Last week was my agency’s award ceremony. Highlights included a keynote address from an elected official and a giant game show-style check for the recipient of the Chairman’s award. Over the course of 90 minutes, dozens of people on staff were recognized for going above and beyond. However, there were some notable exceptions. With a limited amount of resources, I understand that not everyone can be singled out during an agency-wide event. Yet it was demotivating to feel like my efforts all year had gone unnoticed. A colleague of mine and I were discussing this phenomenon. He was actually part of a project that was recognized but his name had been left off of the program. While he still got the actual award, he stressed that the recognition was more important.
This idea struck a chord with me. Is recognition all I was missing? With that question in mind, I did some research and it turns out that my colleague was right: not only is giving positive recognition important, but employee recognition is more important than most people realize. There is even a National Employee Appreciation Day – though experts agree you should not wait to give recognition. Clear and consistent employee recognition can lead to:
- Lower employee turnover
- Increased employee happiness
- Increased employee engagement
- Increased trust
There are many types of recognition, but here are some easy ways to recognize the efforts of employees, whether the recognition is top-down or peer-to-peer:
1. Pull the employee aside
This strategy is great for giving recognition as close to the event as possible. Like in the case of my colleague, a sincere thanks is often more important to someone than a tangible reward – though I doubt anyone will turn down a bonus.
2. Give a shout-out in a meeting
Does your team or office meet on a regular basis? Use this time to recognize the efforts of employees and team members. This is a great way to both acknowledge the work someone is doing and communicate to the rest of the office what standards are expected. Meetings are also a great place for peer-to-peer recognition as a way to let managers know when a teammate has performed above and beyond.
3. Send an office-wide email
Like a meeting shout-out, this is a great way to recognize employees and communicate those actions to both the recipient and the rest of the office. Some people may not feel comfortable being singled out in a meeting, so an email might be a more appropriate vehicle for praise. Email also has the benefit of creating a record employees can point to during annual reviews. If you are looking to praise someone from a different office or who you don’t regularly work with, sending an email and cc-ing their manager can also be a great way of recognizing excellence. After a brief, and very informal, poll of other GovLoop contributors, everyone responded that the best way their managers recognized team members was through an email or weekly newsletter.
4. Give small rewards where you can
While verbal (or written) recognition is appreciated, sometimes an employee’s actions deserve a tangible reward. If your office has the funding, a spot bonus can provide a great reward for a job well done. If you do not have funding or resources for a cash reward, look for other ways to reward your employees. Can you give them a day off? A colleague brought up that her former manager would give out “ 59-minute coupons” if an employee went above and beyond. An hour or more time-off reward requires paperwork, but a 59-minutes coupon meant an employee could leave 59 minutes early without bringing HR into it.
5. Nominate the employee for a larger award – and let them know
If you believe an employee has done a remarkable job and your agency or company has large awards, nominate your employee for the work they have done. In addition to nominating them, let your employee know about the nomination. We all understand that with limited resources and opportunities for rewards, no one is guaranteed an agency-wide award. However, letting your employee know you recognized their performance enough to submit them for this reward can provide essential feedback and help them feel appreciated.
Amelia Shister is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.