How To Ask Employees About Their Recognition Preferences

Perhaps you think the idea of asking employees about their recognition preferences is a hard thing to do. Doing so might be the best investment of time you’ll make in connecting better with your employees.

Recognition is such an individual experience that you must encourage everyone in supervisory and management positions to discover how their employee likes and wants to be recognized.

These are some quick suggestions for how to do it and what to ask.

Finding Out

Schedule a 15-minute sit-down meeting for each of your employees and individually ask them about their personal recognition preferences. If they are remote, simply conduct the meeting over the phone or by videoconference.

The secret behind giving more personal and customized recognition is to ask your employees.

Recognition Needs

Tell them that you want to do a better job of giving more meaningful and effective recognition. Share what you’ve learned that each person has their preferred way for being recognized and you want to find out their recognition preferences.

Think of the questions you would like to ask them and draw on the ones below to generate your own.

  • How do you best like to be recognized?
  • When do you expect to be recognized?
  • What type of tangible recognition is most meaningful to you?
  • How am I doing as a manager in the recognition I give you?

Recognition Timing

The one thing that research into employee recognition has observed, is that people like to receive recognition immediately after the positive behavior or achievement, or shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, some employees receive little or no recognition at all.

Identifying what is currently happening and what they would like is a good away to address right timing.

  • How often do you like to be recognized?
  • Am I giving you recognition in a timely manner?
  • How soon after a significant contribution or achievement would you like to be recognized?
  • Do you receive frequent recognition from other people across the organization?

Recognition Delivery

While much of the recognition experience is based on expressing appreciation to people verbally or in writing, there are also small acts of service or tokens of appreciation that can be given to people. How you execute recognition and appreciation can be as important as what you do.

Consider asking the following questions on the delivery of recognition.

  • Who do you most prefer to be recognized by?
  • How are your peers doing in giving you merited recognition?
  • How do you feel when being verbally acknowledged?
  • What type of written recognition do you prefer best? Written note, email, text, or social media?
  • Does getting recognized by senior leaders mean much to you? If so, by which leader in particular.
  • How valuable is it to you to receive a well-deserved, handwritten note or thank you card?

Recognition Setting

It is easy to forget the importance of the right setting with giving people recognition. The right place can add to or diminish the overall recognition experience. Learn what each employee likes or dislikes as to the “where” of receiving recognition.

  • Do you want to be recognized publicly or privately?
  • Is a strictly private, one-on-one experience the best way to recognize you?
  • Is being recognized with your team members or in your department a good things to do?
  • How do you feel when being recognized in a large group or more formal recognition ceremony?
  • Would having regular one-on-one meetings be helpful in getting more frequent feedback?

Recognition Tokens

It’s the little things that can make a big difference. Showing an employee that you care by giving small tokens of appreciation can be a tipping point in employee retention. Discovering an employee’s interests and likes for the different things you are allowed to give employees, will help you stay on top of giving spontaneous acts of recognition.

  • What’s your favorite food items, beverage, treat, or snack? Make a list of all items.
  • How do you spend your spare time? Do you have a particular hobby, sports interest, or other interests, etc.? Find out if they have a favorite sports team.
  • How worthwhile is it to you to receive a restaurant gift card or gift certificate? What is your favorite restaurant you dine at or would like to go to?
  • Would you enjoy receiving movie tickets for accomplishing an important task? Where is the closest cinema or theatre?

Indirect Recognition

You have available to you many things within the work setting that can be used to recognize employees. Not all require the use of online recognition programs or a significant expense to your recognition budget.

  • Would going out to lunch with your manager be something you’d like to do?
  • Do you like reading books? What genre do you typically purchase? Are you more of a printed book or eBook reader?
  • Are there certain seminars or workshop topics you would like to attend?
  • What interesting project opportunities would you like to be involved in?
  • Would have a paid day off be something that is rewarding to you? What would you likely do with a day off work?

Recognition Experience

Find out from your one-on-one meetings with each employee how well recognized your employees are feeling. Don’t hesitate to send out pulse check, short-surveys, to employees to get quantifiable as well as qualitative information of recognition perceptions.

Discover if your employees feel valued and appreciated as individuals and for the contributions they make on the job.

  • How well valued and appreciated did you feel by your manager through your most recent recognition experience from them?
  • Does the kind of recognition you receive at our company make you want to stay working with us?
  • Is the recognition you receive from your manager motivating to you?
  • What can we do to improve the recognition you do, or do not, receive?

Stop and ask each of your employees about their recognition preferences. Then make a concrete plan to implement and use the insights you have gained. Without action and improvement of your recognition, these sit down meetings with staff will be considered a waste of time and a detraction from any future recognition attempts.

Recognition Reflection: What stood out for you the most when you conducted a recent employee recognition preference meeting?

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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