Leadership can set the tone in a work culture with several key actions or initiatives that start with establishing a mindset of abundance. What that means from the perspective of employee recognition is calling out contributions in the moment and rewarding people for behaviors that need to be repeated for businesses to be successful.
Here is Randall Diamond’s interview with Authority Magazine.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I didn’t start out in employee recognition. I started my own small business doing IT consulting, which turned out to be an abject failure. I highly advise entrepreneurs not to start a business on credit cards (unless you’re an Austin-based filmmaker named Robert Rodriguez). My path started out licking my wounds from that failed first attempt, then accepting a job as the office administrator for a large rewards and recognition company. There, I had a boss that saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He said I had sales skills. Years later that former boss retired, and the company asked me if I wanted to come back. I said sure for more money and a better title. Over the years, I learned a lot about work technology. All these jobs taught me important lessons about how companies were using work tech software and how they were overpromising to solve business challenges that can’t really be remedied with an employee recognition solution. With career options in front of me, I chose to take a pay cut to make this thing happen at Abundantly.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I recently attended the SHRM national conference and studied the strategies of other organizations. Here’s my hot take: Every single HR software company wants to be the one-stop employee experience app. My feeling is that If you are marching south and everyone else is marching east, you naturally question yourself even if you know you’re going in the right direction. As a Founder, having and committing to a vision is harder than I ever thought it would be. Every step as a leader puts you in constant tension between reassessment and sticking to your vision. I think recognition as a point solution is the future, not an experience application trying to solve every people issue. My hypothesis is that organizations want the tools that will work best for their organization, whether it’s performance management, wellbeing, or employee recognition — but the crux is that these tools all must work together for the buyer to solve their needs with best-in-class (or “best-for-us”) software with flexible integrations to truly deliver on the EX ambitions every organization aspires toward.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Recently I’ve helped launch a new employee recognition and rewards platform, Abundantly, that is a leap forward in a category of workplace technology that hasn’t changed in 15 years. It’s exciting to bring new thinking to how companies, managers, and peers can respond in a way that matches some current realities in the workplace. For example, 80% of the entire workforce is deskless. They don’t sit in front of a computer all day and work in jobs where they cannot access typical work applications. Nearly all employee recognition software is designed for workers who sit behind desks. So we’re thinking of new ways to make meaningful connections and help people feel like they belong, are valued, and can make a difference in the world. What we’re doing with AI and our ability to help employees and managers deliver the right message to the right person at the right time is even more exciting. We’re leading the charge in delivering employee recognition’s next generation.
Ok, let’s jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
This is a new era where employees demand more from their work experience — whether it is a stronger commitment from their employers around salaries, benefits, or well-being support to wanting to be valued for their work contributions in ways that make people feel more connected, purposeful, and as though they are contributing to something bigger. It’s about more than just a paycheck. It is no longer acceptable for people to give so much to their work and feel as though they get so little in return.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
The data is overwhelming that engaged and happy employees lead to a better employee experience and that, in turn, those people are more likely to be more productive and deliver a better customer experience. We’ve seen companies pour billions of dollars into shaping the customer experience and perhaps have over-invested while overlooking how they support their employees. People want several basic things — fair compensation, the right benefits, well-being programs, and recognition for their work. People who don’t feel valued, recognized, and connected in a meaningful way are less likely to be engaged, which leads to poor customer experiences, lower productivity, and lower profits. Worse yet, recognition fits into one of our highest psychological needs above safety and security. That means an employee who is not being applauded for great performance will be negatively impacted psychologically — which leads to poor well-being.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
Leadership can set the tone in a work culture with several key actions or initiatives that start with establishing a mindset of abundance. What that means from the perspective of employee recognition is calling out contributions in the moment and rewarding people for behaviors that need to be repeated for businesses to be successful. When companies, managers, or peers recognize when people do the right thing or go above and beyond, then employees realize that people do care about their work and that it’s rewarded. That creates a culture of abundance as others imitate rewarded behaviors. The best example of this I can offer is that a former boss, who I mentioned earlier in this interview, always found the right balance of providing recognition for great work and giving constructive feedback so I could improve. Second, meet people where they are, meaning if an employee doesn’t sit behind a desk, maybe you send them a text or printed recognition to deliver a shoutout in a way that is more likely to reach them. Third, managers need to personalize their messages. Right message, right person, and in the right manner. I know a woman who was given some surprise recognition by her employer and they asked her to stand up on a chair surrounded by co-workers. While the intent was great, she wore a dress and felt self-conscious the whole time. It undermined what could have been a defining moment in her work experience. Fourth, align your employee recognition celebrations with corporate values to demonstrate your commitment to company culture and other communities. Finally, tie your rewards program to philanthropic giving as a way for employees to make work about more than just themselves.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
An abundance mindset can have a ripple effect. By giving people personal, meaningful recognition for their contributions at work we are building a culture of appreciation that people want to model with each other and beyond their working hours. When we recognize people at work for going beyond and helping a company thrive and grow, they often want to pay it forward and appreciate others. That can extend into our family experience and how we engage people in the community, and it builds an abundance of gratitude. Recognition at work, done right, can lift the world.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
Constructive feedback. Letting people know they will have to change to get from where they are to where they want to go. I’ve had an executive coach that helped me balance empathy with providing clear, constructive guidance. People often need useful feedback, not pats on the back. What I’ve learned about employee recognition as I’ve developed a management style is that it can change people’s lives at work. But, it won’t change the world — solve climate change, end wars abroad, or repair social divides. Employee recognition paired with a constructive feedback management style is how I aspire to be a better leader. I like to tell people that “if you want to get to this place in your job or career, this is what you need to do even if it is outside your comfort zone.” People can be demotivated by getting recognition that doesn’t provide clear expectations.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful toward who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
A former boss I had at O.C. Tanner. To say he changed my life was an understatement. It started with an interview where he said you are not exactly what I pictured. At some point, he informed me that the job I took was usually filled by older women. He took a bet on me because he saw something he could work with. Neither of us knew where that road would head. He was there to coach. He was there to drive me. When people say they leave their manager, it’s true. When people leave an organization it’s for a lack of appreciation. I think that means having faith in people — seeing what’s inside of them and giving them the opportunity and support they need to thrive.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
What I described earlier about creating abundance through recognition that people are likely to carry into their personal lives and communities is a huge part of what motivates me to build a better employee recognition approach. That will bring more goodness to the world as people pay recognition forward. As our company grows, we know that forward-thinking companies will gravitate toward our approach to social giving as part of the rewards part of our solution. Many people don’t want gift cards or to choose from a list of things. They might want to give back to a personal cause or organization in their community. That will bring more goodness to the world.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I think there is some question as to whether Mahatma Gandhi really said this quote, but it is often attributed to him: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I try to live by a version of that and constantly ask myself, “What would the person I want to be do?”
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
In one word: abundance. If we all had a mindset of abundance, we could abandon the prevalent zero-sum game perspective that so many people have. What I mean by that is when one person benefits, it doesn’t mean others are left out. We need to inspire a radical shift in thinking that flips that mindset around to one of recognition that spurs more recognition so that we all benefit and thrive.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!