Employee Recognition & Engagement: Interview with Jon Dubbs

I’m delighted to feature my colleague, whom I’ve known and worked with for many years, in this interview. Jon Dubbs is a promotional marketing and recognition specialist who was CEO of The Dubbs Company (an Allentown, PA-based innovative marketing company) and a former Vice Chairman of Promotional Products Association International. He was among the first to attain the industry’s Master Advertising Specialist designation and recently completed his certification as a Certified Recognition Professional from Recognition Professionals International.

As the promotion landscape and market changed, so did Jon’s focus. He’s now applying his experience at RecIgnition LLC, a new company he founded that specializes in helping management teams develop and execute recognition strategies to improve organizational culture and employee engagement for competitive advantage.

QSM: Given lower engagement levels in the workplace, how can recognition help?

Jon: Recognition is a key component of building and maintaining employee engagement – particularly as a means of expressing appreciation for positive performance and significant contributions. As such, it affirms the person’s value to the enterprise. Proof of the relationship between recognition and high engagement can be seen in the companies that are recognized as being the best places to work. These are strong growth organizations with high shareholder value and where employees want to work.

QSM: In your experience, what do you find is the biggest obstacle faced by organizations interested in employee recognition? 

Jon: In a word, management. It is typically the lack of understanding by business owners and those in the C-suite at larger organizations of the real value of recognition and its deliverables: productivity, profitability, employee retention, safe work, reductions in reject rate of production, and the list goes on. All of these significantly affect bottom line results (either way) but some managers still regard recognition as being too soft.

The second biggest obstacle is the lack of communication planning and the critical importance of establishing a communication structure. A recognition initiative needs to be created by representatives from all divisions, product groups, and levels of employees (for example: production, sales, marketing HR, risk management, finance, distribution, communications, security, and unions) – who work together to understand the needs and ways that consistent accomplishments and fanfare can be shared. Without a communication plan, established broad buy-in, and a schedule for execution, the best recognition initiative will not have the potential high ROI and benefits that management needs.

Lastly, as Marc Drizin (author of Designing Employee Recognition Programs) says, “Employee recognition cannot be an unfunded mandate.”

QSM: Not all employees are comfortable receiving recognition in the workplace, yet some companies still approach recognition programs as a one-size-fits-all effort. How do you address this?

Jon:  While all employees like and need acknowledgment of their value and contributions, it is how the recognition is given that may create some hesitation, fear, and embarrassment. Supervisors and managers need to discuss with all direct reports how they would like to be recognized including avoiding ways that are absolutely intimidating.

It’s also important to understand and respect that some people’s ethnic cultures do not encourage public recognition. Some do not allow for individuals to be singled out above the group, and some do not appreciate individual recognition. Today, with multi-national companies having employee work exchanges, programs need to be built and managed with a keen awareness of and sensitivity to multiculturalism.

QSM: Thank you, Jon!



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