Late Nights at MeritShare


Today we will be interviewed by one of the top HR bloggers Nisha Raghavan on Drive Thru HR and their lunch time show.  The topic: “What keeps us up at night”.  So to prepare for the show here are some of the items that are top of mind that I might discuss today.  In the spirit of the agile methods, continuous improvement, and real-time communication benefits I cover below, I am writing this 30 minutes before I speak and will update and adjust this after the show.   Please excuse any typos or grammar, this has not been proofed.

1.  Change is the only constant.  Here are some of the trends I see:

  • Millennials will be 50% of the workforce in 10 years
  • Baby boomers will not go quietly into the night and continue to be a key part of the workforce in both a full time and part time capacity
  • Remote employement will grow: outsourcing and project teams located in multiple locations will continue to match supply to demand
  • Organizations will continue to become flatter and more cross-matrixed.  Efficiencies will be achieved by cutting out senior and middle management overhead and empowering employees and teams with more decision-making

2.  How can we help HR implement change?

Given the above, the question I ask is what companies, leaders and organizations are doing to adapt to this change?  I think for the most part, the response is reactive and much slower than needed.  Why does it take so long?  A seasoned HR executive who runs her own company now and has served as a Board of Director for a large public company once told me, “every change and program in HR is an bomb that could go off”.  I recall several times at the various companies I have worked at where well-intentioned programs for the benefit of employees have back-fired.

3.  We need to give HR permission to fail

One of the most transformative principles used by hyper-growth companies like Facebook and Google is agile development —  where you ship new products and features quickly, measure the results, optimize, and fail fast if needed.  Every department from sales to operations is encouraged to test, learn, and optimize.  Executives, employees, and shareholders, need to give HR the same permission to innovate and fail.  Several of our clients have tested out MeritShare first by rolling it with teams and groups of people first to test and build support.

4.  How can we create great user experiences

Apple was not the first company to make a MP3 player or mobile phone, they won by creating great user experiences.  Up until recently, most HR software had terrible user experiences.  Now I’m starting to see some great user experiences.   Just this week I saw a demo from Trakstar which provides performance management software and one of the best sign-up experiences I have experienced at Bamboo HR.  At MeritShare we have followed a similar approach and constantly ask, what can we do to make this easier, how can we reduce the barriers to appreciation.  Our site is self-service and you can set up a recognition program in minutes and give a merit or thanks in seconds.

5.  What gets measured gets done

Companies track and measure the areas that matter most: revenue, expenses, and sales. On the HR side, their are diversity, compensation, and turnover metrics but how many companies are tracking employee engagement and recognition?  There have been several studies that show that companies with high employee engagement are more profitable, productive, and have less turnover.  Given this, how many companies are tracking these key metrics?  Metrics also drive behavior and make things fun.  We live in a “measured me” world with fitbit’s, runkeeper where tracking encourages people more to focus on the goals.  Ask your sales leader what would happen if he/she didn’t send out the weekly or monthly leader board showing ranking by sales rep.  At MeritShare we send out a weekly email to every user that shows their recognition score and ranking within the company and against our national index.  There is always a huge spike in activity after this gets sent out.  What get’s measured get’s done and makes it fun.

6.  Right-size social media

When the topic of social media comes up, most people talk about either the dangers of the the career-killing mis-guided tweet or the overwhelming flow of information streams created.  I look at the benefits of social media:  real-time communication, transparency, instant feedback loops, and giving every individual a voice.    Prospective employees are searching and looking at what is being shared on blogs and tweets, marketers get instant feedback on their new products, and everyone can voice an opinion.  For me the question is how can you make social media work for you, your goals and how much effort do you put into tweeting and blogging.  For business and the enterprise, I’m a big fan of blogging because it gives employees a voice, control for the company, and provides the potential for thought leadership.

7. What will I eat for lunch tomorrow?

I try to think one or two meals ahead.  The point here is that we are all human and achieving work/life balance is critical for both happiness and success.  Today it’s a spinach salad I made with heirloom tomatoes, avocado, ham, and corn.


HR Thought Leader: Stacey Carroll

I first met Stacey Carroll at a Trakstar webinar on HR’s role in building a performance-driven organization.   I’ve attended a lot webinar’s and her’s was one of the best.  She provided an energetic and organized approach anyone could follow.  She colored each point with fun and concrete examples.  Her experience as an HR executive at Nordstroms, Payscale, and Trendwest Resorts has armed her with many insights and stories.

