If You Really Know Me, Then Recognize Me Properly

It was a busy day at a suburban branch of a retail bank and the customer service representatives (CSR’s) were kept constantly busy with serving long lines of needy customers.

Air conditioning didn’t seem to be working the best that day and it was getting kind of warm in the bank. The bank manager had already called head office to arrange for air conditioning maintenance people to come and fix things.

The CSRs did their best to smile, pause briefly between customers to calm themselves, and patiently serve each customer with their individual banking requests.

By mid-afternoon, something unusual happened.

The bank manager walked behind each of the half-dozen or so CSRs and placed a cold can of carbonated drink on the counter next to each employee as they served the next customer in line.

Some of the CSRs were able to look up and smile back at the manager and others said thanks if they could.

But it was several minutes later before each CSR realized how special their manager’s actions were.

She had not given every CSR the same carbonated beverage. No, she had made sure to know what each of their favorite drinks was. Armed with that insight she had purchased a single can of pop that each CSR liked best.

For those CSR’s this simple but special action spoke volumes to them and showed them their manager appreciated them and the work they were doing.

Think about what can you do to personalize and customize the tokens of appreciation you give to employees.

Discover, personalize, and recognize people in a more meaningful way.

1. Discover

Always be observing around an employee’s workspace for little signs of interests and things that are important to them. Listen in carefully to conversations or in meetings for concerns and needs they bring up. And don’t hesitate to ask specific questions to learn their individual likes and dislikes, and recognition preferences.

Learn and make note of what food items and drinks they like – such as favorite chocolate bars and soft drinks. Do they have any hobbies or sports interests? What’s the makeup of their family and what do they do together in their spare time?

I vividly recall receiving a bottle of wine as a thank you gift in my beginning days getting into the speaking business. The biggest problem for me with this gift is I don’t drink alcohol. So their gesture was not a meaningful recognition for me.

This means you will have to plan in time to find out people’s preferences before giving them something tangible that they don’t want or like. Never just guess.

2. Personalize

Let me give you another example of tokens of appreciation I received when I did a couple of back-to-back book signings at a major Canadian book chain.

After the book signing at one store, they gave me a copy of the best selling military strategy book The Art of War by Sun Tzu with a verbal thank you from the customer service representative on the floor that day. This book was not even on my favorite book list and I found myself regifting it to someone who would better appreciate it.

At the second bookstore, it was the store manager who gave me a nicely written thank you card, and her words showed she had personally read my book. She expressed her appreciation to me for presenting and signing my books. But in addition, they gave me a $25 gift card to their store. Yes, I love books and she must have picked up on that after reading my book. Receiving the gift card was like being a kid in a candy store. I took forever looking for a book I wanted. When I found a book costing slightly more than the gift card, I was prepared to pay the difference. Instead, the store manager absorbed the difference.

As you can see this experience from both bookstores has stayed with me.

Ensure you personalize your recognition for maximum effect.

3. Recognize

Use your knowledge of personal interests, likes, and dislikes, wisely as you recognize people in a special way. I’m not talking about spending a lot of money nor am I saying you must always give tokens of appreciation every time you recognize someone.

Just knowing how important specific things are to them helps you to realize what they’re sacrificing and giving up for work, which you can then acknowledge in a written note, email, or face-to-face presentation.

Your knowledge and insights could affect the thank you note or note card you select or even the choice of gift-wrapping paper. There are so many ways you can recognize an employee besides with your words.

The key is getting to know your employees so well that you’ll always be able to recognize them the way they like.

Reflective Question: Do you plan in sufficient time to get to know your employees well enough so you can recognize them properly?

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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