Beware of the Hidden Biases Around Employee Recognition

When was the last time you reviewed your recognition and reward program data to see if there is any tendency toward any hidden biases?

A hidden—or implicit—bias is defined as a preference for, or against, a person, thing, or group, which is held at an unconscious level. This means you and I don’t even know our minds are holding onto this bias. In contrast, an overt—or explicit—bias is an attitude or prejudice which is very much endorsed at a conscious level.

For example, what is the proportion of recognition or reward recipients who are male versus female, with respect to your employee gender ratio? Are rewards given more often to one gender over another? Is there any general ratio between white and non-white employees? Do disabled staff equally merit and receive recognition and rewards for exemplary work?

Perhaps we all need to ask these kinds of question when identifying whether hidden biases exist in our recognition and reward practices and programs.

If there are certain principles that keep recognition and rewards open it is fairness and equity.

How well is your organization doing in this area?

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Top 10 Ways to Get Managers Giving Recognition

If there is one concern that most organizations have, and that is getting their managers to regularly and consistently recognize their employees. Developing the mindset of the importance of appreciating and recognizing staff for their positive behaviors and personal effort, requires several steps to make this happen. Start using this month’s Top 10 Ways to Get Managers Giving Recognition to guide you on what to do next. 

1. Set clear expectations from senior leadership team for managers to become better at appreciating people for who they are and recognizing them for what they do. Have leaders set the pattern and personal example for recognizing staff contributions.

2. Show managers the truth about the impact their giving or lack of recognition has on people. Capture video testimonials from employees and open-ended survey results that show the positive and negative feelings people have about recognition.

3. Provide managers with insight on their department’s employee engagement survey scores and drill down on how the recognition specific questions scored for them. Any score below 65 percent is a sign that everyday recognition is missing in action.

4. Debunk the myth they don’t have time to give recognition. We all have the same 24 hours in a day and giving good quality recognition takes less than 30-seconds to do. Suggest managers at a minimum start and end their day with recognition giving.

5. Hold regular one-on-one feedback meetings with managers to find out how they feel they’re doing with recognizing staff. Get their input on challenges, frustrations, or problems they have with giving recognition and coach them to succeed.

6. Provide managers with all the resources they need to gain knowledge and insights on how to give better and more meaningful recognition to people. Be this through written articles or an archive of video tutorial content that is broadcast out to them.

7. Give managers in-class and online education opportunities to show them how to give effective recognition to people. You can also do this through lunch and learn sessions, management briefing sessions, or delivering webinars by other managers.

8. Don’t forget to set goals with managers on how they intend to improve the frequency and quality of the recognition they give people. Remember to stay on top of their commitments and hold managers accountable for recognizing staff.

9. Use positive reinforcement and recognize managers when they stop to recognize their employees. Making time to recognize the recognizers is something that often gets neglected in our desire to see more recognition happen from management.

10. Invite managers to share in management meetings about the successes they have experienced when they stopped and made time to recognize their employees. Let their peers know of the intrinsic reward that their recognition had in lifting people up.

How to Deal with Managers Who Don’t See a Need to Change

We’ve all seen them in action. Some of us even report to one.

These are the managers who don’t seem to want to change their behavior. In our recognition scenario, these are the managers who don’t recognize their direct reports, let alone anyone else working around them.

How are you supposed to get a manager like this to change? 

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Top 10 Recognition Posts for 2019

Here we are with another New Year and I want to share with you the Top 10 Posts for 2019.

I will reflect along with you on why perhaps you and many other readers read these more than other posts that didn’t quite make the top rankings.

In tenth position was the post How to Help a Leader Who’s Not a Good Recognizer. Obviously, this leadership focused article resonated with many of you who need some ideas and help with coaching the challenged leader to become a better recognizer of peers and staff. 

Leaders are not always in their position for their people skills—although they certainly help—and for that reason they often have more left-brain, executive functioning and logical skills. Some, not all, need a helping hand to get the people skills down and realize how important recognition is to the people that work for them.

The topic in ninth position is How to Increase the Impact of Your Formal Award Programs, which I know many of you want desperately to improve and stand out. There are some basic steps you can follow, and I hope you can make them come alive in 2020.

Most organizations have some formal award programs going on. But few organizations set objectives for what they want to achieve from conducting nomination submissions and planning awards events.

I didn’t expect this post to rank as high as it did. It seems many of you wanted to learn how they select Oscar awards winners so How Oscar Awards Nominations Are Selected came in at number eight. Recognition professionals are always looking to benchmark against best practices, so I hope you gain some insights from this post.

The Oscars always share the public limelight on what people think an awards ceremony should look like. Understanding how the award winners are selected might help you raise or lower your own expectations on how you should determine your award recipients.

In seventh position we have a leadership focus again and this time it’s on feedback. What Makes Giving Feedback So Difficult for Leaders? provides you with some perspective and actions you can take to assist those having difficulty with this area.

