Getting employee recognition right


Most managers and business owners know it’s important to tell employees when they’ve done a good job. Shining a spotlight on excellence can motivate employees to work even harder and more productively, and the knockon effects can see other team members step up their game.

Recognising hard work following a huge lunch rush, or for going the extra mile to satisfy a customer will likely boost morale and encourage employees to repeat such behaviour.

According to research*, employees who enjoy their jobs and feel valued are more likely to lead healthy, happy lives outside of work, while those who feel disgruntled and unappreciated are more likely to suffer from health issues such as heart disease. This can result in absenteeism that can adversely affect a business’s costs and competitiveness. It’s important to understand when and how to recognise great work. Simply thanking the employee face-to-face can be an effective way to boost that person’s morale but sharing the recognition throughout the entire team sets the culture, and shows other employees what types of behaviour are valued.

In terms of when to praise, the general rule of thumb is that it is better to be lavish than lean. A culture of appreciation boosts morale, so it’s important to be constantly on the lookout for genuine reasons to praise people. Leaders should identify the difference between pointless busy work and the small tasks that make a genuine difference, and recognise employees accordingly. Authentic thanks go a lot further towards boosting morale than empty thanks for minor tasks.

Be specific

When thanking someone, it’s better to be specific and precise. A general thank you is fine but, if you can call out specific actions and link them back to how it has helped the team or the business as a whole, the praise is more likely to be remembered and the person is more likely to continue doing that action, or even redouble their efforts.

Be consistent

Another key aspect of positive recognition is consistency. Some people are very quiet about the great work they do, while others are born self-promotors. By recognising both types of people when appropriate, you’re sending the message that good work gets noticed no matter what. This lets employees know that being recognised at work has nothing to do with ‘politics’; it’s a genuine appreciation of hard work. It also means that employees feel they can trust managers to be fair; if an action is praised one week and ignored the next, employees can be disappointed.

Recognise effort

It is important to remember that recognising employees shouldn’t only be about success. If employees are putting in extra effort then success will come eventually; it’s the effort that should be rewarded.

For example, an unhappy customer may not be willing to be appeased, no matter how hard your employee tries to make them happy. Thanking employees for doing their best and maintaining composure in a stressful situation shows them that you understand the value of what they tried to do, even if the customer ultimately refused to be satisfied. The next time they face a similar situation, they will be inclined to behave in the same calm, conciliatory way, and the next customer may recommend your business to friends and mention it on social media because of the outstanding customer service.

Keep it timely

Don’t wait to tell your employees they’ve done a great job. Where possible, it’s more effective to offer praise on the spot while the achievement is still fresh, rather than much later. This is because the longer you wait to praise someone, the more they’ll wonder if anyone has noticed their efforts. Even effusive praise at a later time may not assuage their feelings of disappointment.

Consider personalities

A key aspect of providing appropriate employee recognition is to remember that every person feels differently about attention. Some thrive on positive attention while others prefer to blend into the background. It’s important to take their preferences into consideration when offering recognition, and communicate your appreciation in a way that will be most meaningful to the recipient.

This is where an employee recognition solution can deliver value. It lets you either send a private message or post it in a company-wide forum for everyone to see. Ideally, it also lets recognition flow in all directions, so managers can praise employees, leaders can praise teams, and peers can praise each other.

Peer-to-peer praise can be particularly effective because, often, people go the extra mile for their colleagues rather than their bosses. To know their hard work was appreciated by the people who benefitted most can be particularly rewarding for these people. It also provides peers a chance to thank their colleague for making their own jobs easier, which encourages camaraderie and teamwork.

Using a technology-based system also makes it easier to ensure no employee is overlooked or left out. It’s a constant reminder to managers and team leaders to be on the lookout for praiseworthy behaviour. It can also serve as a repository for guidelines on what types of behaviour should be recognised and rewarded, aiding in the quest for consistency.

Ultimately, providing positive reinforcement to employees, managers, and peers should be a pleasurable task rather than a burden. By implementing technology to make recognition simpler, faster, and more effective, businesses can more effectively encourage desired behaviour. By adding gamification, you can gain deeper engagement from workers who then strive to consistently display those desired behaviours. And by connecting with employees on their own terms, you can develop a culture of inclusiveness, positivity, and respect.

Jamie Pride is Managing Director and Co-Founder of REFFIND. Jamie has more than 20 years’ experience in senior leadership positions for international, high-growth technology vendors, systems integrators, and digital media organisations.

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T: 1300 600 956