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Employee Recognition: A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way
Richard King

Employees dedicate a lot of their time to the company they work for. Many will produce excellent work on a regular basis, and some will even go beyond what is directly expected of them. Employee recognition is something given on behalf of management that rewards or praises employees for doing excellent work. It shows the employees that their effort is appreciated, and it confirms to them that they are doing a good job. While employee recognition doesn’t necessarily have to be a time-consuming task for your to-do list, there is a lot of thought and planning that must go into crafting effective employee recognition programs.

Benefits of employee recognition

If employees are producing work that is directly in line with the company’s values and goals, they should be rewarded, recognized or praised for that work. Employees who receive positive reinforcement for a job well done will be motivated to produce more work of that caliber. It has been proven that giving employees such positive feedback raises productivity and loyalty. Employees won’t be as quick to complain about their work if they feel that it is respected, and they will most likely focus on their job even more to try and recreate that positive feeling they received as a result of it before.

Employee recognition also helps with employee retention – employees are more likely to continue working with a company that treats them well and shows appreciation for the effort that he or she puts into their work.

Employee recognition can also help give employees confidence and security in their work. This can improve mental health, stress, and attendance. In turn, this means employees will be sharp, producing less errors and accidents and more high-quality work.

Where to start and problems you might find

Even if it seems like it, setting up a successful employee recognition program is not an easy task. There are a ton of different approaches to choose from. Should you implement formal or informal employee recognition? Should you implement a combination of both? Should you praise employees individually or as a group? Should recognition occur once a week? A month? A year?

The short answer is yes to all. Employee recognition does not have to conform to one specific choice, it can be a melange of some or all of the different options. Alternatively, if there is one way of providing recognition to your employees that you think will be particularly successful, put your resources into it.

To make the decision easier, put together a small group or committee who can make decisions and define the details of the program to be put in place. This takes the task of making all the decisions off of one person’s shoulders, and will allow for a few different points of view to be heard, which will help create a more well-rounded employee recognition program.

Resources, or lack thereof, is one thing that often keeps companies from taking the leap and creating an employee recognition program. It takes resources, that you can be sure of. The main resource you’ll have to expend in implementing solid employee recognition processes is time– time to develop, time to implement and time to teach others how to do it properly. Depending on your method of recognition, it could also cost a bit of money too, creating the need for a budget specifically for employee recognition purposes which may be easier said than done.

The use of time is inevitable, but if your company prepares for it then it won’t catch you off guard or delay other work processes that need to occur. As for the money, if it isn’t feasible to set aside a small budget for employee recognition, you don’t have to. Focus on methods that don’t cost anything, they will be equally as effective.

Best practices

While the choice is essentially yours on how you want to praise and recognize your employees’ accomplishments, there are some best practices you can try to keep in mind to make sure your employee recognition program succeeds.

  • Provide feedback or recognition in a timely manner. If you wait too long, your praise will fall flat and won’t have the desired outcome.

  • Try to tailor it a bit to the individual receiving the praise. They will notice that it was meant just for them, and will appreciate it more deeply.

  • Keep your recognition consistent. If someone receives recognition for doing a certain type of work, everyone who does that same type of work should also get recognition and recognition should be given in even increments of time, whatever time frame you may choose.

  • Keep it all equal. Make sure all employees in all departments or areas of your company are receiving equal types of recognition for the same level or caliber of work.

  • Be sincere in your feedback. Employees will be able to tell if you don’t mean it, or if it isn’t natural.

  • Be specific with your feedback. Employees need to know the exact action that was appreciated. If you’re too vague, they won’t be able to recreate that work in the future.

  • Get the support of upper management. If you are upper management, make sure everybody who needs to be involved is on board with implementing the program and will do their best to ensure its success.

  • Programs that fail

    Not all employee recognition programs succeed. The first sign of failure is implementing a program that doesn’t quite jive with the company. Employee recognition programs have to be a tailored fit and it have to mesh well with your company’s culture and attitude. The main thing to keep in mind here is: everything in moderation. Here are some ways your program could go south:

    Competitions and contests are a good way to get employees to strive for a win, but doing this too frequently can instill a competitive spirit into the workplace and stack employees against each other instead of promoting a friendly, positive, team-oriented environment.

    The same goes for monetary prizes. These can be great, but having your only form of recognition be monetary based with keep your employees eye on the prize, and not on their work. If employee recognition is all about the money, so with the employees. There are other awards you can offer your employees that won’t put dollar signs in their eyes.

    A program will fail if it doesn’t focus on all types of outstanding work. Employees can show their dedication in more ways that just putting in extra hours and powering out a ton of paperwork.

    Employees who start initiatives to promote mental and physical health, or who will do small acts of kindness around the workplace deserve recognition too. If not, they might stop doing those little things which could have a bigger impact than you think.

    There are many ways to encourage and recognize your employees’ great work. What is important to keep in mind is that every employee has different needs. Keep employee recognition organized, sincere, and timely, and you will see productivity soar.

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