Employee Recognition and Praise

by Guest Expert

Maintaining a motivated staff is not always the easiest of tasks, but it does pay off for you, your customers and the employee. This article focuses on closing off periods, or events, with employee recognition.

If you want to avoid losing your best employees, and encourage others to do better recognizing them publicly may save yourself the time and money of having to find and re-train new staff.

As you prepare to enter a new year, season, quarter or month, you must take the time to reflect on what made the last period, or event, successful and what could have made it better.

Who better to answer those questions than the people who spell success or failure for your operation: your employees.

If you haven't already made it a practice, the end of a period, or event, is a great opportunity to have a period end staff meeting, followed by a employee & maybe spouse dinner, staff recognition awards and a closing party.

By bringing all employees together in a room for a meeting you create a team environment. By including them and sharing information with them, you are giving your employees an opportunity to share your perspective.

With inclusion, you are indirectly empowering them to contribute to the success of your whole operation, because it gives them a chance to see and understand the bigger picture. This in turn leads to them taking initiative and improving things in their own area of responsibility, particularly if they are recognized for it.

You may find it hard to believe, but recognition is the most powerful motivator of all. Research has shown that there is a stronger need in society today for recognition than there is for sex and money.

Let's think about it.

We could give all employees a bonus in the form of money at the end of a period. Sure they'll be happy and thankful. They may even perform better, but what are their expectations at the end of the next period? Right; more money.

Money is an external motivator but it is never lasting. It's an incentive that once acquired, leads to expectations for more, bigger or better. But if you have a bad period will they care? They'll want a bonus at least equal to what they got last year, but preferably more, not less.

A survey of thousands of workers across the country compared rankings by supervisors and employees on factors that motivate employees. The typical supervisory group ranked the factors in the following order:

  1. High wages
  2. Job security
  3. Promotion in the organization
  4. Good working conditions
  5. Interesting work
  6. Personal loyalty of supervisor
  7. Tactful discipline
  8. Full appreciation of work done
  9. Help on personal problems
  10. Feeling of being in on things

However, when employees were given the same exercise and asked what affects their morale the most, their answers followed this pattern;

  1. Full appreciation of work done
  2. Feeling of being in on things
  3. Help on personal problems
  4. Job security
  5. High wages
  6. Interesting work
  7. Promotion in the organization
  8. Personal Loyalty of supervisor
  9. Good working conditions
  10. Tactful discipline

Note that the top three factors marked by the employees are the last three felt to be important for them by their supervisors.

Do you think it would be any different in your business? Perhaps you should find out. Next period, simply create a one-sheet exercise with these points listed and ask each employee to rank, in order of importance to them, what they want from their jobs. Do the same exercise with your management or supervisory team, asking them what they think would motivate their staff the most.

Everyone may be surprised when the answers are tabulated. But, think of the impact it would have if everyone learned something from this exercise and adjusted accordingly.

So it is fair to say that money, over and above wages, is not a main motivating factor, but full appreciation of work done is. This is recognition: the number one factor in maintaining a motivated staff.

Why is it so important?

When someone gives you a compliment or recognizes you for doing something, how do you feel? Imagine, for a moment, being complimented by all your family, friends, staff and customers all day, every day. Without it going to your head, how do you think you would perform? Would you be outstanding or what?

Recognition is positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement of actions gets those actions repeated. Recognition and praise reinforces our beliefs about ourselves and helps make us think we are better than we thought we were.

Positive reinforcement is what builds our self-esteem. Our self-esteem is the way we see and feel about ourselves either internally, through our own beliefs, or externally through what we accept as the beliefs of others. If we feel good about ourselves and we believe others feel good about us, we perform better than we would when we see the opposite side of the coin.

People perform in a manner that is consistent with how they see themselves conceptually. So, the key is to help people build their self-esteem.

Unlike money which is an external motivator and never lasting, ones self- esteem is internal, and internal motivation is everlasting. In order to build a healthy self-esteem one needs recognition and praise, both from one's self and from others. You can help build someone's self-esteem and self-motivation through recognition, but also through advancement and responsibility where that person can obtain a sense of achievement and personal growth.

