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How to Recognize and Reward Your Employees

Why is recognition important in the workplace? Why do employees need that pat on the back?  

During a recent New Supervisors in Government virtual networking event, “How to Recognize Employees (Without Funding),” guest speaker Melissa Kepler, Coach and Facilitator for LMI, said that as a human, “we all deserve to be told we’ve done a good job.”  

“Some people really need to hear it, especially if they’re in a public-facing position,” she said. “There’s a lot of pushback in their regular duties, and it’s a hard job to do. They need that feedback that they did what they are supposed to.”  

Kepler also addressed when it’s the right time to make the effort to award your workforce, versus simply saying “job well done.”  

“It needs to be proportional to the effort that was put forth,” Kepler said. “It’s also important to evaluate where your employee is. Are they at the top of their pay cap? Would giving them more money require a promotion that’s not available? Are they actively looking for a new role and recognition might convince them to stay? These are all important considerations.”  

When the time comes to reward and recognize your employees, not all gestures are equal. In order to feel like they’re being truly thanked, you need to get to know your employees and what they connect with. One way to learn their preferred award might be to offer a survey to your team to get their feedback.   

“What’s meaningful to them?” asked Kepler, adding that as a supervisor, you need to know what your employees like to receive, not what you like when you are being recognized.   

One example of a reward not being the right fit would be telling an introverted person that they should give weekly updates in front of a group of their peers after they’ve done well on a project. For an introverted person, this is not perceived as a reward, but rather quite a stressful burden.  

The three top ways that people typically prefer to be rewarded are monetarily, with time off, or with a formal award, Kepler said. However, some of these may not be possible, depending on the restrictions of your workplace.  

“As a supervisor, it’s on you to not only take the initiative to find out how people like to be rewarded, but also how to make that happen,” she said. “Agencies have different restrictions and rules, so you need to distinguish between something that’s not legally allowed or if it’s just something that’s not normally done. Know your boundaries.”  

If you can’t award someone monetarily, Kepler recommended giving them an “exceeds expectations” on their review.  

“That costs you nothing and can show that you recognize that they go above and beyond,” she said.   

Another thing to keep in mind as a supervisor is to ensure you have enough time to make a reward happen. For example, if you’re submitting your employee for an award, there’s typically paperwork to fill out and deadlines to nominate them, and you must carve out time to meet those needs.   

Kepler also mentioned a recent Gallup study, which found that it was better to try to recognize a person’s strengths, versus doing nothing at all.  

“Even if you don’t do it perfectly, it’s better to try something and mess it up versus ignoring their efforts completely,” she said.  

If you enjoyed this informative networking session, don’t forget to join us on April 18 for our next New Supervisors in Government meeting, “Resolving Conflict With Empathy.”

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