Do You Know What Your Employees’ Recognition Preferences Are?

One of the most popular topics people search for is learning how to identify your employee’s recognition preferences. 

However, once an employee has shown how they like to be recognized, do you really know their preferences and do you use them? 

Public of Private Recognition  

Employees want to be recognized in the most positive environment possible. Which is why you need to know about each employee’s wishes of how they want to be recognized. 

Dr. Paul White, author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, has stated that up to 25% to 30% of the public do not want any form of public recognition. This level will increase or decrease dependent on the stereotypic personality type associated with different careers. For example, the more stereotypic introverted personality of program developers and accountants would show a higher aversion to public recognition than say salespeople and training and develop professionals.

And it is far more than just a yes or no answer to public versus private recognition. 

Consider the following scenarios: 

  • The individual is averse to receiving an award on a public stage. However, they have no problem with the award publicly broadcast out by email or in a newsletter.
  • An employee might prefer private recognition. Yet, they might feel more recognized having their immediate team members present.
  • Would they be more comfortable receiving recognition in a staff meeting with others present or one-on-one in their manager’s office?
  • Find out if recognition is more meaningful to them if given by a senior leader, their immediate manager, their peers, or no preference at all.

One organizational leader once asked me to resolve an award dilemma they had. A leader nominated an exceptional performer to merit receiving a prestigious award. A nomination judging teamed deemed the individual the top candidate.

But there was a problem. The employee did not want to receive the award publicly. Grateful for the commendation, they wanted no limelight or any public attention. What could they do, they asked me? 

I suggested they explore the following idea with the individual. Note, they wanted no spotlight on themselves and no public mention of the award. Honoring these wishes, I proposed that their CEO, who the individual highly regarded, write a very personalized and specific letter on company letterhead acknowledging the individual’s achievements. I suggested they ask the individual if they would accept such a letter and perhaps put a copy on their employee file.

This proved acceptable to the employee, and the CEO was more than willing to write such a letter of commendation. Not the same trappings and expectations associated with this award. However, there was a person who was recognized exactly the way they wanted. 

The organization could have solved this tricky situation if the leader had taken time to know their employee better and their specific recognition preferences.

What Do You Like To be Recognized For?

It might sound corny to ask this, but think about it. Not every person wants recognition the same way for the same action as another person. Find out what is meaningful to each employee by asking them and then acting on what you learn.

  • Do you like to be recognized for completing specific tasks or projects?
  • What about recognition for positive behaviors along the way in completing a project?
  • Is receiving recognition for living the organizational values meaningful to you or not?
  • What if you helped move the dial on a key performance indicator? Does that merit recognition to you?
  • When you display exceptional skills in a particular area that helped the team?
  • Is it important to you to be acknowledged by your manager on each work anniversary?
  • How do you feel if your manager says nothing on your career milestone anniversary?
  • Is it important to be recognized for birthdays, start date in the department, and other personal life events?

How Do You Like To be Recognized?

You have an online recognition program that allows you to make comments on the social recognition newsfeed. You can like other’s comments and add your own. What about sending a personalized ecard that has graphics associated with different purposes—recognition, thanks, anniversaries, or above and beyond? Send someone a stylized social badge for living one of your organizational values? 

Then there are the organizational practices that might be available to you beyond your online program.

  • Personal paid time off. Our company gives an extra day off on your birthday or as close to the date every year.
  • How meaningful do you find the ecard selection on your recognition platform?
  • Find out if employees prefer verbal versus written recognition, or do they like both.
  • Is it meaningful to you to receive other people’s comments to recognition posted on the recognition program?
  • Some people feel especially recognized when they receive access to professional development opportunities.
  • Are there additional responsibilities or career path opportunities that an employee aspires to?
  • What about having a small get together with the team to celebrate an achievement? 

The big secret to your recognition success is going from knowing to doing. If you want more insights on gaining your employees recognition preferences plan to read, How To Ask About Their Recognition Preferences

Recognition Reflection: How well do you know your employees’ recognition preferences?

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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