At the risk of sounding sentimental, recognition is not ancillary to the performance of your business. It is core to your operation. Without it, you’ll toil in development, on boarding, and employee turnover. Sales strategies will solve short term goals, but recognition is the concrete from which you’ll pour the cultural foundation of your business.
If you asked twenty human resources employees what were the top three biggest opportunities in their organization, recognition would make almost every list.
Better pay gets up there, but that’s a tough one to control. Training and development are huge too, but recognition bakes in a culture of training and developing when done right.
People work on what you measure, on what you recognize. If they know it matters to you, then that’s what they work on.
To create a culture of recognition, you have to learn to celebrate more often, but first, you have to know your people. In many ways, your daily recognition of good work is more important than celebrating the big stuff (top monthly performances and such).
Know Your People
Not everybody wants the same kind of recognition. You have team members who would be fine with you announcing their name of the intercom every hour. Others on your team prefer more intimate recognition.
It’s your job to know these nuances. If you’re not the best people reader, then ask. There’s nothing wrong with asking, in a casual context, if a person is shy or not. Make a mental note, then respect that boundary when giving props.
Failing this, the message sent is, I don’t know how to motivate my people. Even if you don’t see it that way, that’s how they see it.
Embarrassing an introverted employee with a huge fanfare of recognition will chase away that employee’s trust faster than anything.
This is the biggest opportunity in most work situations. Daily recognition is nice when the person about whom you are speaking hears you. It matters even more when other people, the right other people, also hear.
Let’s imagine you observe an employee, we’ll call her Emily, engaging a customer in a helpful way. You could just lean over to Emily and say “nice work.”
That right there is more than most would do, but you’d miss an opportunity. It’s non-specific feedback centered on your approval without anything tied to specific behavior. The message to Emily is: You just passed a test you didn’t know you were taking.
Instead, pull over one other person or a small group. Teach those team members what matters while giving Emily her proper due. You can make the recognition more about her, than about you and your approval of her.
Lead in with something like this, “I was just watching Emily work and noticed…” Then fill in the blanks with the specific actions she took that you appreciated. Get super specific.
Then tell everyone you’re gonna shoot an email to go in her file about the good work. You can even print a copy of the email then give it to her.
This moment of daily celebration takes minutes to complete but impacts the culture of your business better than any laborious tactic.
You still have to celebrate big wins, like sales wins and exemplary service examples. It works best if you establish early what matters, what you plan to recognize every month (or whatever cadence you decide).
At least once a year, review your monthly recognition metrics to decide if it makes sense to focus on the same things in the coming year. Be consistent in your metrics and recognition.
If you skip months or fudge your methodology to skew the results, your people will know. They’ll invest in this as much as you do. If you skip a month, then they will understand exactly how much the metrics mean. They’re negotiable.
If you’re part of a larger organization, extend your recognition out through other channels, like email or social media. Again, know your people. Know how they will respond to a social media blast.
If you don’t know, then ask, Can I blow you up on social media for your good work this month?
If you’re not the person in charge to make these decisions, find the person in charge to ask how you can help.
Leaders don’t wait for a promotion to start recognizing the good work of other people. You can always give someone feedback.
The only thing that changes is your tone may sound more casual if you’re recognizing one of your peers. The sentiment is the same.