Note: The review that follows is of the updated edition (published on April 7, 2009) that includes results from a major global study in which more than 200, 000 managers participated.
Various surveys conducted among millions of workers indicate that "feeling appreciated" is of great importance to them. In fact, it is ranked #1, #2, or #3, together with "doing work that has value" and "working for an employer I respect." Nonetheless, believe it or not, a recent study conducted by the O. C. Tanner Company indicates that 74% of leaders worldwide still don't practice recognition with their employees. In this book, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton explain why there is reluctance "to embrace the power of recognition." At this point, I need to make a distinction between formal (institutional) recognition and informal (situational) recognition. Probably no other organization makes more effective use of formal recognition than does Mary Kay. With all due respect to pink Cadillacs, the fact remains that this company has identified hundreds of other ways to say "Well-done!" and celebrate outstanding performance.
With regard to informal recognition, I wish to share a personal experience that occurred when I arrived at a client meeting (it is a Fortune 50 company) and was being escorted from the reception area to the CEO's office by his administrative assistance. We walked past one office and I stopped, having noticed through the open door a framed "something" on the wall. It was the office of a senior vice president and he was not there. "Everyone notices that," she said. "Here, take a look." We entered the office and I examined what was under the glass: more than a dozen multi-colored Post-its, each personally inscribed with brief, congratulatory comments addressed to "Warren" for a winning proposal, an excellent presentation, etc. "He's so proud of those little notes that he went out and got them all framed." I cannot say that "Warren" would rather have the Post-its than a new Cadillac but that's beside the point anyway. Everyone appreciates being recognized. They welcome appreciative recognition. The 74% of managers who deny or ignore those facts are making a very, very serious mistake.
With regard to this book's title, Gostick and Elton explain that in business, "a carrot is something used to inspire and motivate an employee. It's something to be desired. In fact, it tops the list of things employees say they most want from their employers [or at least is among the top three]. Simply put, when employees know what their strengths and potential will be praised and recognized, they are significantly more likely to produce value." In this context, recognition's function is to serve as an incentive and the reward (as the Post-its example indicates) need not be monetary. "In fact, "Gostick and Elton note, "one-third of the people you give a cash award to will use that money to pay bills."
They organize their material within three Parts: The Accelerator (i.e. leadership needed to establish and then sustain a "carrot culture"), Carrot Culture (i.e. its design, "building blocks," and operations), and Managing by Carrots (i.e. cetermining the nature, extent, and funding of awards). They provide managers with a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective program by which to "engage their people, retain talent, and accelerate performance." According to recent Gallup research, only 29% of the U.S. workforce is positively engaged (i.e. loyal, enthusiastic, and productive) whereas 55% is passively disengaged. That is, they are going through the motions, doing only what they must, "mailing it in," coasting, etc. What about the other 16%? They are "actively disengaged," doing whatever they can to undermine their employer's efforts to succeed.
So, a combination of formal (institutional) and informal (situational) recognition "accelerates business results. It amplifies the effect of every action and quickens every process. It also heightens your ability to see employee achievements, sharpens your communication skills, creates cause for celebration, boosts, trust between you and your employees, and improves accountability." Those who read this book and then decide to introduce or revise a recognition program will need the convincing, indeed compelling support for doing so that Gostick and Elton provide in their brilliant book. I presume to add that establishing and then sustaining a carrot culture requires recognition initiatives that create a climate of appreciation. Don't wait until you have recruited an army of those who share your vision, don't wait until a full-blown program is in place. Show your appreciation now, at every appropriate opportunity, if only with a brief expression of praise as I do now with Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton: Well-done!