Employee Recognition Best Practices

Leanne Buehler, Ph.D., Managing Partner & VP of Consulting SolutionsEmployee Engagement0 Comments

Recognition is one of the most common drivers of employee engagement. Recognition can happen both in formal and informal ways, yet when we ask employees how to best ensure they feel appreciated, the most common response is, “appreciate the small, daily wins.” So often we get one thing done and then are off to the next task without stopping to take a moment to appreciate the good work that was accomplished. Infusing your culture with good recognition habits can help ensure that we stop to appreciate the small wins as we go. Here are a few tips for incorporating recognition in to your day-to-day culture.

Align recognition with behaviors that support the vision and values. You get what you pay attention to. If you positively comment on how an effort reinforces values or goals, it sends the message of what values are important. For example, you may say something like, “I know it was outside of your comfort zone to have that conversation, but you really modeled a positive way of addressing conflict. Well done.” Or, “You really took the initiative to address that situation, even though it was outside of your normal responsibilities. Thank you.”

Connect recognition to the work that needs to get done. Use recognition to reinforce the most important priorities. For example, talk to employees about the most important things that need to be accomplished in the next 6 months. Then, identify how you will know if you are successful and what behaviors it will take to get there. Ask employees how they would like to be recognized for meeting those goals.

Design recognition for all personality types. Recognition is often designed to match the preferences of extroverts. Be sure that your approach to recognition is also meaningful for the less vocal achievers. Have one-on-one conversations with each member of your team and ask them how they like to be recognized.

Make it visible. Having a visual that represents progress toward goals and the associated rewards can be very motivating. Our clients use everything from sophisticated online dashboards to hands-on visuals to track progress toward milestones. For example: drop a marble in a jar or ring a bell to recognize wins such as bringing on a new client, meeting a safety goal, or receiving positive customer feedback. The visual or audio creates excitement, camaraderie, and keeps goals front-and-center.

Leverage spot-rewards. Simple, yet fun and authentic spot rewards can be a great way to recognize the important behaviors that happen every day. Be creative with logos, themes, and designs. We’ve seen clients pass out cheese heads, sheriff badges, and rubber chickens as a means of recognition. Catch people in the act of great performance and recognize with a fun yet meaningful token of appreciation.

Keep them guessing. Unexpected means of recognition are sometimes the most meaningful. A few ideas we love:
Thank the significant other of an employee who has made a big contribution by sending a letter, or even better, pizza!
Reward employees with an opportunity to have a memorable experience via services like wish list (https://enjoywishlist.com)
Make a donation in the name of the employee to a charity that is meaningful to him/her
Allow the employee to pick their schedule as a means of saying thank you
Deliver a hand written thank you that offers specific examples of work well done and a description of the impact

Encourage peer-to-peer recognition. End department meetings or all-hands meetings with an opportunity for any employee to say thank you or offer recognition. Encourage recognition both within the team and across departments or functions.
Set recognition reminders. As a leader it is easy to get busy and forget about the importance of recognition. If giving positive feedback is not your natural tendency, try setting a calendar reminder for every couple of weeks to ask yourself the question, “What great results or behaviors have happened that I should stop to recognize?” Use the reminder to keep recognition front-of-mind.

Set recognition reminders. As a leader it is easy to get busy and forget about the importance of recognition. If giving positive feedback is not your natural tendency, try setting a calendar reminder for every couple of weeks to ask yourself the question, “What great results or behaviors have happened that I should stop to recognize?” Use the reminder to keep recognition front-of-mind.

What do you do to recognize employees?

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