When was the last time you were recognized at work? According to Gallup, if it hasn’t been in the last week, you could have a problem. Its researchers recommend providing recognition to employees every seven days.
At first read, your thoughts may have been similar to mine when I read this data point: “That seems a little excessive.” At a conference last year, someone asked a chief of human resources for a prominent hotel chain what the right amount of reward and recognition was. He answered, “However much you are rewarding and recognizing your team members right now, do more.”
According to employee recognition company O.C. Tanner, companies that “recognize small wins and efforts at work” see an 83% increase in engagement, and companies that reduce employee recognition increase their odds of employee burnout by 48%. With data points like these, it is clear recognition is an important aspect of engagement — and the right thing to do.
Talking about recognition is easy, but doing it consistently in the busy balance of work and the other pieces of our lives can be hard. Let’s examine a few ways to work toward a consistent and engaging approach to making recognition a top priority for the people you lead, serve and partner with.
1. Use a Standard Platform That’s Easy to Model
Trying to recognize employees without an organization-wide strategy is like going into the next fiscal year without a budget. It’s just not good practice for something we should hold in high regard. The market is full of recognition platforms to partner with that can help build a strategy for your organization. I recently saw firsthand the impact of one of these platforms, which engaged over 50% of an organization within just one week. Thousands of people provided recognition in ways I hadn’t seen just a few weeks prior. This experience showed me that people want to recognize employees; they just need a little guidance on how to do so. Recognition platforms provide the means to fuel a desire that already exists inside a workforce excited to share the care, compassion and thankfulness they have for their colleagues.
2. Put Some Heart in Recognition
Recognition shouldn’t be a passive, check-the-box process. As Bob Kerrey said, “Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.” When we show gratitude to others, amazing things can happen.
One day, one of the wonderful human beings I had the pleasure of leading entered my office. She intently looked at me and said with conviction, “I don’t know how you do it! I got your thank you card in my mailbox at home yesterday. Each time I get a thank you card from you, it’s at the perfect moment. You know when I’m struggling with something and need a boost. I really appreciate it.”
The truth is that sometimes I knew, and sometimes I didn’t — but I was always sincere and specific in recognizing my employees. Recognition should take thought and, therefore, a little time. When we invest in others, the possibilities of that investment are endless. Recognition is a sincere and genuine opportunity to improve that investment.
3. Take Time to Continuously Improve
Different types of recognition impact people in different ways. I once had a leader who loved to give out Baby Ruth candy bars. Everyone knew she had a stash of them in her desk and that if you did something worthy of recognition, you would receive a verbal “thank you” and a Baby Ruth. I appreciated her recognition but, like many of my team members, didn’t like Baby Ruth candy bars. Her intention was good, but she could have varied her approach to connect with others.
It is important to spend time listening to others to learn about how they like to be rewarded and recognized. This process takes time but is more impactful. One of my previous team members appreciated face-to-face recognition and being able to chat for 10 to 15 minutes with the person recognizing him. Another team member loved receiving a “thank you” through our online recognition platform but didn’t want any additional public acknowledgement.
Each person is unique. Just as your employees bring unique skills to the team, they also appreciate unique recognition. Take the time to review how you recognize them, and look for ways to improve on the process. We look for ways to continuously improve our approach to managing the budget or working with customers. We should do the same with employee recognition.
In today’s work environment, employee recognition isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have. Hilton, a Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For®, provides its leaders with an annual recognition calendar that features 365 easy ideas to thank employees. Are you recognizing others every day? If not, start now! Challenge yourself to look for the great things your team members and colleagues are putting out into the world each day, and recognize them. Kindness and gratitude are contagious. At the end of the day, I can’t think of many things that top connecting with other human beings.