The heart and soul of every company are its employees. Therefore, if they are disgruntled and unhappy, they can quickly take it down before you have the time to figure out what’s happening. Seeing things in this light goes to show just how important it is to keep them happy. And this is exactly what we’re here to talk about – employee recognition. What it is, how you can handle it, how to avoid the traps, and, of course, some examples.
What Is Employee Recognition?
Simply put, employee recognition is a nod in the direction of all the individuals or teams in a company for their behavior, excellent results or for going the extra mile. Basically, every time one of your employees or your teams does something that supports your company’s values and goals, they should be rewarded for it.
However, one must be very careful when going about this process, as it has many pitfalls, traps, and backfires. Apart from that, it’s so easy to get it wrong, you won’t believe. Therefore, the one thing you must always remember when it comes to employee recognition is this.
First and foremost, you are dealing with people and only secondly with staff. We are no longer living in the age when you could treat everybody the way you wanted because you pay them. That age is long gone. If so, then you will be seeing the business end of a whole bunch of quitting papers in no time. But more on that later, in the ‘guidelines’ section of this article.
Is Employee Recognition Important?
There is nothing we could do to emphasize enough just how important employee recognition really is. Here are a few arguments in favor of this idea.
- Employee recognition will let your employees know that you value their work.
- It will send out the positive message that you appreciate them as human beings, and not just little robots doing things for you.
- Recognition will improve morale. And you know that employees with an excellent morale will perform a lot better.
- It will also determine your employees to be a lot more loyal to you and the company in itself.
- Employee recognition will help you build a working environment that is supportive.
- It’s a fantastic process, which will increase the workers’ motivation, as well as their retention. In other words, it will keep them motivated enough to stay at a job which they love and don’t want to leave from.
Basic Guidelines of Employee Recognition
The first thing you need to understand about employee recognition is that it has to become a standard practice within your company. In order for it to have an effect, it must be a day-to-day practice. Otherwise, your employees will not feel like you really want to do it, but that you do it because you feel obliged.
Second of all, a good manager has to distinguish between individual and group recognition. The individual one is straightforward and self-explanatory. However, when it comes to team recognition, you can go about it in two ways.
- Recognize the group as a whole or as a team for the great work they did on a project, handling a client, a sale, and so on. You can then award them some tokens of appreciation in that way.
- You may also have to recognize every single person in the group, in case they played different parts. Here is where it all gets tricky. If the team members had distinct roles, you, as the manager, need to find out what those were and how every person conducted themselves while doing them. You also need to figure out just how much they worked in relation to the others.
If you fail to do this and reward everybody in the same way, some employees might retaliate. For example, they can say that John worked harder than Sam or that Marry played a bigger part in the grand scheme of things than Katy and Tom. Therefore, they shouldn’t all get the same reward.
You will notice that this tends to happen especially if you decide that you want to recognize your employees by giving them money. Remember that people get touchy when it comes to finances. As a consequence, employee recognition has to be personalized. Which brings us to this.
Employee recognition being personalized means more than one thing. Yes, you need to see precisely how every person performed and award them accordingly. However, personalizing recognition can also mean seeing what exactly does every employer want to get.
When it comes to the actual reward, you will finds that people want and expect different things. Most of them will want money. That is true. However, some might prefer getting a few hours or even a whole day off so that they can spend it with their families. Others prefer paid-for lunches for a week, dinner at a fancy restaurant, or gift cards so that they can buy clothes. Ask your employees what they want as a reward before you start dolloping money.
Employee recognition has to be personal. If you are going to send out a template email to everybody once a week, then you might as well just forget about it. Choosing the traditional ‘employee of the month’ doesn’t really work, either. It just makes people feel that it’s all about turnover. Soon enough you will start hearing commentaries around the office the likes of ‘it’s your turn this month.’
An excellent way to handle this would be if you or your HR department took an actual interest in people and what they are doing. Learn their names as well as the thing they are working on right now. When the time comes for you to congratulate them for a job well done, write them a short letter or a card. Detail exactly what it is they’ve done right and how grateful you are for that. Here’s an example.
‘Dear John, Thank you so much for your amazing ideas during yesterday’s meeting. I could tell that you have put a lot of thought into our marketing strategies and what we could do to improve them. I found your ideas fresh, innovative, and in accordance with today’s trends. Keep up the good work!’
