Employee Recognition Q&A

Last week I did a webinar for HR.com on Low Cost Employee Recognition. There was a glitch with my audio so I wasn’t able to answer questions at the end. I thought I might answer some of the questions here since others may have the same questions:

Q: What are some ideas for recognition when a manager’s employees work different shifts?

A: The recognition book and board I discussed during the webinar both work well when employees work in the same location but at different times. Both are described here: http://www.maketheirday.com/stories

With different physical locations and work shifts, consider an intranet communication system, either a discussion group that you already have or something from a vendor like the Sparcets free app or Rypple which offers a comprehensive feedback system.

Q: Any ideas on how to recognize effectively when managers oversee 50-100 employees?
A: This is a common problem in hospitals and in a few other work environments as well. Overseeing so many people is a real challenge. One to one attention is very difficult with a ratio of 50:1 and people often feel invisible. Faced with this situation it is critical for the manager to employ the help of all employees. This is an ideal situation for an informal peer program. Choose something where the manager is aware of the recognition being given and can use that knowledge to offer additional recognition when warranted. Here are a few examples:

  • Praise someone, then ask who they think has went unnoticed and why. Deliver a symbolic award (the unsung hero) to the person described, along with information about who is singing their praises and why.
  • Encourage the use of the recognition book/recognition wall and follow up with additional praise.
  • Spend 5 minutes a week with each person learning more about them – yes that might be 8 hours per week. The return will be worth far more than 8 hours in overall gain in productivity. People will feel visible and engaged. In turn they will be more proactive and productive.

Q: How can written recognition be valuable when people get so many notes it becomes routine?

A: This isn’t a problem in many organizations! While the problem isn’t common, there are lessons regarding good recognition worth discussing. Frequency isn’t really what makes a note lack value. Notes will seem routine if they lack specificity. “Good job” is boring. Give lots of “Good job” notes and no one will be excited. That is routine. On the other hand, if the supervisor is really observant and notes a particular accomplishment that the person being recognized would be proud of, then the recognition is not likely to be seen as routine no matter how often they receive the notes.

Let’s break that down:
Observing the Details – Do you provide enough information in your notes so that the recipients really feel seen? Forget saying “Good work on XYZ!” What was good about it? People want to know “What did you see me doing?!?!?”

Valued by the recipient – Is the recognition for something the recipient wants to be known for? This is an important question. Recognize someone for a skill or attribute that they don’t want to be known for and they won’t value the recognition. Here is an example to illustrate. I am pretty good at planning an event; venue, presentations, a/v, insurance, promotion, etc., but I really don’t like to do event planning. Sometimes I will take it on, because it is the right thing to do. When I am praised for my organizational skills in planning an event I don’t get very excited. Why? I don’t aspire to be an event planner. I don’t want to be known as an event planner.

Think about something you are good at but don’t like to do. Being praised for this skill isn’t very rewarding is it? On the other hand, being thanked for taking on the very same task, acknowledging that you don’t enjoy doing it, but did it for the good of the organization or team, can be very rewarding. The difference between praise the for skill and appreciation for effort and sacrifice is subtle but important. How would anyone know your preference? They would have to get to know us wouldn’t they? For recognition to never seem routine you have to get to know your people. There are no shortcuts.

Copyright Cindy Ventrice


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