a need for positive reinforcement to attain true happiness, contentedness and reach self-actualization as people.

Culture is a great differentiator between companies. Companies that have higher performing cultures will win against their competitors time and time again. Today enterprises have engagement problems, they have generational problems. The demographics of their employee base has changed radically, where now you have millennials moving up into management and team-leader type roles. So to have an engaged employee base across all demographics is the holy grail for most leaders. Recognition and positive reinforcement is common to all demographics, essential to engagement and leads to differentiated cultures in an organization. This can really be the secret sauce to a high-performing culture.

Can you talk a little about social recognition and how leaders can use social data and analytics?

The old style of review in many companies today is you have an annual appraisal, where you sit down with your manager once a year and have a very awkward, stumbling conversation about the previous year. And in many cases our managers don’t have full visibility into everything we do on a daily basis. So this whole paradigm of once-a-year reviews creates an enormous time gap between performance conversations and expecting the manager to be able to see everything that every subordinate does and all their accomplishments is just a very outdated mode of performance management. Crowdsourcing performance reviews can take the data that a social recognition program generates into account in a performance review. So you get to reflect on all the input of colleagues and team members of the people of the organization when you sit down and discuss the previous quarter or the previous year of performance. This is effective because an aggregate of people that you work with do see everything that you do. And in a social recognition program, all the little achievements, little wins and little victories tend to get recorded in the data. So managers can sit down periodically and generate reports of all the recognition moments and use that as a basis for discussing performance with an individual. You are leveraging the intelligence and wisdom of the crowd instead of only what you have visibility on.

At Globoforce we have a platform, a product for running social recognition programs. It’s a SaaS platform that companies use for employees to nominate colleagues for awards and “thank you” moments and give each other value in terms of points. The employee then has the opportunity to redeem those points for a reward. The product catalogs all the victories or wins in its data warehouse. You can build analytics and data visualizations on top of that data to get a picture of the social interaction of all the people on a team or in your organization. So having a product at the heart of your social recognition program that facilitates the giving and receiving of awards and the data visualization of the social data is critical to running a successful social recognition program. It becomes the central point or clearing house of positivity or positive reinforcement for the company.

Can you answer four “rapid fire” questions we ask CEOs? They’re basically fill-in-the-blank queries. Here’s the first. What keeps you up at night?

Hiring and onboarding the world’s best employees. In today’s business world, the best companies have the best employees. It is essential to recruit the very best and brightest in your industry. Finding them, hiring them, assimilating them. Recruiting becomes one of the most important tasks for any CEO. Missing out on acquiring a great workforce can be detrimental to overall success.

You spend the majority of your workday…?

Thinking about the future. We work so fast and have so many distractions that catering to the long term is essential. It’s very easy to solve for the now. You have to step back and always think about the long-term nature of the decisions you make.

What do you always wish you had more time to do…?

Work directly with our employees. The more face time you have with your employees, the quantity and quality of work improves dramatically. Magic happens between people sparking off each other, rather than in disjointed work flows.

What makes a good CEO?

Empathy and emotional intelligence. Treating employees as the human beings they are – catering to their human needs – leads to higher performance and team cohesion. If you can get that right and manage your priorities, you are half way there to being a great leader.

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