How to Create a Connected and Engaged Culture: GLG’s Story
“We are a people business – we connect our clients to people experts. So people are the nucleus of who we are,” explained Catrina Harding, CHRO of GLG, in her opening remarks during the recent SHRM webcast, sponsored by Workhuman®. And in order to be best in class as it relates to people practices, she continues, building and maintaining an internal culture of recognition and respect is key.
GLG, the world’s insight network connecting clients to powerful insights from a network of global experts, thrived through the pandemic by prioritizing its people. After launching Applause – its global recognition program – last year, GLG continues to use recognition to connect employees to its mission and values. Together, Catrina, Megan, and Chris discussed launching a strategic, global recognition program, GLG’s success so far, and the future of employee recognition at GLG.
1. Outgrowing homegrown recognition
The concept and benefits of recognizing employees wasn’t new for GLG, but their strategy was largely ad-hoc. With more than 2,000 employees located across the world, recognizing employees for their contributions in a consistent and social way was critical for the company.
When shopping for a more formal employee recognition program, these needs were top of mind. Catrina explained:
“We knew it was important to have a program that could do broad, global, frequent recognition. We also thought it was important to recognize people, not just by managers, but peer-to-peer and in a global public forum.”
In fact, the emphasis on a global experience, Megan confirmed, “was one of the key differentiators for us, and why we selected Workhuman.” In addition to this, Workhuman’s platform compiled dashboards and analytics reports highlighting key data such as engagement and retention, allowing GLG to monitor their program’s ROI in real time.
2. From buy-in to adoption
Getting support for a new initiative can be challenging any time, let alone during a once-in-a-lifetime global health crisis. “We launched right around the time that the pandemic was starting to rage,” explained Catrina, yet they pushed on. The ability to pivot from an in-person launch to a remote one – while simultaneously garnering employee support – wasn’t easy, but was worth the effort.
To build excitement around the program, GLG chose to crowdsource the name of the program from their employees – reinforcing the fact that employee input was both valued and desired. The team also established employee ambassadors. According to Catrina, “we wanted to help support this initiative locally on the ground.” And it worked. “Believe it or not, we’re still leveraging our ambassadors today.”
Catrina understood, “It’s always important anytime we roll out an initiative that its anchor point is on the overarching strategy, and that people understand the connective tissue between the two.”
To do that, GLG’s people leaders began redefining their people proposition strategy, and ended up with four main pillars: building a culture of recognition and respect; increasing engagement; providing opportunities to learn and grow; and hiring and developing leaders that embody GLG’s values.
Even with best-laid plans and a comprehensive strategy, an organization will surely have its recognition skeptics – and GLG was no different. Reflecting on her experience gaining buy-in from the company’s leaders, Megan explained the difficulties of trying to explain the power of recognition to someone who had never seen it in action. However, “Once someone actually experiences the program, they’re sold for life.”
3. Enhancing engagement, improving performance, and reducing turnover
After launching GLG’s recognition program, Applause, there was still more work to be done. Reflecting on his years in the recognition space, Chris explained: “It’s the culture of recognition that drives change in an organization, not a recognition program. If you have a program that no one uses, it doesn’t matter at all.”
To ensure the company was getting the most out of their investment, the team continued embracing the role of ambassadors. Catrina explained, “the ambassadors were not only to help us with the launch, but to have an ear on the ground. What are people saying? What are the opportunities? What additional education do we need? What additional programs do we need to help reinforce this?”
The goal was to infuse Applause into the company culture. And from the looks of it, that’s exactly what has happened. From March to December 2020, GLG had more than 15,000 unique moments of recognition. That means an Applause moment happened every 28 minutes – during the pandemic, no less!
These outstanding results are not only good for morale, but for the business as well. With the help of the Workhuman research team, Megan revealed several remarkable insights gathered from an analysis of the 2020 data: “We found that the more Applause awards an employee received, the less likely they are to turn over… We also see that the variety of award type someone receives, who the giver is [manager versus a peer], and if the person gives awards versus only receives them – all of these things just keep helping you make that turnover less likely.”
Looking at the data, Chris contended:
“If you just take six recognition moments, once every two months, someone in a small way creates a human moment with someone and likely drops the probability that they leave the organization … I mean, how many other things do we spend so much money on to try to move that turnover curve just a little bit?”
Some turnover is expected. Yet, just a simple moment of gratitude can make an employee feel valued, appreciated, and connected to their workplace – making them more likely to want to stick around. It doesn’t get much better (or simpler) than that.
4. Recognition as a journey
Catrina, Megan, and the rest of the GLG team are on the road to a more human workplace, but the journey doesn’t end anytime soon. As the company evolves, employee recognition must evolve too.
“We started off, we learned some things, we pivoted in regards to education and driving more engagement due to the pandemic,” Catrina explained. “Just because we had high engagement year one doesn’t mean it’s sustainable.”
To make recognition sustainable, Catrina and Megan recommended being adaptable – and remembering employee recognition is made for and nurtured by the employees. Allowing your people to recognize their peers for a job well done has the potential to increase engagement, performance, and connectedness. And it’s doing just that at GLG.
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