Getting Managers to be Proactive with Recognition Giving

Some of you manage an array of different employee recognition programs and work hard to maintain them and promote them.

While I have written about the need for recognition to be multi-directional in origin and not be owned by managers and supervisors alone, it is still very important to enlist management support.

Your goal should be to get managers excited about expressing recognition to employees and help them prepare to give it face-to-face and online. If you can help them to anticipate when recognition should occur in an employee’s life then they will become eager to give recognition.

Think about the following trigger points to help managers be proactive with recognition giving.


Cueing up managers to recognize people every day is about making them self-sufficient in knowing when and how they can give recognition.

Recognition begins with an observed or reported positive action or result. To find these gems of good things going on at work you have to show managers that they need to be digging up these examples. Recommend that they conduct regular conversations with people so they will become more aware of what people are doing and how they are performing that merits being recognized.

Another precursor for initiating recognition is to suggest managers routinely schedule time towards the end of the day to acknowledge people. Suggest they plan in at least 15 minutes each day to write appropriate notes and thank you cards to deserving employees. They can also be proactive by having an assistant, if they have one, to solicit names of individuals and their positive examples from direct reports.

Encourage managers to get out of their chairs or to change location from their regular work once in a while. Invite them to walk through the plant, on the site location, or in the office area, and have them look out for positive behaviors going on or ask for updates on current projects or goals.

If managers would take 5 to 10 minutes each day to go onto your recognition programs it would make a huge difference in morale and feeling appreciated. For example, managers can go on the company’s social recognition program and add to existing recognition comments posted on the newsfeed from peers other managers.

Suggest managers build in these microbursts of time to give recognition. A little time invested wisely will build dividends in the long-term.


Sometimes managers need a helping hand to get recognition right. It is perfectly okay to develop interdependence in working with others.

I have seen a director of a call center meet weekly with her direct line of supervisors and managers at the end of each week. She would ask them to tell her of the exceptional work their respective team members displayed that week. Afterward, the director would go on their social recognition platform and acknowledge these identified employees. Employees appreciated hearing commendation from their senior leader.

Request that assistants flag managers whenever employees reach performance objectives or teams have completed a project. Managers should use your performance-based recognition and reward program to acknowledge individuals and teams when they’ve achieved significant results. When people go above and beyond it is appropriate to give some form of a reward, or award, to employees. Make sure whenever managers give a reward that they also accompany it with words of appreciation too.

If you have weekly staff meetings or even pre-shift meetings, invite managers to start each meeting mentioning successful outcomes and thank those involved. Remind them to be sensitive to those who don’t like public acknowledgment. However, starting a meeting off this way creates a positive atmosphere for the rest of the meeting.


Have managers know your employees’ birthdays and, with their permission and knowledge of their personal preferences, celebrate their birthdays individually, or, at the team, group, or department level. This necessitates having your recognition programs populated with birthday and work anniversary dates. Otherwise, they’ll have to maintain their own information database on their calendar. Likewise, managers need to be holding recognition preference interviews to know what employees like and dislike.

Monthly celebrations can be planned to honor work milestones and birthdays depending on the size of your team or department. A simple potluck event may be an easy way to pause and have fun together on a weekly basis. I will always remember a St. Patrick’s Day potluck my staff had where even the hardboiled eggs were dyed green.

You can provide regular email blasts to managers pointing them to all of the recognition resources, and information, that you have available on the company intranet site or on the recognition program portal. Also, make sure that any learning courses, whether online or in-class, are promoted for managers to participate in.


Hold quarterly town hall meetings across the organization highlighting strategic goal achievements by individuals and teams. Have your senior leaders take time to connect the dots for employees on how their work performance is helping reach corporate goals and objectives. Solicit positive customer experience stories to share at these large group meetings.

Acknowledge people for exceptional performance, going above and beyond, or exemplary demonstration of company values. Again, be respectful of individual recognition preferences if someone does not feel comfortable with public recognition.


Find out and then calendar in and schedule the annual life events and significant anniversaries for each person. This can also be more granular to the individual as to when they started with your team or department versus the company itself. How about recording the age of their new pet while working with you. Or record the anniversary of their new house purchased while working at the company. Celebrate these events in the small ways that can make a big difference to an employee.

For the best of the best or excellence awards events, they all begin with the completion of a nomination form by managers. Assist managers by holding a specific management meeting, or meetings, giving insights on the benefits and outcomes from submitting great nominations for such awards. Provide online tutorials and in-person coaching to help manager navigate the system or process, and how they can write an effective nomination submission. Strive to make these nomination forms as easy as possible to complete.

At award events, managers need to be reminded that if called upon to present an award to one of their employees, that they actually represent the company at such events. Presenting awards is something special and not everyone is attuned to how important this is. Provide managers with a mandatory session on how to present an award so they can help make it a celebratory event for each employee. Inform managers of the purpose of awards events and how employees feel when an award is presented well. Let managers know the meaning that their role has in making an award event a celebration and not just a presentation.

A lot of what it takes to get managers proactive with recognition giving is:

  • Setting clear company expectations for managers to consistently and effectively recognize their employees.
  • Holding managers accountable for giving effective and meaningful recognition on a regular basis.
  • Providing managers with the resources, tools, and education they need to be confident and competent givers of recognition.
  • Regularly communicate in management meetings and through email and video campaigns about the expectations and give them practical tips for giving employee recognition.
  • Acknowledging those managers who are exemplary recognition givers and inviting them to mentor those managers who want to do better.

Recognition Reflection: In what ways do you assist managers to become more proactive with recognizing employees?

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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