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A Pat on the Back Please! Are Your Employees Recognized for Their Performance?

Many companies talk a good game when it comes to employee engagement and recognition, though few have mastered it. Some organizations are close, some still trying, and many are nowhere near success.

So you may be thinking, why should I care if my employees are recognized for their performance?

Because if they aren’t recognized, then they are not likely to give the 100% performance to satisfy customers, increase revenues, and help the organization grow and prosper. Who is going to help you achieve your company goals? Your people! People have a fundamental human need to feel valued, heard and appreciated – particularly when they feel they’ve done a great job.

"I praise loudly. I blame softly."- Catherine the Great

Organizations are quickly recognizing that having a strong and committed workforce is a key success factor for creating a high-performing organization. Yet many are still uncertain about where to start designing employee engagement and recognition programs.

Here’s a thought – ASK YOUR PEOPLE!

Many organizations have not actually elicited employee feedback regarding these types of programs. I’ve worked with various clients on engagement, recognition and retention improvements. The first question I always ask is – have you surveyed the workforce on their thoughts? Successful engagement and recognition programs require employee input. If you’re a leader, have you asked your employees what motivates them? If you’re an employee, has leadership in your organization asked what motivates you? If yes, has the organization taken your feedback and turned it into actions?

No two individuals are the same, no two organizational cultures are alike, and no two workforces are identical. The best way to find out what engagement and recognition strategies work best for your organization is to ask the workforce – and act on the feedback received.

What should you do to recognize employee performance?

In addition to employee feedback, several factors may determine how best to recognize performance. Depending on the size, structure, revenues and culture of your organization the processes and programs will vary. The workforce today is significantly diverse - though almost all employees like to be recognized for performance and a job well done. A one size fits all solution is not always the best.

In the words of Margaret Mead, "If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place."Developing engagement and recognition programs to cater to each individual employees’ personality and background is not feasible, though designing several different programs based upon broader workforce demographics is not only feasible, it is necessary for success.

For example, if a large part of your workforce is new working mothers, perhaps recognizing their performance by allowing them increased flextime to spend with children, providing discounts on childcare services (granted men also appreciate time with family and child care discounts), or even offering salon gift certificates for some quick time alone while the kids are away will help them to feel recognized and valued, thus helping them to want continue to perform to the best of their abilities.

For Gen Y employees, they tend to be very civic minded. Make a matching contribution in their name to a charity of their choosing or allowing them paid time off to participate in charitable events not only helps them feel positively recognized for performance, but it also helps contribute to the positive corporate citizenship of your organization.

iTunes gift cards and other techie related perks are also a good way to recognize performance for this demographic. Some people may like public recognition; others may feel uncomfortable with the spotlight and prefer recognition in a more private manner. Overall, however, regardless of the demographic and all the perks in world, a simple “Thank you for all your hard work and efforts. We truly appreciate all you do for the company” goes a long way in recognizing employee performance!

* Real life example of employee recognition at work: After posting this article I went to run some lunch time errands. One of the stores I stopped at was Michael's. As I was waiting in the checkout line I looked up. On the wall behind the registers was a bulletin board. The board was decorated with all kinds of arts and crafts and colors. Posted on the bulletin board were pictures of store employees glued to hand written notes - the notes were from both store managers and other employees recognizing those who have pictures posted for their performance and thanking them for a job well done. The title of the bulletin board was "Employee Recognition Bulletin Board: Store #...." I noticed my cashiers picture was on the board. I pointed to the board and said to her, " I see your picture is on up there. Congratulations!” She smiled and blushed a bit and said “…oh yeah, thank you.” I couldn't help myself from asking her “…So does that bit of recognition for a job well done make you more happy to work here and put in your best?” Her reply, “Most definitely. We have the holiday season approaching and things are starting to get crazy. Though I really don’t mind as much staying late to help stock items and help out when I know it means a lot to my manager and co-workers.” I smiled and said , “Well keep up the good work.”

Questions regarding employee engagement and recognition? Here are the most common questions Tolero Solutions is asked prior to implementing recognition strategies – and our answers:

  • What does recognition mean to your employees? It means they see you, the organization and leadership, care enough to reward employees for a job well done. That in turn means that they have an increased sense of feeling valued and appreciated. When employees feel valued and appreciated, they tend to stay with the organization for a longer period of time. They also tend to speak highly of the organization to customers, stakeholders and peers increasing positive PR. They also tend to remain more committed to meeting organizational goals.
  • What is in it for me as an organization? In short, reduced attrition, increased retention, higher engagement and higher productivity. With all those things, employees are more likely to give the 100% to satisfy customers, increase revenues, and help the organization grow and prosper. Measuring individual performance as it relates to organizational goals is an important step in aligning behavior, processes, and strategy. In creating performance management systems, emphasizing continuous “real-time” feedback rather than once-a-year evaluations becomes a key component in effectively managing performance.
  • What if I don’t have a budget to give them more $$? When discussing employee engagement and recognition, many organizations first response is “…well these types of initiatives cost a lot and we don’t have the budget…” When times are tough, employee recognition is even more essential. Recognizing employees for a job well done doesn’t always require a large budget. A simple acknowledgement for a job well done, a thank you, goes a long way. Other ‘free’ options for recognition can include allowing them additional paid time off or increased flextime. I worked with one client where we created a “Thank You Gallary.” We set aside a conference room and posted flip chart paper in a row along three walls of the room. On a table by the door in a bucket (that was creatively decorated by an artistic employee) were crayons, markers, and post it notes. In working with leadership of the organization, a communication was drafted and distributed to all employees explaining the purpose of the gallery and instructions for participation. When leadership wanted to recognize an employee for a job well done, assuming the employee was ok with public acknowledgement, (in addition to tanking them directly), leadership would go to the gallery room, grab a marker, and write a personal note of thanks on the gallery wall. Employees were encouraged to do the same. Within a little over a month, almost the entire gallery was full. Engagement and performance increased – as did organizationalcommunication. So, money is not always needed to recognize employees.

Employee engagement and recognition is about creating a win – win situation for both the organization and the employees. The first step in doing so – communicate. So, in the word of Harry S. Truman, "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." Recognize your employees for a job well done, give credit where credit is due, and reap the rewards.

About Scott Span, MSOD: is President of Tolero Solutions OD & Change Management firm. He helps clients be responsive, focused and effective to facilitate sustainable growth.

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