Six Best Practices for Recognizing Employees in the New Year

Thank You In Different Languages“Nothing is more effective than sincere, accurate praise, and nothing is more lame than a cookie-cutter compliment.” ~Bill Walsh

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Share success stories. Use team, department, or company meetings to highlight individual and team success. Share these on the organizational bulletin board or intranet.
  6. 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.


4 thoughts on “Six Best Practices for Recognizing Employees in the New Year

  1. Reblogged this on Farsight Change and Transition Coaching and commented:
    Years ago I worked with a colleague in a senior management position who would prowl the passages looking to catch out people who were doing something wrong. I still shiver when I think about that. So, I like the advice to “take the time to walk around and look for opportunities to catch employees doing the right thing and giving praise in the present moment. ”

    What better way for a leader to start the year than finding things people are doing right? If you are a leader in an organization, I would encourage you now, at the beginning of the year, to have a meeting with each team member in which you start by acknowledging the unique contribution which he/she makes and why you are pleased to have him/her on board. Encourage all of them to set goals which position them for success in their work, and invite them to check in with you regularly to find out how they are progressing and what they are discovering about their unique potential. Encourage a culture of generous acknowledgement of self and others which is also robust enough to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them.

    Posted by Juliette Gyure, change management and transition coach.

  2. “Nothing is more effective than sincere, accurate praise, and nothing is more lame than a cookie-cutter compliment.” This quote says it all! Showing recognition for performance in the workplace is the best way to encourage employee engagement, but the praise needs to be timely and specific. It has an even greater impact when it is consistent and comes from all levels of the professional playing field. Peer acknowledgement can go a long way and micro bonus rewards programs offer a unique way for employees to motivate each other, as often as they see fit! Check out some more thoughts on this:

Leave a Reply