A Rocking Chair

This past weekend I was fortunate to be part of a celebration at work. It was a chance to say “Thank You” to a Team Member for an incredible accomplishment. One of our delivery drivers had decided to retire. This may seem like a normal occurrence in the life of a company, but when it happens at our company, it’s a big deal !!

This is true because we’re an anomaly in the restaurant industry. We have several Team Members who have many years of service which is fantastic. Yes, we have turnover but it’s not our focus. Celebrating folks who have 10, 15, 20,25 and more years of service is common.

This retirement celebration, however, set a new standard. You see we’ve been in business for 62 years and this Team Member has been with us for 55 of those 62 years !! That is ridiculous and phenomenal !! I knew he had been with us for a long time, but I had no idea it was this extensive. He started with us when he was 15 years old and has been taking care of guests for a lifetime – literally.

To get ready for this day, we asked around to see if there was anything we could get to commemorate his retirement. His wife was wonderful and she told us, “He’d like a rocking chair so he can sit on the porch and drink a Coke.”

55 years and thousands of hours of service, and he wanted a place to rest and reflect. Epic.

Rocking ChairsWe met at the restaurant where our driver had worked the majority of his time with us and we did our best to make it a surprise. The turnout of family, friends and co-workers was inspiring. So many people couldn’t wait to also say “Thank You.” As everyone gathered in a party room, we got the jet black rocking chair out of my car and walked through the restaurant. You could hear oohs and aahs as we walked by. I heard “look at that chair !!” and “I wonder who that’s for?”

It was so cool to witness. You have no idea how humbling it was to experience this anticipation as to how he’d react. I asked everyone to have a seat, said a few words of thanks and then asked our retiree to say a few words. He stepped up and was visibly moved. Very graciously he said, “I’ve enjoyed my time here and the people I’ve worked with. It’s been a great family to work for. I appreciate everyone coming out for this. Thank you.” That was it. Beautiful.

I asked him to try out the chair for pictures. He sat down, looked up at me and said, “Look at that, it fits just right !!”

Too often we overthink recognition when it comes to our Team Members. We put our focus on programs and not people. Recognition can be broken down into asking what matters to someone. The differentiator in how HR and companies approach this is whether or not you’re willing to allow individual requests. This takes more work, but it’s worth it.

It’s another example of how we complicate and layer HR when it is begging to be simplified. More does not mean better, it just means more. This week break the mold of conformity in recognition and look at the individuals you need to recognize instead.

Who knows? You might need to go out and buy a rocking chair.

Yep.

One of the best aspects of my job in HR is that I get to recognize our Team Members when they hit years of service milestones. I wrote about this in the past, but here’s a quick recap.

When one of our Team Members hits a 5-year anniversary, I go visit them during the day and shift they work at their location. We keep things simple by bringing them balloons, cookies and a gift card. Keeping things personal and one-and-one has made recognition more meaningful for them and for the Company. I get to make 7 to 10 visits a month because we are fortunate to have incredible tenure. It’s not uncommon to have people reach milestones from 5 years to 30+ years each month !!

The reactions I see range from being surprised, to sincere gratitude and, at times, tears. You never know what will happen, and that is fantastic !! This past week, we had a very touching anniversary that kept things in perspective.

I went over to our anchor store to celebrate the 35th anniversary of one of our dishwashers. Greg is one of my favorite Team Members. We chat every time I’m in the store about the Cincinnati Reds, the weather or whatever is on his mind. A group of folks from the office and pizzeria all gathered around Greg in the dish area. I came with my balloons and a large tray of cookies.

YepWhen I came up to him, I said, “Hi there Greg !! Do you know why we’re all here?”

He calmly said, “Yep.”

I said, “We’re here to celebrate your 35th anniversary working here !!”

He said, “Yep.”

I said, “Well, since it’s your 35th anniversary, that must make you 40 years old.”

He said, “Nope Steve. I know how old I am. I’m . . . 57.”

Everyone clapped and there were a few tears in some eyes (including mine.) You see Greg is an adult with special needs and he’s been a part-time dishwasher for us for thirty-five years !! Greg took his cookies, that each person gets in their own gift bag, and thanked everyone for coming over to see him. Then, he went back to his job.

