Tips for Meaningful Appreciation
So how do you offer recognition to your employees to keep them engaged? People have a finely tuned gauge when it comes to praise, so you need to make your recognition meaningful.
Focused and specific recognition not only makes them feel good, they’re also more likely to do the same thing again in the future.
Focused and Specific
Employees need to understand exactly why they are being recognised. Focused and specific recognition not only makes them feel good, they’re also more likely to do the same thing again in the future.
For example just saying, ‘Hey, you did a great job today’ is not very motivating. Instead, try ‘In your presentation today, the way that you explained the statistics really brought our problem to life and helped us to sell through this solution.’ That is much more motivating.
We need to be recognising people at the time that they are doing great things. That’s how you can make sure it sticks. If you tell me that something I did three months ago really helped you, it’s nice, but it’s not very motivational. Tell me at the time and it really gives me a lift.
Different employees should be recognised in different ways, and so should different achievements. If you give everybody in the business the same sort of recognition no matter what they’ve done, it doesn’t feel very meaningful.
For example, maybe I did something that saved the company $10,000, while someone else did something that cost the company $10,000, and we both receive the same recognition. Both things may have been great, but as an employee it’s difficult for me to feel recognised based on my achievement
When I do workshops around recognition with employees, I ask people to tell me about their best experience of receiving recognition. And every single time it is something really personal.
One person told me ‘I had a love of karate, and my manager went to my favourite karate supply store and bought me some equipment. It meant so much because she knew that was an activity I was passionate about, it was really personalised’.
Another said ‘my manager knew that I loved a particular wine bar in the city, and he took the team there and bought me a bottle of amazing wine’.
Recognition should be tied to the team and the larger purpose. It should contribute to the story about what matters in the workplace. If I’m doing something that goes directly to the goals of my workplace, that’s more of a reason to recognise me, then if I’ve decided on an idea that it doesn’t quite fit in.
Failed Recognition Programs
Many business owners have told me that they’ve tried recognition programs, and they just haven’t worked. For example, one of my clients paid for a very expensive online platform, which allowed people to recognise each other and award each other employee points. The employees could then use those points to purchase things. But my client was really frustrated. She told me ‘we paid all this money for this platform, and then nobody used it.’
It’s a common story. Online platforms have their place, and there are some good ones out there (get in touch if you know a good one!) but to me, the problem with recognition programs is that we humans have a negative bias. We are much more likely to notice things that are going badly than things that are going well. Another problem is that these points systems just don’t feel very personal.