Monday, September 29, 2014

Escaping the firing squad

I love employee recognition. I despise 90 percent of the photos taken to recognize great employees.

HR leaders love to talk about employee engagement. If they wish to do more than talk, they'll advocate for a communications person to strengthen internal communications. 

One strategy: beef up employee recognition programs. Some organizations do employee recognition well. Hospitals and health care providers do a good job of honoring their employees. Colleges and corporations, less so. 

Often, someone will line up a group of employees for a recognition photo that's destined for a local newspaper, company newsletter, or website. The photo itself? It's often rushed, unposed, and you wonder if the organization is recognizing people, or lining them up for a firing squad.

Look at these actual employee recognition photos, and consider the following suggestions:

1. The Line-Up: a non-motion perp walk featuring a casual, backlit gaggle of employees who don't know where to stand or look. You or the photographer need to take ownership of this shot, and make it less deadly. Try dividing this ensemble; seat a few in a front row, and move in closer so it doesn't look as if they're awaiting the firing squad. And crop! (My rule: no head-to-toe shots. No one's shoes are that photogenic, except perhaps on "Sex and the City.")

2. Lighting from Hell: Every camera built in the last 10 years has an LCD screen that lets you review your photos. This shot, with sunlight creating weird reverse goatees on the award winners' faces, screams "delete." A simple fill-in flash would have made this photo 90% better. Digitally removing Lefty's creepy hand on the shoulder would take care of the other 10%.

3. Waving Your Award: Not the most flattering image,but Mr. Vest not only waves his big white envelope in front of a co-worker's face -- it's an ENVELOPE, not the award itself. Did no one tell him it's OK to open the envelope? Again, own the shoot: it's your job to pose the subjects, get the certificate out of the envelope, and tell Mr. Vest not to wave it around. Award winner should hold their award in front of them, at chest level, angled slightly so the camera flash doesn't wash them out.

4. Too Many Faces: you want to accommodate all honorees, but large group photos guarantee that someone's face will be obscured. Or, your shot will include pieces of mismatched lobby furniture. (Stripes and patterns? Hope it's not a rehab clinic.) Recommendation: Don't Be Stingy. There's no rule that says you must cram every honoree into one photo. Break up this crowd into three separate group photos, and make certain every face is clearly visible in each picture.

Honoring employees' achievements and hard work shouldn't be an afterthought. Some organizations do a fine job of celebrating their workforce. I've never visited Liberty University in Virginia, but I'm very impressed with the scrolling, 24-image online gallery that mixes posed and casual shots of the event where its employees were recognized. Even the posed group photos -- captured from a balcony, so every face (not their footwear) is visible -- are fresh and appealing.

This online real estate costs almost nothing, but its pass-along value is limitless. More organizations could do this with in-house resources. It's a fine way to engage employees and their families. And avoid the tired "line-up" photo.