Leading Inspiration: Q & A About Recognition

Cover of "1001 Ways to Reward Employees"

Q: Recognition of employees is very important. I know it improves morale, efficiency and productivity. Do you have tips about how best to recognize employees?

A: Thanks for a great question. Few companies could argue that the biggest asset to their organization is the employees. Employees are motivated by many different things, but feeling appreciated ranks high on the list.

People naturally want to feel valued and appreciated, not only when contributions are significant, but anytime of the year. Verbal praise and recognition is easy and delivers a big impact. Likewise, small tokens of appreciation stand as reminders that individuals are indeed appreciated. These efforts made by managers can quickly improve employee morale.


Recognizing Employees – Worth the Effort

While individuals may know that they were a significant contributor in the last big project, receiving a compliment about the work adds more to the accomplishment. Recognition and rewards offered should come from an employee’s manager. Recognition should be specific and should immediately follow the accomplishment being recognized.

Recognition and rewards for valued work does not have to be difficult or cost a lot of money. The more a manager practices the art of appreciation and recognition, the easier it will become. A personalized note about a specific accomplishment can be a quick and easy way to let a valued employee know their work was significant.

Employee Appreciation – Make it Personal

Appreciation and recognition should be personal and sincere. Managers should look for opportunities to show appreciation to employees and even encourage employees to recognize the efforts of their co-workers.

Many managers do not feel comfortable recognizing employee’s efforts and some managers who want to do a better job with recognition simply do not know where to start. Starting small is a good first step and seeing the positive effects of the efforts may create a snowball effect.

Bob Nelson, a leading expert on employee recognition and author of the bestselling book, “1001 Ways to Reward Employees” suggests that some of the best forms of recognition (personal or written praise, public recognition, positive voice mail or e-mail messages, etc.) require very little time to do. In the article, “Personalizing Recognition,” Nelson recommends the following:

Pleasure call. Call an employee into your office just to thank him or her; don’t discuss any other issue during the visit.

Add a note. Add a line to a letter received, a reportee’s paycheck or bonus, or just all on its own to say what you liked and why.

Join in. Help your employees when they are under pressure to finish a job. But don’t be the “boss.” Ask how you can help, and then do what you’re told to help out.

Change of pace. Reward a top performer by assigning him or her to an exciting new project. If that’s not possible, give the person more variety in his or her existing job. Giving employees new opportunities to perform, learn and grow as a form of recognition and thanks is highly motivating.

Physical evidence. Establish a place to display photos, memos and other evidence of progress on a major project. Don’t wait for people to set something up themselves, and make it clear that everyone is free to post positive items about others and to sign their names as a special tribute.

Blast of pride. Whenever employees achieve a major success, allow them to blow whistles or clang bells. Each department can have its own signal of success. It gives everyone in the place a sense of pride and camaraderie that can’t be achieved in other ways.

Names in lights. Recognize people on your e-mail bulletin board or marquee. Think how little effort on your part can give them a thrill that will last all day, as others also see the messages and add their own.

Rewards and recognition can even become a more formal program with an organization. Implementing a rewards and recognition program can be easy or can start small and get bigger or more significant as time goes on. Ask employees for ideas and implement any of those ideas that are plausible.

Recognizing employees for their efforts and contributions can really increase morale and make a big impact on any organization. With little effort and no up-front costs, taking the time to recognize and appreciate employees for their contributions is something that managers can start right away with significant effects.


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