389 | How to Recognize Your Employees with Steve Pemberton

Discover how to recognize your employees for doing great work. Learn how do you recognize innovation. How do you recognize collaboration. If you are an evolved leader, you know the importance of recognizing your team members. Today I am talking with Steve Pemberton with Global Force. We talk about the research and the importance of recognizing your employees. We talk about the 1% rule that can shift your culture. Listen to the full interview if you want to learn how to recognize your employees.

Don't miss an episode. Subscribe to Growth Think Tank.

Share the LOVE and TWEET about this episode.

Target Audience: Steve is focused on building upon Global Force’s award-winning culture, which has set a new industry standard through its own power usage of recognition and positivity. Before joining Global Force, Steve served in senior HR executive roles for Walgreens Boots Alliance and Monster.com.


Steve Pemberton: The Transcript

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

This is leaders in the trenches and your host today is Gene Hammett.

Gene Hammett: Hi, this is Gene Hammett. I’m the host of leaders in the trenches. My question for you today is how do you recognize your employees or do you recognize your employees? Do you have intentional plans and strategies in place to recognize the good behavior? Do you recognize them being honest with each other? Do you recognize innovation? Do you recognize them doing and living by the values of the company? I ask all this because I know a lot of companies will say that they do, but most of them don’t. Most of them don’t have intentional plans to recognize the employees and that is a problem. If you’re a leader, then you want to reinforce all of the good things are going on inside the company so that they happen over and over and over. It makes your job a lot easier, so when you understand recognition and you understand and how to put a plan in and be intentional about that, you will be a better leader, plain and simple.

Gene Hammett: Now, my guest today is Steve Pemberton with global force. We talk about recognition, we talk about some of the research, we talk about what drives employees to give to others, and we talk about the one percent rule inside of a company. You have to listen to the full interview to find out what the one percent rule is, but you will love this interview if you love being a leader and you love recognizing people and you want them to grow and you want them to grow fast. My Name’s Gene Hammett. I work with hypergrowth companies to understand that growth and help them become the leaders that they really want to be, and that is what I love to do. Here’s the interview with Steve Pemberton.

Gene Hammett: Hey Steve. How are you?

Steve Pemberton: Good Gene. How are you?

Gene Hammett: I am fantastic. I’m glad to hear that you also love Mondays as much as I do in today’s Monday, so welcome to leaders in the trenches.

Gene Hammett: Well, I’ll ask you about that in a second, but I want our audience to understand you first. So I’ve told him a little bit about you and your business, but tell them in your own words about who you serve and about who you are.

Steve Pemberton: So my name is Steve Pemberton, my official title is Global Chief Human Resources Officer for global force and we bring goodness to the world of work by recognizing the good things that people do as part of their daily life. So it’s peer-based recognition that creates sustainable and actually improved culture.

Gene Hammett: I’m excited to have this conversation because I talk all the time about how do you reinforce the good things that you want to happen and you’ve got a pretty, pretty tight solution for that. So why do we need to reinforce good behaviors to improve our culture?

Steve Pemberton: It’s a real-life butterfly effect in the sense that when you’re recognizing even for a job well done, you know the full effect and impact that has not really measurable at least in that moment because it’d be yes, other behaviors. If we get discretionary effort and drives innovation, it drives loyalty and commitment, but it’s not just based on where it was. The things that aren’t working and particularly in with the growth mindset, you always have to be attentive to competitive realities, right? Gaps in strategy and if we’re not careful, that can kind of an adverse or negative reaction in our cultures within organizations. So you need an active point of your question. Really need an active process against the values and the words off the wall and into the culture.

Gene Hammett: I get asked that all the time and I kind of joke about it like you know, companies that put up their stuff on the walls, but that’s as far as it goes. It doesn’t really provide the impact of values. So I’d love for you to share with us some of the things that you’ve learned about rewarding employees, you know, the work that they’re doing or how they collaborate, how they communicate together. What could you share with us there?

Steve Pemberton: So one of the things that we’ve learned and we gathered data, extensive data on recognition moments across our customer base. So we have a measurable way of determining what happens when you get the words off the wall and specifically into behaviors. So there’s a number of impacts, I mean some of the more obvious ones, keeping your best people because you recognize them for the job that they do well, but it also does other things. I think it attracts the right people to the organization as well because you are injured in positivity, it drives innovation because a lot of your efforts are in areas that are anticipating changes, right? In rewarding people specifically for the risks that they take. So part of it is just kind of executing the job well, but you’re also recognizing people when they take a risk and I’m something, even if it doesn’t necessarily turn out the way that they wanted. So a global force, for example, one of those we have respect for innovation than say respect for success in innovation. It says respect for innovation. That’s our way within our culture of saying, okay, you know, you took a risk here. You anticipated a market change. Here’s how it happened. The outcome is secondary. You just want to reward you for that innovative behavior because that keeps us relevant and competitive.

