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Getting Recognition Right

When my son was little and we went out to run errands together, I kept up a constant stream of ‘atta boy’ chatter – just like his little league coach. “Great job helping me with the cereals Alex. You always know the best ones to choose.” “Good work picking out a lime Al, now put it back please.” It continued as we went to the office supply store and the dry cleaners. He would do something and I’d respond with some positive affirmation. The little league coach and I were both in Management 101. “You are awesome. You’re so special. Nice job setting the table. Good catch. Excellent hit.” It’s almost automatic – reflexive praise for doing the right thing and, in many cases, the pretty-close- to-the- right thing. Now there are employees who have come up in this culture of constant ‘atta boys and ‘atta girls.’ It makes the job of the manager very challenging and a bit exhausting. Everyone expects ongoing praise. So how then can the extraordinary achievement be acknowledged?

Linking Recognition and Reward
It’s pretty common for recognition and financial reward to be connected in the
workplace. Do something above and beyond the usual and get a gift card. The team
achieves a goal and is rewarded with pizza. The problem with this type of recognition is that it tells employees that they are worth something monetary for their efforts on behalf of the organization and that misses the whole point of recognition – it’s not about the money. People crave recognition for their extra effort. They want feedback in the form of, acknowledgement from the boss and colleagues. People feel good when they know that their effort has been seen, appreciated, and maybe even celebrated.
Yes – I know money is important. But it is not recognition. Using money for recognition is a short term solution (studies say the motivation due to an increase in pay lasts about two pay periods). Constant praise (even for average work) is not the answer either.


Yes – I know money is important. But it is not recognition. Using money for recognition is a short term solution (studies say the motivation due to an increase in pay lasts about two pay periods). Constant praise (even for average work) is not the answer either.

So how can managers really nurture talent? Recognition of extra effort.

Here is how recognition is done:

1) ASAP – Be timely whoever possible. Sooner is always better. Catch people doing
exemplary work and acknowledge their efforts.  It’s about extra effort and not expected effort. (Getting to work on time doesn’t count). Be specific and descriptive (Focus on observable behaviors and outcomes).

2) Connect the Dots – Recognition is most effective when it’s given in the context of a larger goal. Someone who lands a big project by putting in extra effort needs to know you have noticed and that you understand their efforts in obtaining the team’s success. It matters.

3) Genuine, Not Reflexive – You have to be sincere when recognition is given. It’s not automatic. It’s the difference between a real person and a BOT.

4) Matches the Scale – Recognition should match the effort and the result, otherwise it loses its meaning. (So when the bat makes contact with the ball it’s a good hit, not a great hit. If the ball sails beyond the fences, THAT’S a great hit!)

5) Tied to THEIR Perception of Value – People should have some idea of their value
to the organization. Money is often appropriate but it’s not the most effective motivator. Treat employees as valued team members rather than expenses.

6) Sometimes it’s Public – Appreciation and recognition are major factors that motivate employees to work harder and aim higher. By applauding employees for their achievements publicly, it can stimulate everyone to work harder. Why not create an award or plaque that recognizes not only the effort of going above and beyond, but one that recognizes impressive results or a new way to get something done? It might inspire and motivate others.

There are plenty of studies that indicate that employees who are rewarded for going that extra mile are more productive, more fulfilled at work, show greater loyalty, and are eager to contribute to the organization in an impactful and meaningful way.

Don’t underestimate the power of recognition.

And don’t forget –

Executive Recognition – When an executive leader recognizes exceptional effort, the value is increased. A shout-out in a meeting, a personal note, or a company-wide or team-wide email makes a big impression. You’d be surprised at how much a hand- shake, personal call, or lunch out to express appreciation creates motivational currency.

Team vs Individual – Even when the team meets its goal, individuals want and need to be recognized for their unique contribution to the teams’ success. Recognition is
priceless and the status that comes from being recognized is often worth more than
cash. It can increase employee loyalty, enhance performance, and generate success.
What does recognition mean to you?

How do you successfully recognize your employees and colleagues? I’d love to know.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 19th, 2018 at 3:16 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.