7 Simple Ways Leaders Can Improve Recognition

You meet Keira, your new boss, in the hallway at work. You now report to her about your responsibilities in administering the company’s employee recognition programs.

She’s a good leader and heads compensation and benefits. But employee recognition is new to her. She’s only just been assigned the recognition portfolio.

You know her qualities and feel you will work well with her. You feel her intentions are solid and sincere towards recognition.

As she converses with you she asks you what your expectations are of her as your new leader. And she also asks you how senior leaders as a whole could help improve recognition throughout the company.

How would you answer this leader? What ideas come to your mind?

Consider the following 7 simple ways that recognition practitioners have recommended to their leaders and shared with me in the last several months.

  1. Request Their Personal Commitment and Support. People who manage employee recognition tend to talk about getting leader buy in. Remove the phrase “buy in” from your vocabulary. Using these words influences leaders to think of recognition simply in terms of money. They either “buy in” with a budget or they cut your budget. Instead, ask for a leader’s personal commitment in supporting recognition. Commitment is a state of engaging oneself and being fully involved in a cause. Imagine if you could get that from all of your leaders. At least start by changing how you say things and by asking for their commitment.
  2. Show Them the Importance of Positive Example. This is where the commitment piece goes beyond word only and gets right into demonstrating positive examples of recognition giving. It means leaders showing respect for people. Leaders should acknowledge employees as they pass them by and address them by name when known. And leaders must be candid if they are not already proficient with how to give expressions of genuine recognition to employees. Coach them if need be on how to write meaningful thank you cards. Show them how to use your great recognition programs. Say thanks more often.
  3. Expect Them To Be an Ambassador of Recognition. You need someone to be more than just an advocate for recognition at the C-suite or senior leadership team. You need someone who will be an ambassador for recognition. They will represent you and the needs of employee recognition for the good of the company and all employees. They will attend social functions and events where people are being recognized. They will smooth out misunderstandings about recognition errors wherever they can. They’ve always got your back.
  4. Get Them To Link Recognition to the Business Strategy. Leaders are responsible for leading a successful business. Your committed leader also needs to help you understand the business goals the company wants to achieve. Let them guide you on how they best see where recognition can lift performance and sustain the various business metrics being monitored. Draw upon them to help you to join the dots between the contributions people make and those actions that drive various business and people metrics.
  5. To Be an Advocate for Financial and Human Resources. It is essential to have an ally at all budget meetings at the senior level. They know the direction the company is taking with strategic planning and talent management. Provide them with the numbers they need to push for the right budget amounts and the people you need to make recognition a tool for success. Show them the potential of what can be gained from low versus a high probability budget request and let them go to bat for you.
  6. Ask Them To Hold Everyone Accountable. Expect your leader to hold you accountable and those who work with you with achieving your recognition strategy goals and plans on an annual basis. They must be willing to challenge all leaders and managers to be better recognition givers. Build in the kind of analytics that can be correlated with organizational business metrics and prove the ROI your leader requires to defend the value of recognition. Meet as regularly as you can with them and communicate consistently so they know the positive and negative happenings of running your recognition programs.
  7. Get Them To Be Fully Present at Award Events and Celebrations. Leaders should show up when expected at award ceremonies and other recognition events. When they are in the room they need to be in the room. They must be fully present. No side meetings when they should be interacting with employees. No looking at smartphones and other devices. They need to give their full attention to all employees being honored, congratulated and recognized. Leaders are the face of the company and how they act at recognition events communicates exactly where recognition stands at your company.

In the grand scheme of things these requests of leaders are simple. Getting them to happen can be a little trickier – I am aware.

Work with who you’ve been assigned and tackle each of these ideas one at a time. Coach them on the skills they need and be patient while giving them feedback on how they are doing.

Having a great executive sponsor who leads the way with recognition will not only make your job and life easier, it can transform the way people feel valued and appreciated throughout the company.

Question: How have you seen leaders shape the delivery and perception of recognition in your organization?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “7 Simple Ways Leaders Can Improve Recognition

  1. Using these seven steps is a staple in any company who creates a recognition strategy for their employees. One way I have seen leaders shape their recognition perception and delivery is finding a recognition champion. A champion is one who others can see, observe and learn from when it comes to creating an recognition experience. A leader who is open to learning appreciation practices, is genuine and understands that recognition is about being timely, specific and sincere. We know leaders want to, they may not know how to. In my experience beginning with a champion has been successful in sharing best practices as well. It becomes contagious!