Gene Hammett: Probably not that close to the research I’ve done, but this is in alignment with two core areas of fast growth companies. So I study the top one percent of growth companies across America. It’s commonly referred to as the INC 5000.

Gene Hammett: Well, you know, one of them is empowering innovation in your platform and what you just talked about was about innovation. But there’s somewhere that a lot of people know that failure is okay, but as long as it’s not on their team, as long as it’s not them not because it’s not. No. And I hear this all the time. Lungs, it’s not so big that people notice. What are you noticing about companies that reward failure in some way?

Steve Pemberton: Well, it’s failing fast. A quick no is just as good as a log. Yes. You know, so a lot of times creating a culture of honesty, courage, candor and saying, hey look, gene, or you say to me, see, you know, great idea, but you know, I don’t think it’s going to fly and he has all the reasons why. And I in that moment and say, Hey, thank you for that moment of candor because I would’ve kept going down this path. So we’ve seen countless examples of that and you look at a failure as an example and you think, well, how in the world didn’t they know that was happening? They knew it was happening. They just didn’t have a culture of rewarding people for candor as an example becomes part of the culture. That means you get a lot of candid feedback about something. So you’re summarily your choices. So I’m not going to have my colleague Gene tell me or I’m going to have the marketplace to tell them. I’d rather Gene tell me.

Gene Hammett: Yeah, you know, you’re talking about candor. The words I use inside my research was radical transparency because the CEO’s kept talking about how important it is to have transparency for us to grow, to collaborate and not be political and whatnot. And you know, a lot of these companies have, you know, 10, 20, 30, maybe 100 employees. They don’t have time to be political. And I’m trying to take the message out there to others. Are you seeing radical transparency is something that’s being rewarded?

Steve Pemberton: I see emerging because of the number of challenges that organizations have their own internal culture and say, well, how did we see that coming? Why didn’t we anticipate that was because the leaders, leaders in the trenches, and we can specify the ones in the trenches weren’t incentivized in any way, shape or form to be radically transparent. So one of the things that leaders can do, one of the things that I’ve learned is I will confess that I am very strong willed and unapologetically. So I grew up in a very turbulent foster care situation. I had a vision for my life way that I wanted to go. I had to be strong willed. I had to be stubborn. I had to be insistent about it. Well, you know, as I grew in my professional career, I realized that if I weren’t attentive to creating cultures on my teams, riding in bites, that radical transparency that was on me.

Steve Pemberton: So one of the things I’ve learned to do on my team is to ask, again, this is being mindful of my, my stubbornness and my insistence on a specific direction. I’ve learned to ask my teams, so what don’t I know, what am I missing? And doing that at almost at every meeting and a lot of times the feedback that I get, the pushback that I get, it does inform my thinking in a cascades into a whole series of other. The other things that are instructive and helpful for those are the behaviors specifically. And so now my team knows that or if I’m quiet in the meeting, he’s going to call on me. He’s going to ask for opposing views.

Gene Hammett: Yeah. When you think about recognition, you know, I know there’s many different ways to recognize someone, but when you are so much research around this, what are the different ways to recognize people? Small gifts versus medium size versus maybe something personal. I know I gave a client the other day, something that was really personal to me, but very personal to him because he was a golfer. But what are your thoughts on the ways to recognize someone?

Steve Pemberton: Well, you’re right, you do have a multiplicity of ways that you can do. So what we found to be the most effective is that we get an organization dedicated some percentage of their payroll. We’ve advocated that one percent should be a breakpoint at which you can see, you know, longer-term impact, but you have the option, of course, there were so you monetary awards specifically and that individual can take that award and do with it what they will. Let me give you an example. In my case, I have three children, 18, 16 and 13.

Steve Pemberton: My 16-year-old has big feet, big boy. And he’s a, he wears a size 15 shoes and I can’t. I can’t get them at a store. I have to hold them. So I have used by recognition moments within the global force and I am buying him sneakers. He played varsity basketball and so I invite him sneakers all the time. But there isn’t a moment that when I’m ordering these online and I tell him this, I said, well, these are your global for sneakers because that’s how I’m paying for it because they’re also expensive, right? So you know when you know that I had that specific knee, probably not, but there’s still an emotional attachment and connection, you know Joel recognition moment like that that you’re able to leverage. And lastly, I’m also as somebody who receives that from others, I’m also more likely to have the stow similar recognition moments as well, so somebody is recognizing me for a job well done or a way that I learned in on a specific issue or when I was innovative or courageous or candidate.

Steve Pemberton: Well, I’m going to do the same thing. Right. That creates this kind of ongoing perpetual recognition culture.

