First Things First – Learning How To Give Recognition

Leaders often barrage their managers of recognition with criticism over a lack of participation and usage of their organization’s employee recognition programs.

Naturally, not all organizations have participation problems. Some are exemplary. They have fought hard for that position. It did not come about easily, nor did it happen overnight.

But never let those who do not understand the intricacies and gifts of what it takes to make recognition happen, believe that they are the “real” recognition givers and know exactly what it takes to get full participation with recognition programs. 

Instead, remind them that first things must come first. Teach them how to give recognition one-on-one, whether in person, or by all the communication methods available to them 

The saving grace of all recognition initiatives is that you can learn to give recognition.  

How can you get as many people as possible involved in learning how to give meaningful and effective recognition to people wherever they work?

Why don’t we start with you?

Learning Recognition Begins One Person At A Time 

Each person needs to take ownership and responsibility for learning how to give recognition to others the right way and not leave it to someone else. Here are some ways to make this happen.

  • Read a recognition related book. You can start by reading the many books that exist out there on employee recognition, appreciation, and rewards. Set a certain amount of time to read, or the number of pages you’ll read, and plan a specific time and place where you’ll read the book.
  • Watch an online recognition course. Have on demand online courses or recorded webinars available for all employees to view at their convenience. And, if you think finding time will be a problem, set aside time in a staff meeting to review part or all of a course.
  • Check out YouTube for recognition ideas. YouTube is the second most popular search engine for finding out information. Ask anyone who’s had to fix something they had no clue about. Within the next few months, I intend to have a channel up and running with all kinds of recognition content available for you. 
  • Read online recognition articles. Create a repository of curated online articles for everyone to read. Enlist the help of internal subject experts or ambassadors of recognition to answer the specific questions that employees keep asking about recognition. Have them write out responses to these questions and create a community of interested recognition givers. 
  • Practice a new recognition skill. People can find the various facets of how to give recognition challenging. Set up a weekly challenge and invite as many as wish to take part to try out a new recognition behavior. Give people the opportunity to report on how they did, what they learned from doing the challenge, and something they still need to learn from the action. 
  • Making recognition giving a habit. Developing new habits is difficult, but nothing is impossible. Look for Cues of positive behaviors that people do that merits recognition. Next, develop a Craving or desire to make others feel good about what they do by recognizing them properly. Then comes Response, or the actual habit of recognizing people, so long as you can learn the required skills to do so. Finally, comes the Reward of feeling good inside about ourselves from recognizing someone, and learning from the experience. 

Learning Recognition As Exemplified By Leaders 

Senior and file leaders play a critical role in making recognition happen, even when they know recognition doesn’t have to start at the top. Encourage leaders to do the following.

  • Leaders begin like everyone else. Of course, leaders need to do all the things listed above for individuals. A leadership position does not remove their individual responsibility as a human being who needs to improve their recognition giving skills. 
  • Leaders can set recognition expectations. Sometimes, all it takes is for a senior leader to tell everyone that recognition is important and expected in this organization. They must repeatedly communicate their vision and messaging around recognition giving.  
  • Leaders must set an example of recognition giving. Nothing happens if leaders don’t set a proper example of giving recognition to employees. This means active participation in using the online programs. Presence and involvement at recognition award celebrations. And personally, giving one-on-one recognition to employees they encounter. 
  • Leaders can highlight the greatness of employees. Employees in every organization do amazing things every day. Leaders must enlist the aid of managers and staff to inform them of outstanding performances of others. They can then commend these talented people the right way.
  • Leaders can highlight other recognition leaders. Leaders must acknowledge the leaders around them who are already recognizing staff consistently and well. It’s important for leaders to commend the recognizers in order to encourage recognition giving.  
  • Leaders can share what they are learning about recognition. Invite leaders to participate in leadership development sessions and share their experiences with recognition giving. Let them tell session participants of their successful recognition moments and the lost recognition opportunities as well.

Learning Recognition As A Team 

Today, we put employees in multiple teams to address various work project needs. You can learn great ways to improve recognition In this microcosm of employees.

  • Team members can discuss what they have learned. In your regular team meetings, make sure recognition of peers is first on the agenda. Discuss together what is working and what is not with recognition in their team right now.
  • Team members can remind peers of special dates. Team leads can send out reminders of individual work anniversaries and birthdays, always respecting the individual’s recognition preferences for wanting acknowledgement or not.
  • Team members can share their expertise or insights. One or more people on a team are going to know things about motivation, engagement, and recognition. Have them present principles and practices that could help the team better value the people and contributions of the team.
  • Team members can volunteer to learn and share. Not everyone on a team can make time to take advantage of learning. Why not let a team member volunteer to take a course or view a webinar? Then they can report back at a team meeting and teach everyone there. 
  • Team members can make recognition fun. A few committed people make it easier to connect and build positive relationships. Commit to everyone finding the good in one another and showing caring concern when personal needs arise. 
  • Team members should learn to celebrate growth. Celebrations honor people for the positive things they do and the accomplishments they have reached. Even if a person has made only one percent growth, it is an improvement and should be celebrated.

Learning Recognition Across the Organization

Sometimes, it is good to start off small before you try to go big. You should develop a full learning plan for teaching recognition giving skills when the organization is ready. 

  • Learning recognition requires a full needs assessment. Many of the above recognition learning happens at the grassroots level. Organizationally, you need to conduct a learning needs assessment to find out what gaps exist with effectively learning recognition skills. 
  • Learning recognition begs for a learning plan. Develop a learning plan based on gap analysis and have leaders and managers take on a recognition development plan. What will they commit to doing on a weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis, to make recognition better?
  • Learning recognition requires a library of resources. Many online recognition programs can have a library of articles, books, video tutorials, and handy learning aids. If you don’t have one start curating and compiling what you need to learn to give recognition the right way.
  • Learning recognition calls for committed teachers. Find exemplary recognition givers and pair them with learning and development specialists to teach people how to give recognition. Enlist the help of passionate employees to become ambassadors to support recognition giving. 
  • Learning recognition demands online and offline learning opportunities. Have on demand recognition learning programs so people at all levels can access the learning they need when they want it. Acquire programs and make your own recognition learning content. Let us know if we can help you. 
  • Learning recognition causes everyone to be engaged and participating.   There is something incredible that happens when people are learning to give better recognition more frequently. This positive energy creates positive attitudes and gets everyone involved in recognition.

Recognition Reflection: At what level is learning recognition giving skills most effective 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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