Giving meaningful recognition is all about learning the science behind recognition and mastering the art of practicing this important soft skill.
A soft skill includes all the attributes and personality traits that help employees positively interact with others and achieve success at work. Recognition is just one of those soft skills to develop.
What learning principles will help enhance retention of the skills needed to give effective recognition to employees? Let’s take a look at some of them.
1. Create a Learning Mindset
A learning mindset is all about having the right attitude and orientation towards the act of learning. As an organization, you must reinforce the positive aspects of learning on the job. It means creating a learning path, so you prepare everyone for the next step in learning.
When organizational leaders set the expectation that recognition is a part of the way everyone does things where you work, then expecting people to learn how to give memorable recognition will make sense.
Learners need to behave properly and excitedly towards each learning opportunity. They should set individual learning goals for what they will come away with from a recognition learning experience.
2. Prepare Yourself to Learn
Sit down with your manager and tell them what you expect to come away with from learning recognition skills. Give your time commitment when you will tackle the online learning modules. Be open and willing to conduct a lunch and learn session after you have completed the program to share your knowledge.
Write questions you have about employee recognition ahead of time to take with you. Then you can be prepared to ask questions in the instructor led training session. Ask those questions during the presentation or at break time.
Create a column in your notebook/workbook or write separate notes about how you will apply the different practices and ideas you receive.
3. Practicing Learned Skills
Learning effective and meaningful recognition skills must go beyond knowledge and move to exercising what you’ve learned.
During in class instruction, it is easy to conduct role play session to practice behaviors you learn. It is beneficial to discuss with partners and in table groups any discomfort, challenges, ideas, and suggestions each person has. Get insights from others on what works and what doesn’t and ask each other why that is so.
If not assigned to you, then set a goal to practice any behavior you have learned back on the job. The recommendation is to consciously practice the behavior once a week for at least 4 weeks. Don’t pretend to do something daily because you will set yourself up to fail as soon as you miss once.
Record how successful you were in completing the goal. Make note of what you learned from doing the exercise. Do you think you can keep doing this behavior effectively? What questions about recognition remain for you?
4. Build In Self Reflection
One great way to learn beyond physically practicing the recognition skill is stopping to reflect on how things went.
Get a journal or record on your computer everything about the recognition experience. Give a score on a 5-point scale how hard you expected the experience to be. Reflect on how you thought you did and write out your comments. You can use a numerical scale again to evaluate your recognition work out. Now, score how hard the experience actually was compared with what you anticipated. Record how often you give recognition and look for any trends.
Reflectively describe the recognition recipient’s reaction to your recognition attempt. Was it positive or negative? How did they behave because of your recognition? What did they say or do? How can you maintain these skills daily?
5. Observe Exemplary Recognizers
Go on a recognition safari and discover the amazing recognizers where you work.
Find out from your peers the people who have a positive reputation for recognizing people well. See if you can round up at least 5 names of people—leaders, managers, or employees—who you could learn from. With this list in hand, you have a couple of possibilities available to you.
First, is interviewing them for 15- to 30-minutes. Ask them what they feel they are doing right to give meaningful and effective recognition to people. Inquire what recommendations they would give you to become better at giving recognition. Request suggestions from them for overcoming difficulties you have with recognizing people.
Second, try to see these people in action when they are recognizing people. Ask to be invited to award or celebrations events where they will be presenting. Write what they say to people and analyze what makes their recognition expressions so effective. Note their body language when giving recognition. Observe their voice and the words they use when expressing recognition.
You could even follow up with recognition recipients and ask what made the recognition seem special to them.
6. Reinforce Learning Skills
It is important to support the learning process for all learning participants.
You can use emails, text messages, and chatbots to encourage and lead learners along their learning path. Use these communication channels to find out how they are doing with learning recognition skills. Find out what is still most challenging for them. Solicit ideas from them if they need any additional or more focused learning content.
Also, send out PDF content summarizing learning principles. Create checklists, learning guides, and other job aids to highlight the importance of recognition giving.
Leaders should also follow up with managers and employees on their learning experience. This shows learning is important to the entire organization and not just the person they report to.
The bottom-line is to support your learners with recognition related resources in print, video, and other media delivered learning content.
7. Provide Feedback Opportunities
Build in opportunities to give all learners feedback on how they are doing in learning recognition skills. This also means determining how participants are doing with implementing these skills in the workplace.
Ensure your learning method has feedback through surveys when courses are completed.
Review the progress individuals are making with training and online learning in leader and manager one-on-ones. Leaders can talk about how they are doing with their originally discussed learning goals before they began the learning program.
Try to give immediate feedback on any observation of seeing a person apply the recognition skills on the job.
Be very descriptive when giving verbal or written feedback so an individual can immediately accept their progress or make necessary course correction. Feedback allows a learner to self-regulate on their behavior over and above their own self-reflection.
Look at these learning principles and apply one or two with your leaders and staff.
Recognition Reflection: How does your organization apply principles of learning with recognition skill development?
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.