Gene Hammett: That’s a good point there. When what do you guys see in when a company starts to put this into an effect? I could see kind of that snowball rolling down the hill like it starts off a little bit slow, but as people start to get into the feel of it, it happens all the time and it really does start to shift the culture.

Steve Pemberton: Yeah, it does. I mean one of our clients describe their culture prior to engaging in this recognition platform as toxic and adversely based in other words, currency in the organization was derived by a spraying vinegar all over the place, so a lot of imagine being in meetings right where I’ll use all these gotcha moments and all these adverse behaviors that weren’t helping sustain the projects we want to get through the job. In other words, they weren’t looking forward to Monday like at all, but early on with seeding moments of positivity and impact, and you began to see over time, month, in three months, in six months in that culture became more respectful and more innovative, more urgent because currency was no longer derived with vinegar. It arrived with honey. I didn’t mean that you weren’t being candid, right about the needs around product development or driving sales faster, more aggressively so you can have both of those things, but in terms of discretionary effort is almost a measurable.

ADVERTISEMENT: Before we jump into the content, let me just remind you that today’s podcast is brought to you by Audible. If you like to listen to podcasts, you probably liked to listen to audible books and I want to give you a free 30-day trial and all you have to do is use this URL which is audibletrial.com/leadersinthetrenches. That’s the name of the podcast. Just go there. You can buy any book you want and love for you to buy the trap of success. That’s my book that came out earlier this past year and if you want to get the 30-day trial, just go to audibletrial.com/leadersinthetrenches and back to the show.

Gene Hammett: You know, one of the things that you guys are known for, his positivity drives performance. What kind of stats or data you can share with me or some of your research around positivity drives performance?

Steve Pemberton: Well, one cultural context where negativity, seeing the drive, so much culture. I think that people are just hungering for places in our broader society where they can see any moments of positivity and when they’re so hard to come by, certainly not on the nightly news, on social media timelines often, so what do you find that you can find them in the world of work and one of them. One of the quantitative impacts that we’ve seen is retention for example, that your two to three times more likely to stay with an organization that recognizes positivity of that you’re more likely to have three times more likely to refer that organization to a friend or colleague outside of it as a destination or a place to work.

Steve Pemberton: We spend a lot of times, especially in the HR world, measuring in assessing things like productivity and those two can be not just kind of words on the wall, but numbers in the spreadsheet until you can draw that direct correlation between the number of recognition moments bestowed and the impact that it has on things like retention.

Gene Hammett: When you think about this recognition and whatnot, I mean, what are some of the things that we need to watch out for? Like what are the mistakes that people make when they try to go maybe go too far in this?

Steve Pemberton: You know, I mean, one of the biggest jobs is to be cognizant of the important number. The less I’m still driving performance specifically and so recognition should not be confused or creating a don’t worry, be happy culture, you know, so you know, you see an emerging competitive challenge or issue within the company or the external marketplace and you say, well don’t worry, we’ll get through it.

Steve Pemberton: You know that’s a watch out because it should catch you off guard when you see these competitive realities coming though is allow you to get to the point of failing fast. You just get there faster because you know that when mirrors are held up to the culture and slash or very specific challenges is coming from a place of company growth and not necessarily in currency being derived from, you know, just or advancing one’s career through pointing out that which is wrong or adversely impacting the business. So he comes from a good place. We’ve heard that before. You know, recognition is a form of feedback. That’s all true. Still been hard to digest for people though because I don’t think it’s always actionable and ultimately a behavioral.

Gene Hammett: When you mentioned feedback there, my mind wanders. A lot of people just don’t frankly just suck at giving feedback. When you look at monetary rewards being part of it, what is something else you guys have learned about giving feedback that could help us be better leaders?

Steve Pemberton: It’s the essence of the mirror, right? Mirrors aren’t simply to reflect what you see there to reflect what you see so you can correct what you see. So on my team as an example, I see all the recognition moments that my human resources team gets, so I see what they’re being recognized for. I see who’s getting recognized, but I also see who’s not getting recognized and so that has foster greater accountability upon me as a leader to make sure that the entire team is getting developed and is progressing. Know accordingly. And I also think it goes. I mean I’ve heard you talk about there’s a difference between managing people and leading leaders so you know there’s a day to day responsibilities that you have for managing people and a lot of the administrative functions and approving vacations, for example, project assignment, those things, but leading leaders get more into the strategic areas specifically and recognition.

Steve Pemberton: One of the strongest, most effective ways to help leaders lead leaders at the same time because you get to see who’s doing what, how well they’re doing it, and then how well is that being recognized across the organization and to be equally candidate. Also helps you to make some tough decisions on those or maybe dragging your culture down to.

