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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
following qualities and behaviors to inspire people.
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
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.
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.
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”?
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.
Organization has long stated that 67% of employees report not being recognized
for doing good work in the last seven days.
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
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
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.
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?
Vineet Nayar, an Indian business executive and former Chief Executive Officer of HCL Technologies, is the author of the critically acclaimed management book Employees First, Customers Second.
that employees are the clear differentiator in the value zone for helping
organizations grow faster and be more competitive. He further states that the
business of leaders and management is to enthuse, encourage, and enable
employees to continue creating this differentiating value for their customers.
already know the power of employee recognition. But not everyone is like Vineet
However, what all leaders want to know about recognition is four major points about the programs and practices that you are overseeing.