Greg is a great reminder that so many employees come to work to do a great job willingly and positively. He’s also an example that our focus in HR should shift from spending the majority of our time on a small number of negative people. It’s staggering to me that we continue to be an industry that doesn’t see the great side of employees. We also don’t step in the gap and stop others from focusing on the few negative people in our organizations.

I think HR practitioners would love what they did more easily if we saw the best in our people. There’s absolutely nothing in the way from making this happen. It’s a choice, and it’s a choice that’s easy to make. The challenge is doing this all the time. It’s not enough to get excited when you get the chance to recognize people. Employees want to be valued and have the chance to perform with support and in a positive environment.

Making this shift seems well within our grasp, don’t you think ??

Yep.

A Daily Mantra !!

This past week we celebrated a Team Member’s 30th anniversary !!  This is a rarity in any organization these days.  She truly is beloved.  When we sent out the notice that we were going to recognize her, many people, including several Executives and Senior Leaders, cleared their schedules to make sure they were present.

Our recognition program is very personalized.  We meet our Team Members during their shift and at their location. We finally learned that recognition needs to be focused on the employee and not the HR program or benevolence of the company !!  This simple shift has made recognition meaningful for all involved.

What made this occasion so great was the impact that this Team Member has had.  EVERY person who came to say congratulations had worked with her including the CEO and the President of the company !!  She has literally touched the lives of an incredible number of people who passed her to take on loftier roles in the organization.

When everyone gathered, there were loads of hugs, laughs and stories shared.  She had at least one story about everyone who came.  Here’s mine . . .

She is truly unique and salty !!  When I started in my role, my first interaction with her was because she had hung signs in the kitchen that said, “Make sure to put away your mother*$#*%ing glasses !!” She heard that HR wanted to talk to her and she was ready for me.  I told her that I’d like to take the signs down, and asked her why she felt the need to say these things.  She didn’t miss a beat. “Do you see all the glasses sitting around ??”  There was never any ill will or intent in her approach.

No one has ever felt threatened or hurt by her coarse language.  When I talked to her I got to know her better and she got to know me as well.  I make sure to drop by and see her every once in awhile and she says, “Hey, Steve, I haven’t put up any f*#$ng signs lately.”  And, we howl !!  We’ve both learned from each other over the years.

The whole time we were recognizing Louise, it was very emotional.  We shed tears, laughed until it hurt and reveled in the stories from her 30 years with us.  It was fantastic !!

Laughing Ha HaAs we were wrapping up, the President of the company shared this . . . “Recently, I read that to have a full life people should laugh out loud, cry out loud and touch someone else’s life every day – and Louise that describes you perfectly !!”  You can guess that tears flowed freely.

I think it’s something that all of us as humans can take on as our mantra.  This isn’t just an “HR” thing.  You see I believe that our workplaces are full of people like Louise.  It’s just that so many people continue to think that HR’s focus is on the negative. I hate when I hear people trying to learn from HR horror stories because that’s when idiotic policies, procedures and programs come to life.

I could have jumped her when I saw her signs.  I could have written up a tenured employee because she was using harsh language.  I could have overreacted and jumped to conclusions, created a massive anti-cursing policy with 5 levels of progressive discipline. Or, I could talk to her and hear her side of things.

I’m so glad I took the last approach.

I made sure I was Louise’s last hug.  It was warm, caring and I told her how much she meant to me and to the lives of so many.  She pulled back and said, “Thank You.  Now get out of here you . . . “

Happy #TimSackettDay Kelly Dingee !!

One of the things I truly hope to see in my HR “lifetime” is that the two communities of HR practitioners and HR folks in Social Media as one body.  A great way to do this is to recognize one of our own.

Kelly DingeeThis year’s #TimSackettDay person is Kelly Dingee.  Kelly is the bomb and one of the best resources I know when it comes to recruiting and sourcing.  She is a practitioner who is not only rocking this facet of HR – she is also encouraging us all to look at things differently so that we make talent relevant in our organizations !!  She is a regular contributor on Fistful of Talent (another great resource you need in your HR quiver to regularly read !!)