Gene Hammett: When you think about it that way, being able to have visibility into who’s getting rewards, who are giving rewards, who are not getting them. As you said, that gives you some data points that you don’t typically have and leadership?

Steve Pemberton: No, because either you don’t have a team that you know, especially teams that are in aggressive growth mindsets. There’s a little bit of cocooning of the leader, you know, we’re not, we’re careful what information we give her a cautious about our feedback to him. So you know, when you have this kind of quantitative assessment for how recognitions employed across the entire organization, you know, you had this kind of direct pipeline too. We’re certainly, that’s how we talk about it too. I mean we have a really good sense of how things are folding and unfolding, especially when we have to make some tough, tough decisions. Or in this case, where we are anticipating, you know, the beginning of a new year.

Gene Hammett: Steve, one of the things I’m going to ask you around this is what impact does this have on collaboration? I think a lot of companies say they want more collaboration, but I feel like this gives them a chance to ensure that, you know, if someone helps you with a report and whatnot, that you could actually reward them and that makes them want to keep doing that. What are your thoughts on collaboration?

Steve Pemberton: Well, I’ve often thought the collaboration is the medicine you know, you need, but you don’t really like the taste of it necessarily, right? In the sense that you’re dealing with issues of ownership in swim lanes and who gets credit, you know, so there’s a really short walk retreat saying I need collaboration and then the perception of who leads the effort, but on a platform that recognized groups as a team. So when you have cross-functional teams from the product, from sales, from marketing to a task with a specific project and the entire team gets, gets recognized for that collaborations and not just individual collaboration group collaboration as well. And that’s the leadership’s way of saying, Hey, in recognizing this group for this specific effort, let’s say at this conference as, as an example to the rest of the organization, this is how we all ought to collaborate.

Steve Pemberton: So you’re right, it’s that age-old adage that, you know, um, success happens when you don’t care who gets the credit. And that’s, those are nice words and I think that’s true. That’s really, really hard to promote behavior. So that’s where it’s on the wall. How do you make that behavior when you make a behavior by recognizing group collaboration. And that means even in moments of tension because collaboration is tensions off the companion of collaborations. So you and I are going to have different views about how we tackle a specific project. You and I should have different views because we’re not going to see it the same way. The conversation that begins, you and I are leaders of teams representing different functions and you and I as leaders and saying, Hey, well let’s make sure that our teams collaborate and let’s make sure that you and I are collaborating by bringing our different views. Not trying to meet everybody’s view down into one.

Gene Hammett: Yep. Part of my core message is around ownership and it’s not meant to be like the fiefdoms that have controlled us and leadership. It’s meant to be people who are willing to not blame others like really take ownership of this work and not know at nine to five. It may not stop working. Beyond that, it goes beyond everything we’re doing. So I really love, you know, you sharing this conversation with us about what’s going on in the world of recognition, what you’ve learned through this state and research. If we wanted to get in touch with you, where would you point them to a recognition?

Steve Pemberton: The easiest thing to do is reach me directly at Steve Dot Pemberton. That global force, www.globalforce.com. Z. A lot more about both global act, globalforce.com and also our annual conference so that will be held in March. In Nashville this year is called we’re human and we talk a bit about some of the things that you and I talking about, but on a much, much bigger scale, have some of the world’s most renowned speakers who come to. It’s really a great opportunity to see collaboration in real time. You see recognition, the gratitude piece and the impact that has on businesses.

Gene Hammett: Well, Steve, thanks for these insights on recognition and I can’t wait to give it to share this with the world.

Steve Pemberton: Thanks for having me.

Gene Hammett: What a great interview here. I love having this conversation going deep into one particular topic of recognition. I recognize my employees all the time. I love the work that they’re doing and I’m wondering how you’re doing it for you, your company, for your leadership. Are you recognizing the people that you really want to continue that behavior, letting them grow? Are you recognizing collaboration? Well, if you want to be a better leader, if you want to evolve into the leader that you know as possible, then make sure you engage with leaders in the trenches that podcast, but also connect with me. I’d love to know a little bit more about you, what you’re doing, your company. Maybe you could be a guest on the show. As always, reach out to me. It’s [email protected] and this is leaders in the trenches and I want to remind you, lead with courage and I’ll see you next.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

In this episode we’ll cover:

  • Recognize your Employees
  • Behaviors to Improved Culture
  • The Values and Words
  • Impact of Values
  • Success in Innovation
  • Respect for Innovation
  • Innovative Behavior
  • Creating Culture



And lastly, please leave a rating and review for the Leaders in the Trenches on iTunes (or Stitcher) – it will help us in many ways, but it also inspires us to keep doing what we are doing here. Thank you in advance!

If you want more from us check out more interviews:

Transformational Leadership

Productivity Tips

Best Selling Author Interviews