She is active on social media and was named by HR Examiner’s as a Top 25 Online Influencers in Talent Management.   At MeritShare we have given her our HR Thought Leader award.

In addition to this award for Stacey,  we are pleased to announce she will be offering a free webinar “Like Me! Rewards & Engagement for Employees in the Social Era” on June 13th at 1:00-2:00pm EDT.   This session is pending approval for 1.0 HRCI re-certification credit.  Save your place now and register in one click here.

The webinar will discuss:
• The effects of employee recognition and regular feedback on engagement
• They types of employees recognition that work best including more modern trends
• Tips and Tricks for effective peer-based recognition and feedback
• 3 steps for implementing a successful employee engagement plan

You’ll leave this session understanding how to update your employee performance and recognition programs to be current with today’s trends and best practices.   Come join us and hear Stayce’s insights and offer your own as well.

Thank’s to David Martin for his support and including us in his excellent Trakstar webinar series.  You can also find Stacey at her website HR Experts on Call.


Millennials At Work: Super Savers [Infographic]

I’m a baby boomer and I’m embarrassed by the debt we have left in the US for future generations to pay off.  Fortunately there is some hope with the new generation of workers who appear to be more fiscally responsible with their personal finances.

A new study out from Merrill Edge shows that Gen Y, defined by the study as those 18-34, is starting to save for retirement earlier than any other generation. This high savings rate reinforces data shared in the following infographic by Scarborough Research showing that 59% of Millennials are savers as opposed to spenders.

To me, the message is clear, if you want to attract Millennials you better make sure you have a good 401k program.

How To Motivate: The Research Behind Recognition

What motivates us?

In his popular TED Talk (see the full video below) behavioral economist Dan Ariely recently discussed not only why we work, but what kind of behavior and environments increase productivity and help people thrive in the workplace.

Ariely points out that there are examples all around us that show people are motivated by things beyond a paycheck, crossing a finish line or meeting a goal:

  • Mountain climbers face enormous challenges and setbacks on the way to climbing to the top of the mountain.
  • An employee worked on a project day and night for over 2 weeks when it was cancelled the day before the due date, leaving the worker, who said he felt quite happy while working on the project, feeling depressed when he realized that no one would see his work.

We want to receive recognition for the “fruits of our labor”, says Ariely, and know that our work has meaning. He conducted two experiments to explore this notion.

In a study using Legos, two groups of people were paid to build multiple Lego kits. In one group, the completed pieces would be disassembled at the end of the experiment; in the second, each person saw their first creation taken apart as they built a second.

Outside observers predicted that the first group – where their work had been acknowledged – would build more Lego kits, but thought the difference would be negligible.

  • In fact, the group whose work was valued showed over 63% more productivity compared to the group whose work was disregarded.

This dynamic is at play in the working world. At one company, 200 workers spent two years working on a project that was suddenly shut down. The employees reported feeling depressed and unmotivated and their behavior at work changed. They started:

  • Showing up for work later
  • Leaving work earlier
  • Possibly ‘fudging’ expense report items

When asked what could have made them feel that their work efforts were not wasted and drive employee engagement, they suggested:

  • Internal presentation of the project to the company
  • Analyze what aspects of their project could be incorporated into other aspects of the company

In  Ariely’s “Shredder” experiment, people were asked to complete a written puzzle, and then each paper was placed in one of three groups, where 1) someone looked at it quickly, uttered a quick “Uh-huh” and put it on a pile; 2) no one looked at the paper and it went into in a pile; or 3) the papers went directly into a shredder.

There’s good news and bad news coming out of this “Shredder” study:

  • Ignoring people’s  performance is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of them, but
  • Minimal recognition can dramatically improve a worker’s motivation

The act of recognition provides acknowledgement and is the best source of motivation .  You don’t have to sit around and wait for this to happen, you can kick start a culture of recognition by starting with a simple thanks to a co-worker.

[ted id=1706]


Thank A Coworker On Fist Pump Friday

It’s Fist Pump Friday at MeritShare.

Thank a coworker today and then do a Fist Pump (instructions below) because you’re awesome!

Try out the new way to show appreciation and create a professional looking thank you that you can share on Linkedin and make your coworker look good.  Oh yeah, its free and you can do it in 2 minutes.  Get started here.

Don’t know what to say or who to thank? Here are some ideas:

The person you go to for advice and guidance -
Thanks for being great mentor…

The lifesaver on the last project you worked on -
Thanks for being a life saver…

A co-worker that goes beyond the call of duty -
Thanks for your extra efforts…

fist pump friday

9 Characteristics of Great Leaders

I am writing this post live from the Seattle SHRM breakfast (so apologies for any typos or grammar issues).  There is a jack-hammer pounding in the background.  Everyone is awake now.

