Reward & Recognize
45% of U.S. workers surveyed haven’t been recognized at work in the past 6 months or more, and 16% have never been recognized at work, research from Globoforce’s WorkHuman 2017 Survey Report finds. However, we know appreciation is one of EMPLOYEES’ top ten answers when they’re asked what they want from their leaders. Why is there a disconnect between the appreciation employees are looking for and how often leaders are providing recognition? Rewarding and recognizing the right behaviors and excellent performance isn’t just a nice thing to do, research shows a lack of employee recognition is a top reason employees leave an organization. The solution is easy; tell your high performers they are, in fact, high performing!
People Want to Feel Valued
Humans are emotional beings, we like to hear what we are good at, that we’re appreciated, valued, and our contributions are making a difference. Taking the time to recognize a job well done and to connect an employee’s performance with the organization’s goals, gives people a deeper sense of purpose for their work. When employees connect to the purpose of what they do, they have greater pride and ownership in their work, and therefore perform at a higher level.
FOR EXAMPLE: Michelle is a waitress at a popular chain restaurant. It’s easy for Michelle to go to work each day thinking, “I’m just here to take orders and clean up messes.” What if, as Michelle’s manager, you took the time to recognize her for the exceptional service she provided to her last guest? The fact that you took the time to notice and show Michelle your appreciation for her work would probably make her evening a lot more enjoyable. When you stop and think about it, your restaurant isn’t just a popular chain. It’s the closest restaurant to the hospital and many people who dine here are visiting a family member who is sick or recovering. Even though yes, your employees are here to take orders and keep the restaurant clean, they also provide comfort and a moment of distraction to many people who are otherwise facing a difficult time in their life. Connecting employees to the greater impact they have in the community will make them happier and more engaged at work. Compliments from guests will increase, and people will remember that your restaurant treated them special. This will create loyal customers, increasing your profits. You may even find this simple practice attracts more people who want to work for you.
Recognition is proven to increase morale, engagement, productivity, sales, profitability, and improved customer service, to name just a few of the many benefits. The same Globoforce Study also reports the more recently someone has been recognized, the more likely they are to be connected to the purpose of their work. Employees who are connected to the purpose of their work can clearly understand how their role contributes to the success of the organization. It’s no surprise that 93% (almost 3 times the national average) of nonprofit employees feel engaged in their work (Work for Good). Nonprofit organizations have a purpose-driven mission that is made clear to their employees on a regular basis. They benefit from understanding how their position makes a difference. People want to feel good about the work that they do, and it makes sense, we spend the majority of our time at work. Connecting people to their purpose, and rewarding a job well done are keys to engaging your team.
Learn Their Passions
Higher performance comes from employees who feel cared about and appreciated. During performance and recognition conversations, get to know what people enjoy most about their work, and incorporate more ways for them to capitalize on strengths and assignments they enjoy. This is a reward that cost the organization nothing, but it goes a long way in showing employees they are valued members of the organization and you appreciate the work they do.
FOR EXAMPLE: Nick is Patty’s supervisor and they’re sitting down to connect about Patty’s performance.
Nick begins, “You have already made such a tremendous impact on our organization, Patty. I want you to know how grateful I am for the difference you are making. You exceeded our expectations last month at our event. Your outcomes and practices are ahead of our team, and we want to see more of the kinds of things you are doing. You may find me reaching out to you to make training materials and learn your processes, so we can share with your colleagues because we can really learn from you.”
Patty responds with, “Wow I am humbled. If there are things I can do to help, please let me know what I can do. I just want to know that I am making a difference and supporting our organization’s work.”
Nick then asks, “I am grateful for that. What is something you would like to have the opportunity work on that maybe I can help you with?” or “Do you have other skills, passions, or knowledge that we aren’t utilizing that fit in with our organization?”
Nick then listens to Patty’s response and responds with ways he can assist her to grow those responsibilities and skills. Nick then closes the conversation by reminding Patty how grateful he is for her work, and that she is making a difference in their organization.
What We Recognize Gets Repeated
Rewarding and recognizing the behavior and actions that are most important to our organization’s success positively reinforces the performance we want to have continued. Make it a habit to look for behaviors and performance that deserves to be rewarded. To focus on rewarding what is important and what we want to see more of, we suggest a recognition system that connects to the values of your organization or the strategic plan. This helps connect behaviors and actions to beliefs and goals. Hearing a coworker get recognition for a particular action can inspire another person to adopt that behavior in hopes they, too, will be rewarded.
Who should do the recognizing? In a Gallup workplace survey, employees were asked to recall who gave them their most meaningful and memorable recognition. The data revealed the most memorable recognition comes most often from an employee’s manager (28%), followed by a high-level leader or CEO (24%), the manager’s manager (12%), a customer (10%) and peers (9%). 17% cited “other” as the source of their most memorable recognition. These data help us understand that employees are diverse and it’s important to take more than one approach to reward and recognition.
Be careful to avoid favoritism in your recognition programs. It’s useful to incorporate recognition from a variety of sources such as peers, customers, and managers. Basing recognition on objective data, made clear to everyone, is another way to avoid bias or favoritism. It’s also important to remember each employee is unique and appreciates recognition in a different way. As you develop relationships with your coworkers, learn which methods of recognition they prefer, such as a public announcement during a meeting, a personal thank you card, or maybe a special lunch. Recognizing people in their preferred method will increase their productivity and strengthen your relationship. To accomplish this, work on setting up more than one system for employee recognition.
Setting up a System for Employee Recognition in 3 Steps
Align Recognition to What is Valued
- Using your organization’s values, strategic goals, or performance standards, decide what actions are important to recognize.
- Think about what is most important to your organization and how you can recognize individuals who are the best example.
Make it a Habit
- Reward and recognition should be part of the organization’s culture.
- Set an expectation for you and your employees to send at least 1 thank you card each month, and/or start each meeting off by recognizing what a coworker did well each week.
- Don’t let much time pass between the action/behavior and recognizing it. If you see it, reward it.
Focus on the Employees
- People are unique, its recommended to incorporate a variety of reward and recognition into the workplace to adequately reach and connect with each employee.
- Some people like to be praised in public, some prefer a private meeting with their supervisor, and some even prefer monetary rewards.
- Highlight the unique strengths of each person during recognition so it will be memorable to them.
- Ask the employees what events and recognition they want, and collect and analyze feedback to improve how you reward and recognize the people you work with.
- Let employees come up with their own reward and recognition ideas and systems for rewarding & recognizing each other.