The problem is that in today's society we are deprived of positive feedback. Compliments, recognition and praise are not part of our day-to-day culture. For some reason, many people find it difficult to give compliments, recognition and praise.

My assumption is that it is hard to give something you don't have to give. How can you give someone else a compliment if you can't compliment yourself first? This goes back to our own self-esteem. We must first feel good about ourselves, and tell ourselves that, before we can feel good about somebody else, and tell them that. It's a vicious circle, but it all starts within each of us.

Another problem is, we live in a society that has influenced us more to look for the things people do wrong, instead of the things they do right. How do you think it impacts someone's self-esteem if they are always recognized for the things they do wrong? Can you see them looking for the good in others and praising them accordingly? More likely they will find something to criticize in others.

We, as society, are to blame for this sort of behavior. It is up to each of us to change, from the inside - out.

These same influences have had an impact in our self-talk too. We tend to criticize ourselves for the things we do wrong. But how often do we praise ourselves for the things we do right? Let's tap ourselves on the back for the good that we do. The more we do it to ourselves, the more our self-esteem grows and the more our self-esteem grows, the more confident we feel, which in turn helps us to give more confidence and praise to others. This sort of self-recognition goes a long way, just as long as it doesn't get out of hand.

Self-talk has a lot to do with our self-esteem and the way we treat others. If we continuously doubt ourselves, we doubt others. If we like ourselves and recognize ourselves for the right things that we do, it becomes easier to like others and recognize them for the right things they do.

If you feel you need more recognition and praise, start by giving more. But you can't give something you don't have. In other words, if you can't recognize yourself for the good you do, how could you recognize that in someone else? So, you now know where you have to start.

You cannot motivate another person to do anything. We all know we could only accomplish so much on our own and that everyone is a product of their environment. You have the opportunity to create the environment. You can only provide the means and the atmosphere in which others motivate themselves.

You are the leader and you must set the example by demonstrating the appropriate behavior. The appropriate behavior that we are talking about here is recognition and praise.

You may also want to use indirect recognition and praise. For example, when someone compliments you on your area of responsibility, don't take credit for it, pass it on and say "My team is doing an outstanding job, aren't they?" In other words, pass the buck to where it belongs.

Over time the staff will hear about it and will feel good that you have recognized their efforts.

Let's go back to the end-of-period staff meeting to the second key factor employees indicated that affected their morale: the feeling of being in on things, being included.

By sharing the results of the period with them and asking them what went well and what areas could use some improvement, you are obtaining a wealth of information, and including them in the overall success of your operation. What do you think will happen when it comes time to implement some of their suggestions? Do you think they will object, or, do you think they might take ownership in implementing them beyond your expectations.

The best way to hold this meeting is to open up the meeting yourself, as the leader, and be on time! Remember you are setting an example here and demonstrating the performance you expect from your team.

Be as upbeat and positive as possible, no matter what. After a brief welcome, review the objectives from the beginning of the period, your level of expectations and finally the results. Congratulate everyone, as a team, and then introduce and recognize your management team. Always follow through with a round of applause for each of them.

As you introduce a Manager / Supervisor recognize their unique contribution to the period. Have each manager or supervisor introduce their team and each members' unique contributions to the full team. Have them report on their respective areas as to what their objectives for the period were and what they accomplished.

Also, have them ask all employees for their input as to what they noticed went well and areas for improvement. Have a mini-brainstorming session. A flip chart of all comments should be captured.

At the end of the session, you should conduct a summary of actions that will be considered for the next period. You will want to end the meeting on a high note, recognizing particularly those who have made the biggest contribution throughout the period.

You could end the session by presenting recognition awards, or do it over dinner with spouses in attendance. Present a plaque and a letter, or something along those lines. You should have a least one award per team. You may even consider having each team nominate their own team employee of the period through a ballet process and presenting the award to that employee for their contributions. Make it a big affair by having a photographer present.

Each team could prepare for this meeting in advance and build in fun activities. The objective is to get everyone involve, have fun and pay recognition to the full team and to those who made the biggest contributions to their team.

From this point on you will notice that employees will go out of their way to do a great job, because you took the time to thank them. Actions that get recognized or rewarded get repeated.

Bob Urichuck
Web: http://www.BobU.com

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