I frequently ask participants in my workshops: “How many of you are getting too much praise?” I generally get a chuckle but rarely a raised hand. Yet time and time again, employees report that sincere, meaningful praise is a significant motivator to perform and engage at work.
A recent survey by TINYpulse asked over 200,000 employees across more than 500 organizations the question: “What motivates you to excel and go the extra mile at your organization?” The third highest response was “feeling encouraged and recognized.” Just in case you were wondering, number one was “camaraderie, peer motivation,” and number two was “intrinsic desire to do a good job.”
Research by Bersin and Associates found that employee engagement, productivity, and customer service are 14% better in organizations where regular recognition occurs. However, only 17% of the employees who participated in their study indicated that their organizational culture strongly supports recognition. Over 70% of the respondents indicated that they are only recognized once a year (a service award) or not at all. What a sad commentary on many work environments.
YES, praise and recognition are important to each of us and clearly impacts our engagement and performance. However, the recognition needs to be done in the right way. Here are six best practices for recognizing employees:
- Recognize people for specific behavior and results. Service awards for just showing up do not impact engagement or performance in any meaningful way. Stay away from comments like “great job today” or “good work” and be more specific—what did a person do specifically and what was the impact.
- Tailor the recognition to the individual. Know your people. Some of us (me included) love public praise. Others prefer it to be done in private. One person may want regular on-going praise during a project where another team member would find that annoying and only wants the praise at the end.
- Give the recognition as close to the event as possible. Don’t save the praise for a meeting or performance review. Take the time to walk around and look for opportunities to catch employees doing something right and give the praise in the moment.
- Encourage peers to recognize each other. Employees report that peer recognition is more impactful than recognition from a manager because a peer is closer to the work and it’s not their “job.” NOTE: Managers still need to give regular praise also.
- Share success stories. Use team, department, or company meetings to highlight individual and team success. Share these on the organizational bulletin board or intranet.
- Link recognition to your company values or goals. For example, at Blanchard, we nominate our peers for annual awards that link to our core values.
As the year comes to a close, I encourage you to take the time to send a note of gratitude and praise, to recognize a staff member, colleague, or even a boss for a specific behavior or accomplishment. Then let’s start the New Year with a renewed desire to catch people doing good things!
“Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free and worth a fortune.” ~ Sam Walton
About the author
John Hester is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies who specializes in productivity and performance management.