Today’s speaker is leadership coach Tammy Redmon.  You can find Tammy on Twitter @tammyredmon and  Based on Tammy’s work and interviews with Fortune 1000 leaders, she lists 9 characteristics of great leaders:

She opened up her presentation with a couple of questions to get the audience thinking:

  • Are you a leader of self, leader of others, leader of leaders of others.  HR tends to be leader of leader of others helping many in the organization lead.
  • Scotoma:  The greek word for blind spot.  You can find these dark corners in your habits, attitudes, beliefs, and expectations.
  •  Under-performers cost a company 10 hours of week in discussions and documentation.   People don’t show up to be poor performers, its a leaders job to find out the why behind the issues.
  • Good is the enemy of great.  Many times under-performers set the bar at good when a company needs to be great.

Based on Tammy’s work and interviews with Fortune 1000 leaders, here are her 9 characteristics of great leaders:

  • Exceptional communicators: they can communicate the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • Sacrifice: great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice.
  • Revolutionary: tied to a vision and the motivation to change
  • Renegade:  ala Richard Branson of Virgin
  • Raise the standard for self and others : (Indra Nooyia, CEO of Pepsi)
  • Fail Forward (Jack Welch):  Be willing to fail for the opportunity to move forward.
  • Transparency: People don’t want to ask questions if you are not open.
  • Unwavering:  Steve Jobs. Moving forward with your vison at the risk of everything.
  • Decisive: put yourself in a position to be decisive with the information, expectations, and analysis you need.

Now think about the ones that you think you need help with above.  What is the first action item you want to make a change in.  Just pick one of the items above, get your swoosh on, and just do it.


How Do You Recognize Your Employees: Infographic just shared this stunning graphic on how to give recognition.   At the bottom they list 5 common recognition mistakes.  I would say the main and obvious one is not giving any recognition at all.  Let us know about any others in the comment section below.  

Looking for more tips on how to recognize employees effectively as well as other information on being a great leader in your organization? Subscribe to our Manager 2.0 Newsletter where we’ll bring you weekly updates on must-read articles from the web as well as best practices on leading your organization in the new era. Subscribe To Manager 2.0

Making People Decisions With Data

Have you heard about the “new” field of people analytics, using data as the poster nerd for reinventing human resources?

All other performance metrics like revenues and costs are tracked, so it seems logical that those related to the most important resource –people –are quantified into KPI’s.

Our own experience with companies using MeritShare  has shown that what gets measured gets done.    We have seen recognition activity increase with the addition of more feedback loops and analytics for both individuals and companies.  You can’t lose weight without a goal and a scale.  Several months ago we published a national recognition index and heatmap and data visualization of thanks being sent by US State.

Survey’s have always and will continue to be a key part of people analytics toolkit, but we are also starting to deploy other methods to measure and quantify the health of a company’s culture.  We recently published 4 Tips To Measure Action Based Engagement in HR Buddy, providing some thoughts on using more action-based people metrics.

Two of the best resources on how Google makes people decisions data can be found in this excellent TLNT article written by Dr. John Sullivan.  The “Michael Jordan of Hiring” explains how the GOOG organizes and directs their HR organization to “bring the same level of rigor to people-decisions that we do to engineering decisions.”

The other helpful  gem is from Google HR executive Kathryn Dekas presenting “People Analytics: Using Data To Drive HR Strategy & Action” at a Strata conference.  Her story will inspire you to put some people analytics into action,  and it is a must watch video for any HR or management executive.

Please share any advice or thoughts on the topic of people analytics below.    If you want more information on how we help companies get started people analytics, contact me at kevin [at]

Employee Recognition and Flow

In a recent Linkedin HR group thread, Cris Wildermuth, Ed.D., SPHR and Editor for Linked:HR asks “What impacts your Flow?  Does recognition matter?”

Cris defines flow as “an exciting combination of joy and productivity in which we are “in the zone” and “time stands still”.

Ben St. Hilaire, Director of Guest Services for Comcast arena  further defines Csikszentmihalyi original concept of flow as “two core factors: perceived challenge, and one’s perceived ability to meet that challenge.  Flow results when perceived challenge is high, but not so high as to be overwhelming, and one’s perceptions about their own ability to meet that challenge is also high.”

The question at hand is whether or not recognition can have any impact on this state of flow.

