In the mid 90’s I left my position as HR Director with a 100-employee not-for-profit agency to slide back into in-house recruiting as the Employment Manager with a much larger organization (4,800+ employees). I wanted to get back into managing a recruiting function as well as work for an organization with, let’s face it, deeper pockets than the NFP where we used scratch pads and paper clips instead of wasting precious dollars on Post-It notes. (We also didn’t have our own fax machine because it was too expensive. To send or receive a fax – mid 90’s remember – we walked two blocks to the neighboring hospital where we were allowed to use the fax machine in the hospital CEO’s office. In Wisconsin. In winter. I am not even kidding.)
So I made a move. And even though I knew I was making a strategic career change, I hesitated before accepting the new opportunity. Why? Primarily because I was leaving peers, colleagues and friends with whom I had built extraordinarily tight bonds. Yes – even as the head of HR (also managing 8 staff members in various departments) I had friends; people with whom I built deep and abiding relationships.
Why? Because our culture supported, promoted and encouraged it. We went to each others’ homes and attended weddings, funerals and christenings together. I used to go for dinner and chill out for hours at my boss’ house drinking wine. I babysat her dog. I once took a vacation with some co-workers. (“Oh the horror! You worked in HR” I can hear some of you saying).
I adored those people.
On my last day of employment there was a going-away party at a local watering hole filled with laughter, pictures and merriment. While I received lovely tchotkes and gifts from various people, I received one item that caused me to break into tears right there with my vodka and tonic in hand. I received a “time capsule” container into which every employee in the organization had placed a handwritten note for me. I was told to read them (en masse or one at a time) whenever I wanted a reminder of what I meant to people or how I had impacted the organization. Yeah. See why I wept?
I thought about this when I read through the Globoforce Mood Tracker Fall 2014 Report. While much of the research is geared towards years of service anniversaries, the summary of findings are applicable across the spectrum of HR, whether we are devising strategies related to culture, engagement or retention:
- Peer relationships are critical to the modern work experience.
- Having friends at work increases commitment to the company.
- Years of service awards that include all colleagues yield better results.
- Years of service awards with emotional impact are more effective.
- Social Recognition amplifies the effectiveness of years of service programs.
- Workers yearn for a more shareable and meaningful milestone experience.
note: check out a nifty Infographic here
Those memories from almost 20 years ago stuck with me; that celebration was meaningful, emotional and shared with employees from all across the organization. Even though, obviously, this was a ‘farewell’ event and not a service award event I still remained committed to the organization as I continued to serve as an adviser and as a committee member with the Board of Directors.
The Globoforce Mood Tracker Report is enlightening. I encourage you to download it whether you’re exploring recognition, years of service or just looking for ways to make the employment experience at your company more meaningful. As the Mood Tracker Report points out: “There is room for improvement in today’s milestone experiences. Employees are looking for more shareable service awards that respect their memories and contributions.”
C’mon HR; we can fix this.