Make sure that you connect with Kelly.  You can find her on Twitter (@SourcerKelly), Linked In and Google + as well as Fistful of Talent.

Recognition isn’t something to be jealous about because the focus is on someone else.  Recognition is an opportunity to share and highlight someone who brings insight, value and new approaches.  Kelly is one of those folks.

So, please join in recognizing Kelly on #TimSackettDay (another great HR practitioner) !!

I hope that today is just the start of you recognizing the great HR pros that are all over the planet.  Remember always . . . We Are Better Together !!

Thank You.

My post title is missing its normal, and grammatically incorrect, double exclamation points ( !! ) for a reason this week.  I had the most amazing experience and just had to share it with you !! (oops, there they are)

In my role at LaRosa’s, I get to do some pretty amazing things as an HR professional.  My job is broad, deep and strategic.  It’s also very hands on.  You see our goal at LaRosa’s is to Reach Out and Make Smiles in all we do with our guests and our Team Members. We started this “radical” new recognition program this year, and this week I was floored by how amazing something so simple can be.

You see, we recognize people on their anniversary whenever they hit a 5-year interval. That may seem like a long timeframe for a restaurant business, but this year alone we’ve recognized a delivery driver who’s been with us 15 years, a server who’s been with us 20 years and even a Shipping Supervisor at our manufacturing plant who’s been with us 40 years !! The tenure at our company is phenomenal.  In fact, I’ll have been with the company 7 years this November and I’m a “newbie” !!

The radical part of our program is that I meet with the Team Member on their shift when they work.  You see we’re open 7 days a week and are open from 11:00am to 11:00pm. Our team members may work weekend nights only – and that’s fantastic !! We used to make all folks who celebrated an anniversary come to a big dinner once a year.  The event was nice, but we made people fit our schedule instead of us meeting theirs. This simple shift has made all the difference in the world !!

This week proved that more than ever !! A person celebrating a 5-year anniversary receives a gift card, a note from our owners and two Smiley faced cookies to thank them for helping us Reach Out and Make Smiles. (We add-on balloons and trays of cookies for folks who hit 10 years or higher.)  I was taking the gift bag out to see Richie for his 5-year anniversary.

When I arrived at our pizzeria, the manager greeted me and I said, “I’m here to see Richie.”  He said, “I know. He’s right over there.”  A young man was standing with his back to me folding small pizza boxes.  I called out his name, but he didn’t acknowledge me or turn around. Then a gentleman standing next to Richie in a flannel shirt, glasses and gray hair pulled into a pony tail that went down to the middle of his back reached out his hand and said, “Hi there.  I’m Richie’s Dad.”  I noticed that Richie was “talking” to himself but wasn’t very coherent.  His Dad gently touched his arm and said, “Richie, someone’s here to see you.” Richie turned around and looked straight through me without really seeing me.  He kept talking.

Richie has profound autism.  I didn’t know that before going out to the store.  Here’s a young man who’s been coming to work for us for 5-years to fold pizza boxes.  I beamed !! “Richie, I wanted to thank you for your time with us at LaRosa’s !! What you do is so great and here’s a little something for you.” I reached into the bag and pulled out the cookies. “Now, these are for you and not for your Dad. (hoping for a laugh – nothing). Please know that you help us Reach Out and Make Smiles.”  His Dad then gently grabbed Richie’s arm and he said, “Tell Steve thank you Richie.”

THANK YOU on speech bubble price labelsHe stopped his chatter, looked at me clearly and quietly said, “Thank You.” He immediately started his chatter again and went back to his boxes because he loves his job !! His Dad broke through one more time and asked Richie to stop for a second and take a picture with me.  We stood together and I put my arm around him.  His Dad said, “Smile !!” Richie had another moment of clarity, smiled, the picture snapped, and back to work he went.

We keep thinking that everything in recognition has to be on a grand scale when that’s just not the case.  HR works incessantly to craft these incredible programs with thousands of dollars and numerous gift levels without ever thinking about getting to people directly.

Try this instead.  Meet people where THEY are and when THEY work !!  Thank them for what THEY do for your company.  It was a lesson we overlooked for too long.  But now, we get to see genuine recognition the way it was always meant to be !!