New Ways To Learn How To Give Recognition

Instructor led training (ILT) has always been the mainstay for helping people to learn the soft and hard skills that organizations need for many years.

In fact, I recall how when I first started providing education and training on effective employee recognition skills twenty years ago, that I was being asked to design and develop 1 and 2-day training programs. These days you’re lucky to get access to managers and leaders for even half a day.

But as Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloitte and global research analyst says, “learning in the flow of work is one of the most powerful levers available to business leaders today.”

That is what we should do with learning. Learning happens at work when the learner is ready to learn.

What are some new ways that managers and employees can learn to give better recognition to others?

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How Do You Know What and When To Reward

One of the questions I am often asked when it comes to rewards is what to reward people with as well as when are you supposed to give those rewards.

It’s important to remember that rewards can be tangible, monetary, or experiential in nature. This opens the door to all kinds of creative options and ideas for what to give to people or give them access to choose.

And broadly you give rewards to individuals or teams whenever they reach pre-set goals, a significant achievement, or a special service was performed.

Now let’s dig a little deeper so you can better understand these elements.

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Inspiring Your People To Do Great Things

One element of recognition often overlooked is encouraging people to do worthwhile things that lead to valuing and recognizing someone.

Being able to inspire people to great accomplishments is an ability we should all strive to learn. But it’s an essential skill to have when you are a leader.

Inspiration is all about filling up people with rousing emotions that you feel about a particular cause or action that you want other people to take on. Interestingly, the Latin root for the word “inspire”, means to breathe upon or into, like the pulmonary meaning of inspiration.

However, to inspire an individual or team to action is not a set of behaviors you may naturally have. Sure, some people you know can make this look easy. Yet, inspiring people requires specific skills that all of us can learn.

Consider the following qualities and behaviors to inspire people.

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Appreciating People for Who They Are and Their Personal Qualities

When you get involved in a specific discipline and area of practice like employee recognition, you end up grappling with how to define things that fit your frame of reference.

At the same time you hope you can engage others is seeing things as you do and accepting the definitions you develop.

Such was the case with defining recognition when I first began speaking and training on the topic in the mid-nineties.  

A leading industrial company in Canada invited me to meet with them because they had just reviewed their employee engagement survey results. As is often the case, the responses to the questions addressing employee recognition were not so good.

In the first consultative meeting together I asked the leaders responsible for employee recognition what they were doing regarding recognizing employees. Following hearing about their existing programs and their total rewards strategy, I asked them if what they were doing was real recognition.

That’s when one of them sincerely asked me, what is “real recognition”?

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How to Solve the Recognition Famine at Work

It seems there is a massive absence of recognition in the workplace.

In fact, you can call this absence a recognition famine because there is an extreme scarcity of people acknowledging, praising, and appreciating one another.

Gallup Organization has long stated that 67% of employees report not being recognized for doing good work in the last seven days.

In one healthcare organization I was consulting for I broke the frequency of recognition down in finer detail.

How often we receive recognition can be as important as how and who gives the recognition. I asked these healthcare employees how often they received recognition or praise from their immediate supervisor or manager for the work they do. The statement ended with “at least” and then the time frame statements of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, or not at all.

Only 11% of these healthcare employees stated they received recognition on a weekly basis, so well below the Gallup average of 33%. Another 33% indicated managers had recognized them within a month. But there was nearly another third of the employees who said managers never recognized them at all.

This is a crime.

Let me give you some ideas for stemming the recognition famine that might happen where you work.

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Top 10 Ways to Select the Right Incentive or Recognition Award

Choosing the right awards for your various incentive and recognition programs is never an easy task. You want to show employees that their contributions are valued and appreciated. Awards should match your program’s goals and celebrate employee achievements. Today’s employees want more than the traditional award items. So here are the Top 10 Ways to Select the Right Incentive or Recognition Award to help you.

1. Clearly spell out your program purpose. Is this award for a sales campaign? Are you wanting to get people enlisted in your health and wellness platform? Or is this a prestigious award for the president’s excellence program? Awards must always fit the program purpose and performance level.

2. Have employees involved and ask them. Use an employee survey to get the big picture view of employee input. Ask them to prioritize on criteria such as the meaningfulness and perception of various award options. Draw upon focus groups too so you can dig deeper. Solicit the why behind each employee idea.

3. Focus on the meaningfulness factor. Employees are very clear on whether an award item is meaningful or not.  Always add onto the award presentation. For example, who’s presenting the award? How have you orchestrated the total award celebration experience? What elements can you make even better?

4. Inspire and excite award recipients. Does the incentive or recognition award inspire the recipient to do, and be, better? As you explore award items – whether tangible gifts or symbolic awards – find out how excited employees are to receive them. Evaluate the emotional appeal of the awards you’re thinking about.

5. Provide choice wherever you can. Giving people exciting options to decide from is a great way to create motivation. Whether the awards are lifestyle, health and fitness, electronics, outdoor, or experiential items, charitable donations, or gift cards. Think choice! This factor can be especially critical with incentives.

6. Always use quality, name brand products. It can be a real let down when an award gift breaks or stops functioning shortly after receiving it. Stick with brand name items that are top quality. Ensure your award vendor is reputable and has a great exchange and replacement policy. Your award speaks for you.

7. Put symbolic awards on a pedestal. Trophies and medals must be totally representative of your organization. Look at Olympic medals and the Oscars® for what they mean to recipients. Whatever symbolic awards you design must be an extension of the company and your brand. They will become a treasured prize.

8. Think outside of the box for novel ideas. No need to stay with the tried and true award selections. Dabble in creativity such as a customized portrait painting from a family photo of a recipient. Provide an opportunity to learn something new from an expert that the employee has mentioned such as painting or in music.

9. Move from tangible to experiential. Corporate volunteer trips to destinations around the world appeal to younger generation employees. They can build schools or set up wells with water access. This is a fully immersive cultural and teambuilding experience that leaves a legacy associated with your company.

10. Choose your own adventure. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman made famous the idea of doing things before you “kick the bucket”. Have employees choose experiences that bring joy. It could be skydiving, an amazing destination experience like whale watching in Patagonia, or cooking with a chef in Paris.

As previously published by the author in Incentive Magazine.

What It Takes To Teach People How To Give Wonderful Recognition

Too many people are not getting the recognition they deserve.

And the reason they are not receiving recognition where you work is because the people they report to, and those they work with don’t know how to express recognition to them.

This very fact motivated me to leave the healthcare field and begin a career in teaching people how to give meaningful and effective praise and recognition to those they work with.

Here’s what I have learned on what it takes to teach others to be real recognition givers.

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How to More Effectively Approach Milestone Recognition

Career milestone award or service award recognition programs have been around for many years.

Over those years there have been the customary plaques, symbolic crystal awards, and gold watches—and these used to start when a person reached 25-years of service.

But as tenure reduced significantly with economy and business changes, and retention of employees was harder to maintain, career milestones now begin at 5 years and 5-year increments thereafter. Today, you will find many companies now start career milestones at an employee’s first year of service.

The reality is, whether you give an employee something tangible or not, they always have a workplace anniversary every single year.

How do you plan to make the next round of your milestone recognition celebrations more meaningful and effective?

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