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7 Employee Recognition Tips

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Torso of woman in red dress holding up a sign that says, thank you.

Recognition Can Be a Simple Thank You

Tatiana Popova

Organizations deal with staff recognition as if it is a finite thing - easy to use up. If something is easy to use up, you must use it sparingly, if at all. After all, hoarding means that you’ll never run out. You can save it for when you really need it.

Guy Kawasaki, in his book, Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions (compare prices) says that, “There are two kinds of people and organizations in the world: eaters and bakers. Eaters want a bigger slice of an existing pie; bakers want to make a bigger pie. Eaters think that if they win, you lose, and if you win, they lose. Bakers think that everyone can win with a bigger pie.”

Wouldn’t you rather be a baker? I would. Employee recognition is such an effective way to reach the hearts and minds of your staff – to engage and to retain them. Vow to do more staff recognition, bake a bigger pie, using these 7 tips.

7 Recognition Tips

  • Pay attention to and engage people in conversation to demonstrate your sincere interest. Call people by name. When you arrive at work, say, hello, happy to see you. Good morning, Michael. Ask people how they enjoyed their weekend. Ask whether Alice had a good lunch. John will appreciate that you want to know how his annual college advisory board weekend turned out. Ask Tabitha how her daughter’s field hockey championship game went.

    Participating in courteous conversation is a powerful relationship-building tool. Staff will find the fact that you take time to engage them in conversation rewarding and recognizing. You also set an example when you establish courteous interaction as an expectation in your workplace.

  • Never underestimate the value of sharing your time and building a relationship with staff. They appreciate your genuine interest in their ideas and thoughts about their jobs. They like bouncing ideas back and forth with you and look for your sincere input on their projects and goals.

    The role of mentor and coach is powerful in training your organization’s culture and expectations. It is also a significant source of experiential knowledge, history, work approaches, and on-the-job training. You are challenged by your new Gen Y staff to pay attention to them, recognize them, and provide exciting work. To provide constructive criticism, that they will actually implement, you must have a relationship with them first.

  • Use positive words to create a gracious, polite workplace in which staff feel recognized and rewarded. Say thank you. Show your appreciation for their hard work and contributions. And, don't forget to say please often as well. You did a nice job on that presentation, Jim. Those charts were easy to follow and gave me a great overview of your progress on the project, Elizabeth. Social niceties and compliments do belong at work. A more gracious, polite workplace is appreciated by all. Here are 40 ways to say thank you at work.

  • One of the best forms of recognition is to provide opportunities for a contributing employee. Opportunities can take many forms. But, all of them are outside of the normal day-to-day requirements of their job plan. Employees appreciate chances for training and cross-training. They want to participate on a special committee where their talents are noticed. They’d like to lead a team that is pursuing an important objective.

    They are happy to attend professional association meetings and proud to represent your organization at civic and philanthropic events. They’d appreciate the green light relative to implementing an idea they have for increasing morale in your workplace. They are eager to stop doing portions of their job that have become rote in favor of new goals and assignments that stretch their skills and build on their abilities.

  • Employees want to know that they have done a good job – and, especially, that you noticed. Employees want to be thanked and appreciated, every day, it can sometimes seem. But, a leader of employees makes other people feel important and appreciated, so frequent recognition sends a powerful message. The foundation of this successful relationship is the leader’s ability to make people feel important. This is critical when a manager’s success is dependent on whether employees want to follow him.

    In addition to words of appreciation, a manager’s actions speak loudly to employees about their value. Keep your commitments to employees. If you have a weekly meeting with each of your reporting staff members, only cancel this meeting in a real emergency. Any message of disrespect that you send can completely undermine all of the rest of the energy you have invested in effective recognition. Ask yourself regularly, is this how I would treat someone who is important to me? Your answer to this question speaks loudly about how your employees view you.

  • You can magnify the value of the recognition provided to employees. Recognition is more powerful when it comes to the employee in several forms simultaneously. For example, you can provide a small gift when you verbally thank and praise an employee. You can write a note to the employee that documents the reasons why he or she is receiving a gift certificate. You can name the employees publicly at a meeting and tell the other attendees what they did to deserve recognition.

    Other methods for magnifying recognition include: sending out a company-wide email announcement, and publishing the employees’ names in the company newsletter with a description of their contributions. Bulletin board announcements in high traffic areas are also effective. Several of these methods have the added advantage of reinforcing the type of behavior and contributions that you’d like to see with the rest of the employees.

  • When you recognize employees verbally, write out the recognition, too. No matter what kind of recognition you give to an employee, it’s easy, as time passes, to forget the words, eat the treat, spend the money, and make the bonus part of their weekly spending plan. This is why you want to accompany recognition with a letter or note that spells out what the employee did, why it was important, and how the actions served your organization.

    Give a copy of the letter to the employee and to the department head or CEO, depending on the size of your company. Place a copy in the employee’s file so that the positive efforts of the employee are highlighted in this file. Employees save these notes forever. They pin them up on the walls of their cubicles, tent the notecard on their file cabinet, or work station, and pin them to their cork boards. I’ve even seen a note taped to a many ton metal press. When the shouting is over, they supply the employee with a record of his or her achievement.

Use these seven tips to improve the quantity and the quality of the recognition that you provide for employees. While I can’t guarantee a transformed workplace, I can guarantee that your workplace culture will more positively support your ability to achieve business goals. Your employees will be happier and more engaged. Doesn’t that sound like a win all around?

Looking for information about what is important in a formal recognition program? 6 Keys to a Successful Recognition Program

More About Saying Thank You and Employee Recognition

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