Hillaire believes “Managerial behavior can only indirectly influence a person’s experience of flow.  Recognition or lack thereof can bolster or undermine some peoples’ perception of their own abilitiesbut for other people it has very little impact. This means that there is no one-size-fits-all rule about rewards, recognition, or other behaviorist technique to maximize employee flow.”

Founder and CEO of In2Focus Leigh Mastrantonio shares her story on recognition and flow: “ I spent my 20′s toiling in a role that offered great advancement opportunities yet little internal fulfillment.  In some ways I remain a “seeker” of flow. Some days, some projects, some clients inspire this feeling more than others.  One thing I can say is that for me flow is less about extrinsic reward and more about intrinsic value…  For me it’s the connection of my heart (passion) and head (logic/applied knowledge) that is the perfect setting to inspire creativity and purpose.”

Many of the commenters on the thread agreed with the notion that recognition can impact flow.  Ken Cowman, Managing Director of Emercomm Business Consultants says “I’ve come to the conclusion that management has a huge role in facilitating an employee’s ability to get into that zone where work is rewarding and meaningful which, IMHO, is when they are going to achieve that state of FLOW.”

Yet recognition is not the only factor influencing flow.  ”If you are talking about Flow using basics concepts from the psychologist Mihalyi Czentsmihaly, than recognition is just one out of seven indicators of Flow, and NOT the most important to get people really engaged with their job!!” says Marcos Luiz Bruno, a Professor at Post Graduate HR program.

The question is particularly interesting for us at MeritShare because we provide peer-based recognition programs for over 100 companies, enabling everyone to impact flow, not just managers.  Leigh Mastrantonio  says “I am in flow when I have the opportunity push the boundaries of conventional thinking and collaborate with others who are willing to do the same in an effort to solve a particularly hairy organizational challenge”.   Given this, peer-recognition can enhance team flow.

Cris Wildermuth is also doing further research in this area and she has set up an anonymous survey here:  Her co-researcher (Kim Barney) and Cris will summarize the results and share the article which will be published by the Human Resources Certification Institute – HRCI – magazine).

We have posted additional comments, resources, and links on the concept of flow here, along with the Mihaly Czentsmihaly’s original TED Talk.

Featured Comments:

From Ken Meyer FLOW by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi

From Ali Godding
I like the work of Prof Wilmar Schaufeli in this area. He makes clear distinctions between:

Engagement (flow) (active state involving excitement and pleasure)

Satisfaction (de-active state involving calmness and pleasure)

Burn out (de-active state involving tiredness and displeasure)

Work addiction (active state involving tenseness and displeasure)

From Nate Regier, Ph.D.
These days I am into studying the impact of personality on flow. It makes a big difference. Sure, everybody wants a sense of mastery, autonomy, and purpose in their work. Beyond that, what uniquely motivates each personality to have passion, be energized, and believe that they are here for a reason? Here’s a white paper we wrote on the topic for those interested.

Are You A Top 10% Most Viewed Profiles On LinkedIn?

Did you receive an email from Linkedin congratulating you on being a top 1%, 5%, or 10% of all profiles viewed?

Both my Linkedin and Twitter streams are filled with posts from users that have received this distinction.

The LA Times posted an article yesterday titled “LinkedIn’s clever marketing: You’re special like 10 million others“.  The story estimates that 10 million people were sent an email to the 1% or 5% most viewed user profiles out of their 200 million members.

But wait, there is more.  Linkedin also sent awards to the top 10% most viewed profiles bringing the total to an estimated 20m users.  Katie Notopolulos at Buzz Feed was the first to update the initial estimate of 10m to the current of 20m.

Are there more to come? So far most of the commentary on Linkedin’s award-bombing has been mostly positive.  Michelle Wetzler, writes on the Keen IO blog” Props, LinkedIn marketing team. Props.”.

The top 10% of users who did receive seem quite proud..  You can tell it’s working from the stream of people tweeting this stat that “deserves to be shared”

We think this type of professional recognition is awesome and want to honor LinkedIn’s Top Users.  MeritShare will honor the top 1%, 5%, and 10% most-viewed profiles with a MeritShare online badge and public award page.  The benefit to the recipient is that a MeritShare award page is more permanent than a post in a social media stream.  The MeritShare award page is also optimized for search; many MeritShare profiles with a photo and a badge show up in the first page of Google results for someone’s name.”  A personal and professional branding win!

To receive a MeritShare award, just forward the email you received from LinkedIn to and we’ll send you a special “Connector” award through MeritShare.

Michelle Wetzler’s Linkedin Award invitation and share page: