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Recognition is Essential–and it’s Free!

Most of us are starving for recognition at work.  If you believe that your employees think you dole out recognition liberally, you are almost certainly wrong; many of you are wrong by a wide margin.

I hear you thinking, “How much recognition can a person need?”  The first answer is that it depends on the person, but very few workers go home at night complaining, “I’m sick of all this recognition I’m getting.”  Do you?

The great thing about recognition is that you don’t have to go begging for a budget; it’s free, apart from whatever inexpensive tokens of appreciation you present, like greeting cards or lottery tickets.  Your time isn’t free, of course, but you can get major returns for a surprisingly small investment of your time.

General Guidelines for Doing Recognition Right

What guidelines can I give you for getting the most out of your recognition efforts?

First, you need to come across as sincere…if you aren’t truly grateful to the employee, keep your lips sealed.

Second, only recognize an employee for effort and accomplishments.  Never, ever, tell an employee only, “You’re great!” Keep that up and even the most vane employee will start thinking, “This guy has no clue what I’m contributing.”  I call the “You’re great” kind of recognition “empty calories” because it tastes good but doesn’t nourish motivation.  This is especially true when you tell your whole team, “You’re great!”  as though each of them was equally “great.”  Either you come across as clueless or dishonest.

Third, ask your employees frequently, one-on-one, “What are you working on this week?”  On the spot, express appreciation for the effort they are expending.  If you learn something worth sharing with others, do share it, in front of the first employee, if possible. Follow up with the employee next week and ask, “How did it work out?”

Fourth, make recognition available to all, not just to your top guns.  This is easier than you might think, if you use tracking of “personal bests” as the trigger for recognition.  This lets more employees be recognized and eliminates any incentive to overstate one’s accomplishments.

Which activities or results should be recognized? 

Recognize any “good deeds” you observe personally. Recognize actions that triggered compliments from customers or other employees.  Beyond that, let your employees report their personal bests to you, and recognize them for those.  If they file signature cards and file a record number this week, recognize that!  If they take care of the office plants and haven’t killed one for months, recognize that.  Those folks need recognition as much as your top sales people.

See my next post to learn about a practical day-to-day action plan for doing recognition right.

Dennis Fahey, “The Learning Maverick,” specializes in the creation of affordable custom and semi-custom eLearning experiences.  Contact Dennis at dennisafahey@maverickld.com and at 720/484-9565.