It might go without saying, but employee recognition plays a vital role in creating a positive workplace. Done right, it can encourage people to push their limits and capitalize on their strong points. Do it poorly, though, and your employees can be left feeling unmotivated and dissatisfied with their jobs. Consider these findings from our Employee Engagement Report and Bersin & Associates:
79% of employees don't feel strongly valued at work
Employee engagement, productivity, and customer service are about 14% better in those organizations where recognition occurs
So employee recognition is a big player in the engagement game. Here are some tips on what not to do if you want your employees to feel valued.
1. Giving the cold shoulder: This should be a no-brainer. There’s no easier way to make your employees feel like they’re just a cog in the wheel than by never acknowledging the hard work they’re putting in. Even if it’s just a pat on the back or a shout-out during a meeting, recognizing employees can do wonders to improve morale and let people know they’re really worth something.
2. Being vague: A step above doing nothing at all, nonspecific (or even wrong!) recognition can be just as bad. Rather than just telling people that they’ve done a good job, get into the details of what went well. This brings in a personal element that values people at an individual level.
3. Forcing flattery: Recognition is a good thing, but be careful of how you go about doing it. Forcing yourself or employees to recognize others on a regular basis cheapens the experience and makes it more of a chore than anything. Being recognized should be a special thing that people feel like they’ve earned, not another task to check off the list.
4. Keeping it private: Recognition is a dish best served in a group setting. You don’t always have to share it with everyone, but limiting it to a private setting can make it seem like it’s not worth telling others, undermining the value of it. Decide what’s appropriate to share in a group and what’s best said in private.
5. Tying the dollars: Make no mistake — rewards are a great way to recognize employees. But only offering monetary rewards can turn things sour. You shouldn’t put a dollar value on every good thing that happens. Try changing things up by letting them go home a few hours early or take them out to lunch; employees appreciate being recognized in ways that make them emotionally fulfilled too.
6. Making it a contest: While some people thrive with friendly competition thrown into the mix, there are certainly those who dislike the pressure. Pitting people against each other can be counterproductive, as some may look harder for ways to undermine their coworkers than improve themselves, and others may lose motivation altogether in the face of a fight.
7. Setting an extra bar: Recognition should be something employees earn, but they shouldn’t always have to meet set standards to do that. By creating requirements that people must meet just to be recognized, it degrades the value of others’ hard work that fails to meet those requirements, regardless of how good it may be. Encourage employees instead by focusing on what they’ve done well and their individual strong points.
It may take some time to work out what the best way is to recognize your unique set of employees. But in the end, the experience will be rewarding for everyone involved, including you. By making your recognition feel personal and authentic, you'll make your employees more motivated and satisfied in the workplace.