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Saunderson: Stop Trying to Create a Culture of Recognition

Posted By Jess Myers, RPI, Monday, July 31, 2017

We hear the word “culture” tossed around plenty, especially in the context of companies, and the drive to create a culture of recognition. It sounds nice, but it’s a fruitless use of time, when one considers the nature of cultures, says one prominent recognition expert.

Roy Saunderson, the Chief Learning Officer for Rideau Recognition Solutions, admits that he’s always been a big believer in culture, but he disagrees with efforts to create a culture of recognition.

“I believe a culture is what your organization values, the explicit ways in which we do things in an organization, and that culture drives recognition giving practices and use of the programs,” Saunderson said in a recent interview. “I think you can only have one culture.”

Having been in this industry for more than 20 years, Saunderson acknowledges this idea is a departure from earlier in his career. He once taught the idea that you could create a separate culture of recognition in an organization. Today his beliefs have evolved.

“When I first started I used to have a whole workshop on how to create a real recognition culture, and actually several years later I had to refute that, and say that I don’t believe what I once said and I need to tell you why,” said Saunderson, who has been a member of RPI’s Best Practices Committee for a decade. “The post I wrote said ‘How many cultures can you have?’ I believe culture drives recognition. The organizational culture drives recognition, either for the good or bad, and recognition reinforces that culture.”

Saunderson believes the clearest example of culture driving recognition is in the healthcare industry, and knows the territory, having been a Speech-Language Pathologist earlier in his career.

“Healthcare is notorious for not doing a good job in recognition. When you look at the culture at a healthcare institution, they are so focused on patient care, which is wonderful. The irony is that the caregivers and nurses are so focused on serving that same patient, where does that recognition come from?” he asked, rhetorically, noting that the most common recognition healthcare professionals receive is from their patients. “And so no amount of culture is going to make that change, unless we’re saying ‘We have some of the best employees to serve our patients, now start putting the employee first.’ Patient satisfaction is an outcome of how we treat our employees, rather than the focus.”

Saunderson’s idea is a simple one: stop trying to create a culture. Instead focus on employee recognition, and from that engagement will flow. Employees will see your culture in the way they are treated, and that will reflect in the way your organization works, for better or worse.

“So how you organize your culture, your values, and the whole purpose for why you are in business, will just emanate throughout the whole organization,” he said. “Your people will know whether you care about them or not. Learn from the challenges of the healthcare industry, where employees often think that the organization focuses so much on the patient, they forget about us.”


A video sample of Roy Saunderson’s presentation on “Real Recognition, Real Results” can be found here.
“Real Recognition, Real Results” can be found here.

Tags:  best practices  communications  Culture  recognition strategy 

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