You can keep a stack of cards in your desk for just this type of occasion.
Timing is of the essence when it comes to employee recognition. If you don’t do it right away, then there’s no point to it. Don’t let more than one or two days pass between an excellent performance and your praise. If you write to one of your employees thanking him for two hours of overtime four months ago, he will not appreciate it. On the contrary. He might feel that only four months later did you finally make some time to notice him.
Understand there is a difference between recognizing an employee for going the extra mile and plainly doing his job.
Employee recognition should only be awarded to those in the first category, not the second. Getting to work on time, not leaving earlier than normal and handling all the emails in their inbox is not worthy of any kind of praise. It’s simply an employee doing his or her job. Reward those who are being proactive, who show a love of their work, who willingly do over time, who have fantastic ideas and take the initiative, and so on.
Keep it spontaneous and diversified. Here’s an example that can explain what that means. There is the story of the employer who took it upon himself to buy everyone in the company lunch on Fridays. It was his way of showing he cared for the team, and that he wanted to reward them with treats at every week’s end.
However, soon enough people started to come up to him asking to be reimbursed if they missed one of those lunches and were forced to eat somewhere else. Evidently, this is not what you want. It turned from a beautiful, rewarding, and team building activity into a typical thing that meant nothing to no one anymore.
The solution to this is to keep employee recognition as spontaneous and diversified as you possibly can.
And here’s one last tip. Never wait around for a perfect performance before handing out employee recognition treats. If you have chosen them correctly, after a thorough screening process, then your employees are doing the best they can. A perfect job is rare. A very good one is a lot more common, and it surely deserves praise.
Employee Recognition Ideas for HRs and Managers
Here are some marvelous examples and ideas of employee recognition which you can start using today. As a bonus, they won’t break your bank, either.
#1. Saying ‘hello’ when you meet your employers in the morning and ‘goodbye’ in the evening sounds like a small thing. However, it’s not like that for the workers. Moreover, if you manage to say it on a personal level, it’s even better. “Hello, John. How are you today?’
#2. Ask personal questions, so that your employers know you are familiar with them and, therefore, care about their wellbeing. ‘Hello, John. How is your daughter? I heard she is starting school today. The best of luck to her!’
#3. If there are any positive comments from third parties such as clients, for example, make sure to pass them along to the person who attracted them. “Hello John, I’m writing to let you know that our client, Company X, whose project you handled, was very impressed with our work and want to become regular customers. Thank you so much for your effort. I am very proud of you, as well as thankful!’
#4. When you have staff meetings, board or management meetings or any special event for that matter, it’s a good idea to sing the praise of an employee or two. It will let the others know you are on top of things, and that you appreciate hard work. It will also act as an incentive for them to work harder as well.
#5. Always organize celebrations. They don’t have to be big, budget or time consuming. You can pop open a bottle of champagne right there in the office or invite everyone to a potluck lunch. Have them at the end of a project, quarter, or simply because you feel like it.
#6. Food is a fundamental element for everyone. It acts as an incentive as well as a feel-good factor. You won’t believe how much good a free hot cup of coffee and a freshly baked cookie waiting for you in the morning in the office can do. Once again, it doesn’t have to be anything expensive. A basket of fruit, mini muffins, cookies, or cinnamon rolls will do.
#7. Acknowledge your employee’s personal events. Marriage, engagements, new babies, work anniversaries, and everything in between should also be celebrated. Buy some flowers for the person who is celebrating a life event and leave them on his or her desk. Add a hand-written note saying ‘Congratulations on your engagement!’ The results will be fantastic.
#8. Give an hour off or even a day off as employee recognition. You can even set up a system in which you allow your workers to accumulate the hours off they received until they make a full day.
#9. Take everyone for lunch outside one day. You can go to a restaurant or even organize a picnic if you run that kind of a company.
#10. Celebrate the holidays in the office. In this way, you can create a fun and pleasant environment for them to work in for a few days. Bring in a Christmas tree, decorate the office for the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving and allow them to dress up for Halloween. However, make sure they understand no one is obliged to either wear a costume or participate in the celebrations. It is a personal choice if they want to or not.
Employee recognition lets a worker know that his or her work is valued and appreciated. Moreover, seeing as there are so many simple and inexpensive ways in which you can do it, why not start today? Buy some flowers, a few cups of coffee, and don’t forget about the hand-written thank you cards!