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Making Recognition Stick

We all need more in our jobs than just our pay cheque. Yes, that cheque is important to us, there is no denying that. However, if that is all we received for doing our job day in and day out, year over year, it wouldn’t be enough. I would suggest (duh) that for the employees that only receive this (a pay cheque), it is probably a big reason why they eventually quit their job or are actively disengaged in their current role. So what else is needed? Simply put, employees need to feel recognized for the work that they do. I am not referring to things like service awards and employee of the month type stuff; what I mean is good old fashioned recognition from their manager. Thanks, gratitude and providing a pause from the work day to acknowledge the efforts of your staff go a long way in actively engaging and retaining them.

TapeAs a leader, in order to make this work, you can’t think of recognition as a program. Even if your company does in fact have a recognition program, you can’t rely on the machinations of this to make recognition stick. The act of providing recognition needs to be a cultural thing. You need to embed it in your managerial DNA. It has to be something that you want to do, not something you HAVE to do because someone (HR!?) has said that you have to do it. You have to accept and embrace the act of recognizing your employees as a tool in your managerial tool belt. It is one that will help you accomplish your goals and objectives THROUGH your people, not BECAUSE or in spite of them!

So, as a manager and leader, how do you make recognition stick with your staff? First, start out by looking for things to recognize your staff for. Identify opportunities where someone did a little more, provided some extra effort, went the extra mile, really stepped up to the plate, bailed someone out at the last minute, etc. Then, you pull them aside and thank them. Yup, it is that simply to start with! You simply thank them. Tell them what you observed and thank them for doing whatever it was that they were doing. If you start out with this approach, you start to build credibility if you are making a sincere effort to simply thank your employees.

As this starts to become engrained in your managerial practice, you then need to make sure you are spending more time talking and listening to your employees. Find out ways in which they want to be recognized and how they like to be recognized. For some of your employees you are going to learn that in order for it to mean something to them, you need to recognize them in front of their peers at a staff meeting. For other employees, this would have the opposite effect as they would see this public recognition as punishment so you need to know your staff. In this regard, you are now learning how to customize your recognition approach and delivery.

You also need to be aware when it is appropriate to link rewards with your recognition. For things that save your company or your department money, or when a new client is won, or something of larger scale significance occurs, a simple thank you is often NOT enough. You need to link the recognition with some form of reward – this could be a day(s) off, a cash bonus, gift certificates to a nice restaurant, etc. Regardless, you need to show your employee that you know this is something worthy of more than just a thank you and that you aren’t taking their performance and efforts for granted.

Just as important, if you want recognition to stick, make sure you recognize others when they in turn provide recognition. If you have supervisors that report to you, make sure to catch them in the act of providing recognition – and then recognize (thank) them for enforcing the importance of providing recognition! In a similar vein, don’t just limit recognition to employees that report to you. There is no organizational law that says you can’t say thank you to your peers, or employees of other managers!

At the end of day, I realize a lot of this seems pretty basic; however, for many managers this stuff doesn’t come naturally or easily. The good news is that a lot of it is predicated on a few basic management practices:

1) Talk to your staff

2) Get to know your staff

3) Observe your staff (MBWA – management by wandering around)

4) Say, “Thank You”

5) Link reward(s) with recognition to heighten the message and impact

All the rest of it is just supporting activity, but if you can master the five points above, you are well on your way to making recognition “stick” with your team.

What about you? Do you have any other suggestions on how to make recognition stick? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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