You might think that employee recognition is just a feel-good idea. Something that sounds good in theory but doesn't have any practical impact. But that's because many businesses fail at providing meaningful ways to recognize employees who excel. When it seems like management isn’t being genuine, employee recognition initiatives can backfire.
In our report The Effects of Employee Recognition and Appreciation, we found that 79% of employees don’t feel strongly valued for the work they put in. Too often recognition efforts are generic and meaningless. They don’t convey to the employee that they’re truly appreciated.
Employers that only put in a token effort in terms of employee recognition won’t be able to keep employees around in the long term. Here are some common mistakes that employers make when trying to reward someone for a job well done:
1. Too impersonal
Companies spend a great deal on generic gifts handed out to everyone. Here’s a tote bag. Here’s a watch. Here’s a key chain. Maybe if you gave everyone BMWs, it would pay off, but these cheap handouts aren’t winning any points.
Same goes for an announcement that “Everyone is doing a great job.” First of all, it’s probably not true. Secondly, no one feels recognized for their particular hard work.
Praise and gifts are actually good motivators but only if an individual is being recognized. This is important in terms of employee satisfaction. Our research has found that people who feel valued at their jobs also rate their managers highly. Also, 67% of employees said that praise from their manager was a top motivator for performance, according to Stack Overflow.
2. Too formal
Employers often wait too long in recognizing employees. They have set systems, like employee of the month, or they only praise hard work at year-end company gatherings. Many studies have found that employee of the month programs have an opposite effect, demotivating employees from working harder.
Instead, attempt to be spontaneous with recognition. By rewarding work in the moment, you support a specific employee behavior.
3. Too busy
A top reason managers don't offer employee recognition is that they say they’re too busy. Besides, employees are adults, do they really need a pat on the back every time they do something right?
But even if you are very busy, there are low-time investment ways to provide effective employee recognition. For example, a peer-to-peer recognition tool has proven effective. It turns out that employees feel highly valued when their colleagues praise them for a job well done. And we’ve found that if given the opportunity, employees will give one another a shout out.
4. Too cliquey
If an individual or a small group of people are receiving all the praise, other employees will lose motivation. Why try if you know that one guy is always going to get the award?
Striking a balance between “everyone gets an award” and “the boss’s favorite gets an award” is tough. But if recognition is given out based on merit, then it should be clear who’s deserving of praise in that particular moment. Providing this kind of consistent recognition will ensure that your employees feel valued for their efforts.