When was the last time someone at work gave you recognition for a job well done? Count yourself lucky if you can remember, and extremely fortunate if employee recognition is frequent and regular.
Recognition has an impact on everything from employee retention and churn to customer satisfaction, increased productivity, cost savings and even improved safety. Yet it’s still common for employees to feel their best efforts are consistently ignored.
A well-executed employee recognition program is one piece of the foundation that creates long-lasting, sustainable employee engagement within organizations. TalentMap research, however, consistently finds that in the highest engaged (and performing) organizations, performance is taken for granted. If someone does a really good job on a continuous basis, it becomes part of the norm. Employee recognition takes a back seat. Similarly, in organizations with the lowest engagement, people don’t feel appreciated or valued. It’s one of the most important reasons why they leave.
It all boils down to generational culture. Think about a parent-child relationship. We tend to treat our children the way we were treated as children ourselves. The same is true in the workplace. Managers treat employees the way they’re treated as employees.
Most managers in the workplace today are of the “traditionalist” Boomer and X generations. The old guard bosses who oversaw their careers expected effort. They valued long hours from employees. They understood recognition as nomination-based, incentivized rewards. Consequently, Boomers and Gen Xers didn’t expect acknowledgement for anything short of extraordinary.
With Millennials and soon to follow Gen Z, there’s a divergence. Think back to the baseball diamonds and soccer fields in the 1990s and early 2000s. Every child got a medal just for being on the team. These generations expect reward for showing up, for participation; that’s how they were raised.
How Do You Blend Old and New Schools of Thought?
Globally there’s a cultural shift going on. We’re moving from an environment that was all about top-down command and control where the boss would tell you what to do, to managing outcomes with everybody working toward one common goal as a collective group. From basement to boardroom, boardroom to basement it’s a free flow of information and ideas. It’s about interacting with one another versus managing.
Watch the full webinar on employee recognition:
A lot of people, however, confuse employee recognition with rewards. When it was top-down and reward or incentive-based only a few would get recognized. It was obscure, unfair. Usually, the sales teams were the ones getting all the accolades and perks alongside senior leadership. The rank and file and the people on the front lines making a difference every day were left out of that loop.
A Thank You is Boundless and Endless
Interestingly, when today’s employees are asked what they value the most, ongoing recognition far outpaces extrinsic motivators like incentives and bonuses and reward programs. What they’re really craving is acknowledgement and feedback and recognition.
- 20% most value a 5% bonus
- 32% value above & beyond recognition
- 49% say ongoing recognition is valued most
How do you create a recognition-rich culture? It all starts with leadership buy-in that “culture eats strategy for lunch.” Tom Short, President and Co-Founder of Kudos offers this summary of the types of employee recognition initiatives and tools that leading businesses are using to feed into and boost engagement.
Nine Great Ways to Appreciate and Celebrate Your People
- Recognition is a renewable resource. Use it to acknowledge behaviors that drive success not just results.
- Be timely with your recognition, focus on the individual, be specific with your praise, associate how the behavior will lead to desired results or goals, and if possible align it to your core values.
- Amplify a culture of recognition by bringing in a peer-to-peer system where everybody can recognize anyone. Peer-to-peer recognition allows everyone to become keepers of your culture and provides insights you might not be getting through surveys – insights not possible when only a few are allowed to recognize the many.
- More recognition is better than less. A simple thank you for being a good friend, for helping in small ways that lead to cultural improvements, for major accomplishments, should be free-flowing, authentic and meaningful. Kudo’s data indicates three to five acknowledgements per person per month is the hallmark of a healthy program, but even one sincere accolade every month carries a lot of weight.
- Give recognition everywhere: in person, one-to-one, at events and online.
- When you give accolades in a one-on-one, at a meeting or event, follow it up with something online so it’s recorded for posterity and reaches everybody in the organization. That’s where a systemized approach comes into play.
- Make recognition an intrinsic part of your culture. Add it to the things your organization does on a daily basis, build it into your processes and systems.
- Elevate employee recognition to a business metric you track at the executive or board level.
- Change and uplift your culture one thank-you at a time.