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”?
Defining Real Recognition
I descriptively defined “Real Recognition” as any thought, word, or deed, towards making someone feel appreciated for who they are and recognizing them for what they do.
Recognition and appreciation begins first with thought and intention to acknowledge and value another person.
You can express your recognition to someone in two ways, either by the written or spoken word, or by positive actions that can include giving something tangible.
I highlight at the end of my definition to recognize people for what they do. You may have heard me speak or written before how people typically only get recognized when a task or project is completed—done!
Employees have disclosed to me their frustration with when recognition occurs. They have repeatedly said they want recognition along the way and not at the very end. So strive to recognize people for what they do and not just what they did.
How Do You Appreciate People
The part of the definition that I want to emphasize is appreciating people for who they are independent of any performance, task, or outcome measure.
- Do you stop to appreciate the employees you work with for what they have learned and gained from their families, their cultural background and ethic origin?
- Are you aware of what education or life experiences they have had that make them who they are?
- What life and health challenges have they overcome?
- Have you ever stopped and just chatted with an employee to learn more about them beyond what you know from a formal hiring interview?
For one small company where I did some recognition training, I conducted an exercise that gave their CEO a chance to more fully appreciate their employees.
Each employee took a colored piece of construction paper and with a marker they wrote their answer to the following request:
- Write their name on the sheet along with how long they had worked with the company.
- Identify one or more talents, hobbies, personal interests, or abilities that are likely unknown to most people in the room, and which they felt could be useful in contributing to the growth of the company.
The result was about 50 of these sheets posted around the room on the walls.
Then each person went around the room to read each of these sheets. Using their markers again, they also checked off and voted for which of those talents, hobbies, interests, and abilities they could see benefiting the company.
It was quite the revelation to everyone, including the CEO.
This CEO later told me they had learned more about their employees through this exercise than through any other previous experience.
To fully appreciate people requires taking some time and effort, active discovery and transparent sharing from each of us.
Recognition Reflection: What are you missing out on fully appreciating in your employees?
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