The Global Carrot: Will Garrett the Carrot Get Snagged in Customs?

Chester Elton

There's a certain corporate "zing" to using the word "global." It feels big. Many companies strive to go global. There's a prestige associates with being able to pop up and do business in exotic cultures and places. So,much like the Today Show's Where in the World is Matt Lauer, we wanted to see if the Carrot could increase employee engagement around the world.

Would employee recognition have the same effect globally as it does in the U.S. and Canada?

In the fall of 2008, amidst the global recession, we asked Towers Perrin, a leading global professional services firm, to conduct a worldwide survey to test the role of recognition in influencing employee engagement - and then we sat back, crossed our fingers and hoped our hunch was true.

First, we needed to understand the specific elements that influenced employee engagement country by country. Would a worker in Japan respond similarly to a management characteristic as someone else on the other side of the planet? Should a manager in Russia motivate employees in the same way as a manager in Brazil?

According to the research the top-three predictors of engagement worldwide, in order of importance, are:

  1. Opportunity and Well-Being: When employees believed their management gave them opportunities for growth and development and cared about their well-being as individuals they felt more engagement. This was number one by a mile in every country.
  2. Trust: Employees who believed they worked for people with integrity, especially their direct supervisors, were further engaged. It was also important that other people at their level in the organization felt trusted and respected.
  3. Pride in the Organizational Symbol: No one expected this finding. Employees who identified more with their company's image via their organization symbol had higher engagement. While this seems surprising, what it really means is just how important a company's image or reputation is to employees. The symbol is the visible manifestation of pride in the organization.

Next, our research team needed to determine what created the biggest impact on employees feeling a sense of opportunity and well-being, the number one predictor of engagement. In other words, what was the most important thing a manager could do tomorrow to help employees care more about what matters most to the organization?

Hold on to your socks 'cause this could knock them off. The research revealed the most important thing a manager could do to promote feelings of opportunity and well-being anywhere in the world is to regularly appreciate great work. Voila, just as we had found in our earlier U.S. and Canada study, positive recognition is a powerful accelerator. In fact, from country to country, we found engagement scores as much as two or three times higher when a manger offered frequent, specific and timely recognition - numbers that the researchers at Towers Perrin called not only "statistically significant," but "impressive in size and impact."

Impressive may be an understatement.

Ironically, going global with a research study like this - trying to understand if recognition changed engagement levels in other countries as it did in the U.S. and Canada - left us wondering if we were studying more than workplace behavior. Instead, were we studying mankind?

Of course, we all know recognition creates a response in children. It is a social driving force shaping our teen years.And what this proves is that appreciation continues to drive us throughout every level of a career. Think about how you felt the last time someone recognized you - for your effort, your attitude, or your achievement. What happened? Did you feel the desire to strive even further? Recognition plays a larger role than anyone has understood in where you are today. What happened the first time someone told Nat King Cole he could sing, Tom Brokaw he had a great voice, Bill Cosby he was funny or Bill Gates he was smart?

Recognition moves people toward their strengths, talents and goals - even if those goals are given to them by the organization, the manager or the team leader.

Our global study was, in fact, more than a workplace study. IT was a study on human nature and how human nature, when recognized, can create dramatic results within a workplace.

Even after our research concluded, Towers Perrin Global Research Director Patrick Kulesa, Ph.D., seemed surprised by the overwhelming reach of the results. He noted that many companies will spend a considerable amount of time and money on leadership training and competency instruction to enhance a leaders' ability to connect with people. "What this study adds to my mind is that in addition there is something more basic that managers and organizations should be examining," he said. "And it makes a lot of sense. After all, where does well-being come from: in large part from the sense that my boss cares about me and my performance."

Cool, huh?

So obviously, Garrett the Carrot passes through customs with ease - recognition accelerates performance everywhere. And, next month, you can read all the global findings as we launch the second edition of The Carrot Principle. In fact, we've got a really cool offer for you if you order the book online on April 14, 2009. Watch for more on that offer next month.

In the meantime, to find out more about the book,
click here.

So keep cheering on Garrett the Carrot. As we type he's auditioning to get his own TV show - Where in the World is Garrett the Carrot? He's totally ready for his close-up.

Chestor Elton, co-author of The Carrot Principle.
Adrian Gostick, co-author of The Carrot Pricinciple.
Copyright 2009. All Rights Reserved.

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