How To Get Amazing, Everyday Recognition Happening in 3 Easy Steps

Many of the attendees at my breakout session at the recent Human Resource Professionals Association were committed to wanting to improve employee recognition practices and their recognition programs where they worked.

One person submitted a question to me asking, “What would be the first 3 steps to take to start with Real Recognition?”

I am going to outline the three steps I would recommend you start with to make everyday, recognition – and specifically Real Recognition® – happen throughout your organization.

These steps are only easy if you commit to asking the hard questions of one another, being vulnerable enough to hear people’s responses, and then having the courage to act upon them.

Everyday, Real Recognition®

The term Real Recognition originated after meeting with several clients who were supposedly giving employees recognition but still had low scores on those recognition questions on their engagement survey results.

I would ask the client representatives in our meetings if they felt they were giving employees “real recognition”. To a tee, they would all ask me, “What is real recognition?” Which meant I had to define what it was.

For me, Real Recognition® is any thought, word, or deed, for making a person feel appreciated for who they are and recognized for what they do.

Notice the first part of the definition speaks to appreciating a person for who they are – their background, education, experiences, interests, etc. – independent of any job task or performance. You’re appreciating the whole person.

The second part of the definition is about recognizing people for what they do. It does not say when something is “done”. Too many employees have told me that they only get recognized when something is completed – they never hear anything about their work along the way.

A Golden Circle Approach to Everyday Recognition

I love Simon Sinek’s work and highly recommend you view his TED talk that he gave speaking about his Golden Circle.

While his focus is more on organizations and careers, he postulates that organizations and people function on three levels, namely:

  • What we do
  • How we do it, and
  • Why we do it

Most leaders start with describing what they or their company do.

Successful leaders start with Why first – why do you do what you do? What’s your purpose? This is the bulls-eye centre of the Golden Circle.

The next ring moving outward in the Golden Circle is the How – how do you do what you do?

And the outer ring addresses the What – what do you do?

Many leaders in describing themselves, or their companies, typically say what they do and even how they do it, but rarely do they share why they do it.

To make everyday recognition become a way of life requires you to work on answering and applying each of these questions towards our subject of employee recognition.

1. Why: The first step to take with your leaders, as well as with other company representatives, is to articulate what your purpose is for recognition? Why do you want to give recognition to people anyway? What are people’s beliefs about recognizing one another?

Recognition can often be seen as simply an afterthought, a feel good activity for those so inclined, or perhaps something that is too touchy-feely.

When recognition is seen as the emotional fuel that engages people and drives performance results, attitudes and behaviors change and recognition becomes the way things are done where you work.

Knowing your company’s recognition “Why” is foundational for communicating and setting the expectation for acknowledging people and valuing their contributions.

Consider reading my series on creating a recognition strategy:

How to Create a Recognition Strategy – Part 1 of 4, or

What is Your “Why” for Giving People Recognition?

2. How: This is one of the most important aspects of effective recognition is learning how to give it. How do you give recognition the right way?

Think about the ways people recognize others, and the things people do everyday, that demonstrates they value people and their contributions.

The “how” is all about showing people how to effectively, meaningfully and simply give recognition and appreciation. Few of us have learned how to do this and that’s one of the reasons people have a hard time giving recognition.

Understanding how to give recognition the right way eliminates anxiety in giving it. Authentic recognition can be such a special experience in the lives of the recipients as well as the givers of recognition.


How To Overcome the 5 Most Common Barriers to Recognition

Master These 5 Behaviors for Giving Others Great Recognition

How to Give Recognition to People Without Sounding Fake

3. What: You’ll need to describe to people what recognition looks like or feels like. What do people typically do when they give recognition? What does it feel like to the recipients? What exactly is it that employees want when they are being recognized?

I recently transformed my recognition definition when I asked myself the question, What if we’ve all been thinking about employee recognition the wrong way?

Consider my perspective that recognition should be the transferring of positive emotions and feelings from one person to another.

Employee recognition has always been a felt phenomenon. What will it take to transfer such emotions in the lives of people?

Thinking About Recognition In A Completely Different Way

As you follow this Golden Circle approach to employee recognition you will see Real Recognition®, the everyday recognition we all want for one another, becoming the norm within your organizational culture.

Reflective Question: How will being more strategic first, make everyday recognition a more frequent and spontaneous occurrence?

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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