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CK Mohan of Yum Restaurants for column on people issues

All you need is a little appreciation



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Thanking a team member is one of the simplest things to do, but is also often the most forgotten action. C.K. Mohan, senior director of HR at Yum! Restaurants, reminds us of the niceties that make for a fun workplace.

Everyone likes to feel appreciated. But is it not strange that something so easy to do – thanking a subordinate, co-worker or an associate – is often the most forgotten action in organisations today? People are so caught up in a rat race to move ahead that basic niceties are frequently forgotten.

Recognition may be a formal process of appreciating others, but at its core it is a way of telling employees you care, and what they do matters to you.

When people are recognised, they feel good about themselves and the work they do. It is one of the most simple and powerful tools of culture that exist today for organisations to create a fun workplace.

Recognition, when executed well, can have a snowball effect, creating an environment brimming with positive energy.

Our employees at Yum! have an opportunity to make a difference to the millions of customers they serve every day. Having operated restaurants for years, we know that our customers’ experiences will never exceed that of our employees.

For this reason, our “dynasty model” starts with our people. We know that people don’t just play a “role” in our success – they are the reason for our success. Therefore, when Yum! Brands was created, David Novak, our chairman and CEO, talked about building a new type of culture – a recognition culture.

At the beginning, it was not easy. Not everyone was comfortable standing in front of others to recognise a colleague. Others wondered why someone should be recognised simply for doing their job.

While the practice of saying thank you and recognising good work was not new to us, he wanted it to be the central pillar of our unique culture called “how we win together”. Recognition at Yum! is about finding ways to celebrate the achievements of others and having lots of fun doing it. We celebrate things big and small and our famous recognition culture means that everyone counts.

Culture can only be created when it is leader-led. Novak personally models a recognition culture in a light-hearted way with his own Yum! Award – a set of chomping dentures with legs, presented to all those who “walk the talk” of leadership.

All leaders in the company are encouraged to have their personal recognition awards to be given out liberally. Following my passion for basketball, my award is called the “Most Valuable Player,” which is given to people who make a difference in the workplace.

At the beginning, it was not easy. Not everyone was comfortable standing in front of others or at large office gatherings to recognise a colleague. Others wondered why someone should be recognised simply for doing their job. We also realised that it was frowned upon in some cultures.

But with our leaders walking the talk and recognising employees at every opportunity, it started to gather momentum. To make it stick, our values and recognition became an integral part of our people capability process, where leaders received annual feedback through the 360-degree process on how they were faring on our core values.

Recognition, when executed well, can have a snowball effect, creating an environment brimming with positive energy.

Our franchise partners loved the positive energy all of this was creating in their teams and they embraced it wholeheartedly. “Catching people doing things right” became our mantra and is now part of the Yum! DNA. To us, recognition is all in the presentation. Let me share some ideas with you.

1. Make it a big deal: Gather people around and choose a time that is free of job conflicts.

2. Be personal and sincere: Plan your comments ahead of time. Tell people what the employee has done and how this action helped you or your business.

3. Create fanfare: Make it fun. Bring a cake, camera, anything that will make it into a celebration.

Today at Yum!, there is no official event, office gathering or team event without some form of recognition, and the most rewarding thing for me is seeing even junior employees who were once shy, now standing up and recognising their colleagues in front of others.

What is amazing is that recognition does not have to be a big award. A heartfelt thank you can go a long way in making a colleague feel great and pave the way for building a lasting relationship. Let’s embrace this culture and make a difference in people’s lives.

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