In fact, the reality is, well, bleak. We've said it before: one of the key ways to raise a staffer’s excitement level about his post is to let him know he’s valued. But our TINYpulse data has shown us some sobering stats on recognition and gratitude in the workplace:
When you pit that against these stats from Globoforce, the picture gets markedly worse:
During our careers, we’ve all seen evidence of this failure of common sense. We’ve all endured long stretches of never hearing "thank you." Not one acknowledgement that what we have doone has been noticed by the people who have benefitted from it. How is it that those of us who have risen to the heads of our companies now find trouble remembering those dark times when our own valiant efforts went ignored?
It doesn’t look like we’re doing it on purpose. According to WorldatWork’s report, over 80% of the companies surveyed have had some type of recognition plan in place since at least 2002.
How do we explain the disconnect between the prevalence of these programs and their apparent general failure to affect the employees they exist to benefit? The answer may lie in the program priorities.
One of the top five goals of these recognition programs is “years of service.” That's right. Not exceptional service. Just years of service. Other program priorities include promoting high performance and desired behviors. Not bad. But these are all about the company. What about the employee?
Recognition that fais to focus on the employee isn't doing your business any good. Consider these stats, also from Globoforce, on employees who said they were recognized within the last three months:
That's right. More frequent recognition = more employee happiness.
However, we’d like to also point out that how you recognize your employees can matter as much as doing it in the first place. Recognition encourages people to repeat whatever behavior it was that earned it, so it’s important to consider which behaviors you applaud.
Focus on things that are uniquely valuable about a person, such as his cunning ability to see twelve steps ahead and anticipate problems. Another good candidate is any behavior relevant to the company’s organizational values. Any time someone really lives your company values, give them a high five. And of course, anything that helps the team and its customers — whether internal or external — get where they need to go is a great thing to encourage.
MEASURING IF EMPLOYEES FEEL RECOGNIZED
So how do you know when you’re succeeding at this employee recognition stuff? It’s not as if someone will walk into your office and hand you a bonus check for doing such a bang-up job on the recognition program.
One way to find out: pulsing employee engagement surveys. Without getting bogged down in the administration of a massive surveying effort, these small surveys are a great way to get real-time feedback on what is affecting your employees’ well-being and satisfaction in their workplaces. They’re quick, easy to analyze, and easy to act on later.
The key is to keep the questions simple and straightforward. This makes it easy for employees to respond. It also makes the surveys easy to create, which means you can send them out more frequently. There are several go-to questions that any pulsing survey should turn to. When it comes to employee recognition, consider:
Very often, you don’t know you have an employee recognition issue until you start asking about it and measuring the feedback. Sending these tiny surveys can make all the difference.
One final piece of advice on this subject: whatever feedback you get, don’t let it collect dust in your proverbial filing cabinet. Take the time to process the information, form a plan to act on anything that needs to be dealt with, and get to work. Nothing’s more of a put-off to disengaged staffers than a survey with no outcome.
HOW EMPLOYEES CAN OFFER EACH OTHER RECOGNITION
In the past, employee recognition was the exclusive purview of managers. This approach isn’t wrong, necessarily — manager recognition matters — but it is somewhat outdated. In today’s workplace, we come in contact with many different types of people, all of whom are in a position to recognize a good effort and speak up about it.
This is why empowering peers to give recognition makes a ton of sense. Through this approach, employees can get recognized for good work even when a manager isn’t able to see it.
Try a peer-to-peer reconition tool, something that lets one employee give another a virtual high-five. When you offer these types of tools, 44% will give feedback on an ongoing basis.
This has upsides beyond mere employee recognition, such as tracking. When you can see into the kudos people are giving each other, you give yourself the chance to be surprised by who’s getting them, and why. There could be a stellar staffer lurking just under your nose who is otherwise going unnoticed as a result of your distraction-filled day.
These tools don't do away with the need for a face-to-face "thank you." Instead, they help supplement it.
More remarkable, the happier the employee, the more recognition he or she has given out:
Happy employee give more recognition. And more recognition makes employees happier. By creating this cycle of positive reinforcement, you enable and support a culture of mutual respect.
HOW SUPERVISORS CAN OFFER RECOGNITION
Even in light of the new norm for cross-disciplinary and international workplaces, there’s a lot to be said for the old fashioned way of having a manager serve up the congratulations and thanks. Here are a few standards no one should forget.
And now for the most obvious, and possibly the most important:
For cryin’ out loud, just say “Thank you” once in a while. And mean it when you do. Recognition is really just another word for appreciation. Remember the fact that all these people working under you and alongside you have chosen to be here just like you have. They’re all facing the same issues and challenges, at home and at work. When they do something that helps, say thanks.
Just say thanks.
Do it enough and it becomes a habit. And when that becomes a habit, we can all go back to relying on our idealistic assumption that appropriate and encouraging employee recognition is just common sense.