By Cindy Mielke, VP Marketing, Marketing Innovators
Although employee recognition is typically associated with rewarding years of service or outstanding performance, more targeted approaches have greater financial and cultural impacts. Every organization wants highly motivated and engaged employees who go above and beyond. A more nuanced approach to employee recognition can take service awards to new levels and deliver multiple benefits to your organization.
Employee recognition is much more than saying “thank you.” Its impact can be felt on multiple psychological levels, including the feeling of being wanted and needed. Employees want to feel that their work and dedication to a company matter. No one wants to feel they’re just taking up space in a cubicle. Gallup research shows that positive employee engagement efforts can help reduce absenteeism and turnover, and showing employees they are a valued asset is step one in the right direction.
Every employee has been there at some time: A growing task list, deadlines creeping up, and little motivation to get it all completed. This is where employee recognition can shine. Again, by providing employees with the sense that they are needed and appreciated, you are increasing their motivation. This basic level of recognition, combined with more advanced recognition methods, keeps the top performers where they belong, at the top.
If you already have an employee recognition program, you are ahead of the game, but is your program working? The next step may be to refine and update your recognition program so your organization can truly benefit from the effort and investment. The question is, how to do this? How can you get beyond the standard service awards and anniversaries, and turn recognition into an action that is both meaningful and motivating for employees?
A recent article in Forbes speaks to the differences in generations and cultural expectations. Today, recognition is expected, even for non-exceptional actions. People look to be rewarded for things as simple as showing up to work on time or putting in a full 8 hours. How then do we avoid the pitfalls of this expected, routine recognition for ordinary action and find a meaningful way to tie reward and recognition to those achievements that are worthy and extraordinary?
The monetary connection to recognition has been an automatic choice, a go-to method. To receive a deeper level of benefit that can come from sincere recognition, look beyond monetary rewards and get to the human connection – reward employees in ways that connect with them emotionally and psychologically.
- Say it like you mean it. Authentic praise and sincere gratitude can go a long way, particularly if presented in the right context and on the right scale. Ensuring that the recognition is equivalent to or on level with the effort or results is crucial. If what you say isn’t perceived as genuine, the effect can be lost.
- Get Creative. Thank a salesperson’s family after a long bout of travel necessary to close an important deal. Say “thank you” with an experience or award that connects the employee to one of their passions like a cooking class for the serious cook, golf balls for a golf enthusiast, or a tennis lesson for the aspiring Roger Federer or Venus Williams in your office. Take the time to hand write a note that sincerely thanks a team member for an exceptional outcome. Think differently when it comes time to recognize an employee. Making it personal will go a long way.
- Spread the word. Publicizing noteworthy individual or team achievements is a great way to give merit or praise. Use the Intranet, email, meetings, newsletters or bulletin boards. Be sure to communicate why employees are being recognized and be sure to focus on recognizing results versus activity.
- Make recognition a team activity. Have employees participate in designing the program. Ask employees to recognize their peers for immediate, ongoing and simple recognition. Offer and encourage opportunities for peer-to-peer, manager-to-peer and peer-to-manager recognition. Social channels used for immediate peer-to-peer recognition can be very powerful as well as help with recruiting.
- Tie the achievement to the bigger picture. Take the time to explain to the employee why their achievement is valuable to the company. It’s inherent to work harder when you know that your work matters, so understanding the bigger, company picture can help give perspective and value to an employee’s efforts no matter where they stand on the organizational chart.
Leverage the human connection to help your organization inspire, motivate and excel at workforce performance.
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