How to build a culture of employee recognitionBy Ettie Holland on 8.09.2016
The agency recruitment world is an acquired taste, but there’s one thing they do really well: employee recognition.
Like sales, agency recruitment is totally results-orientated and completely quantifiable. That single-mindedness breeds transparency: if you’re succeeding in sales, you’re recognised for that success through commission and/or other incentives.
The same can’t be said for employees in most other disciplines. For most people success isn’t as tangible as it is for salespeople, and recognition suffers as a result.
Why should you care?
You should care because the business costs can be huge. Recognition is a fundamental psychological need. If you don’t recognise your employees’ successes, they won’t feel valued. If they don’t feel valued they’ll be less motivated, less productive and less loyal.
So much so that companies reinvesting less than 1% of their payroll costs into recognising their employees are nearly 80% more likely to suffer financially. (SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey)
Poor staff recognition means retention rates suffer. Engagement suffers.
A lack of recognition breeds a lack of accountability, and lack of accountability can destroy an organisation from the inside out. Just look at the VW scandal.
None of this will be news to you.
Most business leaders agree that recognition is important but like all these things, it’s easier said than done. Workforce recognition is still being done exceedingly badly, despite the consensus. It’s still undervalued as a leadership technique. We’re still paying lip service without implementing actionable strategies. And we’re still losing money because of it.
Practical strategies to improve employee recognition
Smaller companies often tend to be better at recognising their employees, by virtue of their size. The fewer employees you have, the easier it is to give personalised feedback. There’s no reason you can’t replicate these efforts at scale though, by decentralising responsibility for staff recognition.
Encourage C2C recognition
Celebrate Small Wins
Organisations make the mistake of being overly regimented about employee recognition. A formal program can be a really good thing, but should be complimented by an informal, ad hoc approach that centres on small wins.
Big wins are easy to celebrate, but they’re fewer and further between – leaving lots of dead time for employees to become disenfranchised and unmotivated.
Create recognition feedback loops
Hierarchical reporting structclass="tz-padding-bottom"ures exist so senior decision-makers can understand business performance, but this information is often purely performance-focussed. The leadership team will generally only find out that Sales is doing well, not that Shari secured that new account or Jack doubled his personal revenue targets.
The above point isn’t to suggest you should praise your team endlessly, despite what the millennial stereotype would have you believe. “Job well done Aaron, you’re on time for work!” isn’t quite along the right lines.
Rather, effective employee recognition is about finding the counterpoint between strategy and implementation. Recognition is meaningful when it’s framed in terms of the bigger picture. People’s jobs are meaningful when they’re framed in terms of the bigger picture.
Strike the appropriate balance
The key to an effective employee recognition program is to ensure the link between recognition and reward is appropriate. Recognition is about balance – too much, and you devalue success. Too little, and you court failure.
Cater to individuality
When it comes to rewards, even the deepest pockets can’t make up for a deep understanding of your employees’ drivers. There’s no one-size-fits-all here; one person’s reward is another person’s rubbish.
Maybe a bonus would make Ahmed’s day, but Chris would love an extra day’s holiday. An incentive trip abroad might be Sally’s dream reward, while John hankers after a hand-carved plaque. The better you understand your employees’ triggers, the better placed you are to say thank you in a meaningful way.
Balance public and private
Public acknowledgement can be a powerful tool. Even something as simple as a company-wide email can instil a strong sense of pride, and takes little effort to implement.
Encourage skills sharing
An organisation’s ability to learn is a primary differentiator of success, so skills sharing programs can offer real competitive advantage. This is a win/win solution in terms of employee recognition too, allowing you to highlight and capitalise on employees’ core strengths.
Set up informal and formal sessions where more experienced employees can share their skills with others, be that through group training or through mentorship. Flattery will get you everywhere.
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