How to Solve the Recognition Famine at Work

It seems there is a massive absence of recognition in the workplace.

In fact, you can call this absence a recognition famine because there is an extreme scarcity of people acknowledging, praising, and appreciating one another.

Gallup Organization has long stated that 67% of employees report not being recognized for doing good work in the last seven days.

In one healthcare organization I was consulting for I broke the frequency of recognition down in finer detail.

How often we receive recognition can be as important as how and who gives the recognition. I asked these healthcare employees how often they received recognition or praise from their immediate supervisor or manager for the work they do. The statement ended with “at least” and then the time frame statements of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, or not at all.

Only 11% of these healthcare employees stated they received recognition on a weekly basis, so well below the Gallup average of 33%. Another 33% indicated managers had recognized them within a month. But there was nearly another third of the employees who said managers never recognized them at all.

This is a crime.

Let me give you some ideas for stemming the recognition famine that might happen where you work.

Preventing A Recognition Famine at Your Organization

We are talking about a widespread scarcity of respecting, appreciating, and valuing people the right way. It means the contributions employees make on the job are being disregarded and taken for granted.

Follow these strategic initiatives carefully and you will fill the human souls hungering to be appreciated and recognized.

1. Commit to doing employee recognition the right way as part of the solution to positively enhancing the overall employee experience. 

Employee experience is the latest buzzword term to hit the workplace and relates to an employee’s observations and perceptions about their employment and experience where they work. Physical environment, available technology and tools to do the job, and the overall work-life balance and psychological safety affect some of their experience.

Appreciating people for who they are and recognizing them for what they do goes a long way to supporting psychological safety and a positive employee experience.

2. Focus on putting employees first as a guaranteed driver of your customer success outcomes and add greater meaning to an employee’s purpose. 

You probably know how the Gallup Q12 engagement survey asks the recognition question, “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing a good job.” 

According to Gallup research conducted in one large health care organization, a difference of 10 percentage points on this one survey statement represented an average difference of 11 percent on their patient’s evaluations of their healthcare experience.

That is huge!

3. Consistently educate your managers but also your employees on how to recognize one another the right way.

This goes along with general food famine prevention and encouraging people to always be prepared and self-sufficient. If your supervisor and manager are not willing or interested in recognizing staff, be the one to make a difference to your own peers and network.

WorldatWork showed in their surveys that only 13% of responding organizations showed having any formal training programs about employee recognition. Show managers and employees how easy it is to express appreciation to one another and then set the expectation for them to give recognition.

4. Work on making recognition giving multi-directional and not just a top-down experience as we have traditionally seen it. 

Recognition is an expectation from everyone to everyone. It is a human experience and not dictated by position. While we saw historically recognition as manager to an employee, organizational dynamics have changed and peer-to-peer recognition is much more acceptable.

Don’t wait for someone to recognize you before you recognize someone else. That would be the wrong reason for appreciating another person.

Sure not everyone needs recognition as much as another person, but find out how a co-worker is feeling about being appreciated or not at work. Then make a goal to be on the lookout for when they do good things well on the job. When you see something, say something.

5. Start communicating the expectation that managers represent the company whenever recognition is needed. 

While everyone has a responsibility to recognize each other, it is still managers who have the ultimate responsibility for being exemplary recognizers of staff.

If there is an employee’s career milestone to be acknowledged the manager plays a key part in the employee experience. You and organizational leaders must hold managers accountable for creating a memorable recognition experience for that employee. They must say and do something special on their anniversary date. And then they must give an accounting to their manager on what they did and how the employee responded.

6. Instil the idea to recognize people for the doing of the great things they do not just when they’re done.

People want to hear positive feedback along the way on how they are doing with their work. Too many employees tell me they only get recognized when they complete a project or work task. They hear nothing along the way. And a project completion can be weeks or months down the road and become a negative barrier to an employee feeling they are doing worthwhile work.

Concentrate on giving some positive feedback whenever you see someone by asking how things are going, listening carefully, and encouraging them to keep up the great work they are doing.

7. Set a goal to increase the frequency of recognition given to employees.

I always notice this whole issue of not being recognized frequently enough most when it doesn’t happen at all. That is why famine of food in poor countries always makes the headlines. When there’s nothing there it always stands out.

The solution for this is to hold supervisors and managers accountable for interacting and conversing with their staff at least on a weekly basis. The more conversations they have with staff whether face-to-face or on the phone, the more opportunities they will have to learn about the great work staff is doing. Seeing and hearing about the good work done well gives them a greater chance to acknowledge and recognize them every time.

Your role is to bring recognition relief aid to the workplace.

Work with your executive sponsor to implement some recognition strategies listed above. Grow recognition through ongoing education and communication strategies. Have leaders set expectations for recognizing others and set a positive example themselves.

Fill people up on merited, well-deserved recognition, so there is no longer a recognition famine where you work.

Recognition Reflection: Do you have a recognition famine at 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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