I think we’re hitting on soft skills here and how they are not as easy as they seem. Giving meaningful feedback is something all of us can become better at.

For those of you who haven’t created a written recognition strategy document yet, our sixth ranked post of A Quick and Easy Recognition Strategy to Get You Going should help you out. It is better to have a basic document in place to guide you along than not having a strategy at all.

Make sure you become more intentional and strategic with your recognition practices and programs. This post’s ranking probably reflects the need for an easy way to write up a recognition strategy.

It seems some of us need pointers on overcoming our discomfort with giving recognition. In fact, our fifth post on Why Are We So Uncomfortable Giving Recognition to People? gives great reminders for why some of us find recognition giving an awkward experience.

The reality of this post’s ranking is the human tendency that expressing emotions and validating the great things people around us do is more difficult than we think.

There are probably many organizations that would enjoy our fourth ranked post on How to Get Employees to Use Your Recognition Programs. It takes constant effort to communicate, educate, and exemplify great program usage to have employees follow in our footsteps.

The whole preparation and planning required to make recognition programs successful is not something a lot of organizations do well. Everyone wants to get more employees using their programs more frequently.

I am so glad my post on Why Being Specific Increases the Value of Recognition made it to third place. It validates for me that many of you see the importance and need for recognition specificity. Put this into practice and teach others to do the same and recognition will go a long way to becoming improved.

Recognition specificity is one of my favorite topics around recognition giving. Intuitively, many of you know it is important but just want to know how to do it better.

Second on the ranking list was the post on What Your Leaders Can Do to Lead Recognition. It tires many of you to fight the recognition battles alone. You need leaders to step up to the plate and make a strategic pitch for the cause of employee recognition.

A bit of a surprise for me was seeing this post in number two position. But it paints a picture that we desperately need leadership around employee recognition.

And the top-ranked post for 2019 was… How To Improve Recognition With A Great Learning Curriculum. This shows the need from many of you to have ongoing learning and development on recognition practices and using programs properly.

Be constantly learning the essential recognition skills and behaviors to give meaningful recognition. Understand the importance of your recognition programs and humanize your interaction with the programs to better connect with and value your employees.

Happy New Year to everyone. Become a better real recognition giver this year.

Recognition Reflection: What insights can you gain from the usage of your recognition programs over the past year?

How To Develop Emerging Recognition Leaders in Your Organization

A few years ago, some managers at a particular company reached out to a Rideau colleague of mine and me to have a telephone meeting with them. These were young leaders in the making and were part of this company’s emerging leaders’ program. They wanted to learn more about employee recognition and specifically about our recognition programs at Rideau.

Later, we were invited to attend an on-site meeting at the company head office. There we connected with these managers and their peers from across North America, both face-to-face and virtually.

While they were from various departments and held a variety of positions within the company, it was fascinating seeing the light go on for them, and their asking thought-provoking questions about employee recognition.

Their emerging leader program project required them to seek insights on best practices, creating a recognition strategy, and what programs would work best for their managers and employees.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every organization desired to develop their managers through an emerging recognition leaders’ program?

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This Is What Awesome Recognition Looks Like

Some people seem to be just a natural when they are out and about in the company as far as appreciating people for who they are and recognizing the wonderful contributions made by employees.

There will always be others who have a much harder time in recognizing others. For whatever reasons, such as not being recognized as a child, perhaps more introverted, or plain uncomfortable with knowing what to say or do, recognition doesn’t happen.

But the great news is that giving awesome recognition to people is a skill anyone can learn.

When you know what something hard to do looks like, such as a new skill you have to learn, observe those people that do it well. Then all you have to do is reverse engineer how they do the task or skill and then you can replicate this ideal performance and do it yourself.

What does awesome recognition look like? How can you learn to master this art and science of giving meaningful and effective recognition?

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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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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 Get Ready To Educate People About Giving Recognition

When you think education and training is the next steps to take with making real recognition happen where you work, there are a few things to take into consideration first before planning the training program.

In fact, if you prepare yourself and the prospective learners properly, then they will better learn how to give more meaningful and effective recognition to those they work with.

Prior preparation also impacts those involved in designing and developing the learning curriculum and planning the right methods of delivery.

Let’s get ready to educate your employees about recognizing one another the right way.

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What Should You Do If Your Recognition Education Fails?

Most corporate training and education programs work very well. But now and then you get an educational program, whether in-class, online, blended, or via one of the many learning delivery methods, that ends up being a failure.

If you were following the Kirkpatrick Model and the levels of training evaluation, you might do a Level 3 evaluation to examine participant’s behaviors after the training. You want to find out the degree participants are now actively applying what they learned in the training sessions back on the job. 

You conduct a survey to find out what learning participants are doing or not doing with giving employee recognition. Now you find out that a majority of the learners are not doing much with the skills and principles they were taught.

What can you do to correct this problem? How would you handle the fact that your recognition education failed?

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