As leaders we know that we need to recognize our staff, but it can be frustrating when your recognition actions are not hitting the mark. There are two factors to consider when trying to give effective recognition, the amount of feedback and the methods of feedback.
Before we look at those two factors, let’s consider why recognition matters. First, appreciation builds trust. A study by the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) found that when recognized in the last month, 86% of employees say they trust one another. Another 86% say they trust the boss, and 82% say they trust senior leaders. Second, recognition builds engagement. Employees naturally want to contribute more when they know their work is valued and appreciated by others. In the same study, 79% of employees say recognition makes them work harder, and 78% say recognition makes them more productive. Interestingly, the same study showed that recognition helps employees feel better equipped to handle the constant change common in today’s workplaces. When recognized in the last month, 69% of employees say they are excited or confident about change, vs. 41% saying the same from those that had never been recognized.
As we address the first factor, how to give recognition, let’s look at a common practice. The simplest, but not the most effective way is to say, “good job,” “well done,” or “way to go.” This may be meaningful the first time, but loses its luster as it’s repeated. It can become rote and superficial. A common reaction to that type of feedback is a feeling that the leader is just checking a box to say they are recognizing people.
What is missing is acknowledging what the person did well. What is underneath the “good job?” Identifying the action the person took not only makes the feedback more meaningful and authentic, it also reinforces the behavior that you want repeated. Yes, it may take more time and work, but it’s well worth it to get that repeated behavior.
Additionally, giving feedback close to the event is even more impactful. It provides an immediate celebration or course correction. Talking about it a week or a month later may lead to misunderstanding around what actually occurred due to lack of memory recall. There is also a greater chance of the discussion not occurring at all.
Regarding the amount of feedback, some may argue that it would be inauthentic to give recognition all the time, and that you don’t celebrate until the results are in and show success. This can take a toll for long term projects where the “end” may not occur for 2-3 years, and then results may take even longer to surface. Consider how you can define results in shorter increments and celebrate the small wins along the way.
You may also be thinking that you are not going to recognize performance that does not meet your standards. If your standards are very high, this may not occur often. Look at how often performance does meet your standards. A clue to whether the bar is set too high is how often you are recognizing people. If it’s only a few times a year, I would encourage you to look again on a smaller scale to try to find some behaviors that you can recognize. While the overall results may not have met that high standard, what went well that you can recognize?
A final factor to consider is where you give recognition. Whether it is public recognition or handled in private will depend on the individual. Have a conversation with your team members to understand how they prefer to be recognized. Recognizing someone publicly when they are averse to this type of recognition may have the opposite effect of reinforcing behavior and increasing engagement.
As a newer member to TBG, I was struck by how well and how often recognition occurs here. I spent over twenty years in corporate America at both large and small companies and have rarely experienced this level of effective recognition from the full team. It makes a huge difference. I am more energetic, more productive, achieve better results and I am more committed to the firm.
If you are struggling with effective recognition, send me an email, I’d love to help.