Years ago, in his book, The Pursuit of Wow!, Tom Peters talked about the “bump-into factor.” He said that the objects and ideas we find ourselves surrounded by and bombarded with regularly are what get our attention.

I know the bump factor is my excuse for a messy desk. I have no intention of tucking critical projects efficiently away inside a drawer. When I “bump” into my projects everyday (metaphorically, not literally, I am not that messy), they stay in the forefront of my mind until they are complete.

Similarly, I know that the only vitamins I am every likely to take are the ones sitting on the counter, staring at me each morning. That is the bump factor in action.

There is a second aspect of the bump factor that Peters never addresses. Once something becomes routine and expected it can fade into the background. Over time, I no longer see the vitamins right in front of my face. Funny thing though, if I get a “new” vitamin my enthusiasm for taking all supplements improves, at least for a while.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind. Same Old, Same Old - - Also Out of Mind.

Think for a minute about your organization’s values. Are they fresh and new? Probably not, and they probably shouldn’t be. After all, you don’t change values every week. So how do you deal with the fact that values are probably not in the forefront of your employees’ minds? According to Peters, you make sure they bump into them.

But in today’s workplace with the information overload that most workers face, bombarding employees with the organizations values really won’t make much of a difference. Even if you are proactive and recite your values at every meeting, post them on your website, and list them in your newsletter, in a short time employees will stop paying attention. Your values move into the background.

If you want people thinking and living your values you have to find fresh, new ways for them to bump into what your values mean. Let’s look at how proactive leaders accomplish this.

Strategies for “Bumping”

Recognition is a fantastic way to draw attention to your values. Here are a few examples of recognition increasing the visibility and reinforcing the importance of organizational values.

Wall of Fame. One client, a small retail establishment, wanted to emphasize the importance of impressing the customer. They instituted an Employee Wall of Fame. Every employee's photo appears on the wall. Around each photo there are positive comments received from customers: emails, thank you letters, transcribed phone calls all appear on the Wall of Fame. New additions to the wall are celebrated. Employees in this company constantly “bump into” the reality that their employer appreciates the work they do to impress their customers.
You could use the Wall of Fame concept to reinforce just about any value.

Story-telling. Many impactful leaders use stories to impart values. They choose employee-centered stories that personify the organization’s values. They rely on managers and employees alike to supply these stories, searching them out from all parts of the organization. They do the research necessary to provide the kind of detail that will bring each story alive. When they tell the story, you learn what the employee did, how it is an example of an organizational value, and why the value is so important.

Each story is fresh, new, and real. Employees hear and reflect on the value. They have a tangible example of what it means to live that value. While the story provides recognition for one employee, one team, or one division, it provides reinforcement for all.

Remember “leader” does not have to mean the CEO. Everyone should take the lead in spreading the word about employees who live your values.

Nominated awards. In Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works, readers learn about Microsoft Business Solutions’ peer-nominated award program. The program has an award for each of the company’s core values. The nomination form describes the value. The person making the nomination is expected to go into detail as to why someone personifies the value. When the recipients are announced and the nomination letters read, it provides the same kind of reinforcement as does the story-telling technique.

Wall of Fame, story-telling, and nominated awards are three ways you can provide tangible examples of what you value. You can probably come up with one or two more or your own. Resolve to help the people you work with to “bump into” the organization’s values often and in fresh and innovative ways.

Author's Bio: 

Cindy Ventrice, the author of Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works, addresses audiences on issues ranging from motivating volunteers to keeping the best employees and keeping them productive.

As a consultant for over 20 years, she has worked in a wide range of industries including technology, nonprofit, government, health care, service, trade, education and tourism.

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