It is hard to teach everyone how to give meaningful and effective recognition to one another, no matter the size of the organization you work for.
That’s why you need to enlist an army of people to aid you.
Dictionary.com explains that the more helpers you have available to you then the task will be easier. The proverb “many hands make light work” was reportedly first recorded in English in the early 1300s in a knightly romance known as Sir Bevis of Hampton. However, John Heywood, a 16th century writer known for his plays, poems, and collection of proverbs, is most often attributed as the originator of this proverb.
What can you do to teach other to help you teach people in your organization how to give amazing recognition to one another?
Recognition is such a positive thing to give and receive that you would think teaching people how to give recognition to others should be easy.
But different studies such as from Gallup show that only a third of employees ever receive recognition in any week for doing outstanding work.
People always submit lots of reasons as an explanation for this recognition deficit. However, one dominant answer is not knowing how to give recognition to people the right way.
Adam Grant, the award-winning researcher and Wharton School professor, gives a probable reason teaching people to give recognition is not as easy as we think it is. From his research and book, Give and Take, he shows that in our interactions with others most people operate as either takers, matchers, or givers.
Takers work at getting as much as they can from others while matchers look to evenly trade between one another. It’s the givers who are the rare breed of people who contribute to others expecting nothing in return.
It would appear from this research that perhaps giving recognition is already easier for those who are natural givers than for those who are takers or matchers.
What can we learn from these givers that can help us teach all types of employees to more easily give recognition?
There are a lot of things the current pandemic has affected with how we use our recognition and reward programs.
Many organizations affected by the pandemic economically have reduced revenue because of shutting down production, a lack of sales, and the impact on clients affording goods and services.
The bottom-line outcome is companies cannot always afford to pay for rewards as they normally would.
People have asked for guidance on how to communicate to their teams the need to prioritize no or low-cost recognition options versus use of rewards in view of the financial reality. They also don’t want to give a negative viewpoint.
Each of us has varying levels of confidence and proficiency with being able to recognize those you live with and especially those you work with.
For some, they had upbeat and positive parents, teachers, and coaches, who inspired them to grow and be successful. They regularly received words of encouragement, appropriate praise, and recognition for their accomplishments.
Others had life situations where they always needed to overcome negativity, received put downs at school, and a lack of sincere concern for the welfare of others. Even where they worked had toxic bosses and a lack of appreciation for their contributions.
No matter the route you took in life, or the role models you had in your life, they now expect you appropriately praise and recognize your employees.
But we all have different abilities and attitudes around giving meaningful and effective recognition.
A few years ago, some managers at a particular
company reached out to a Rideau colleague of mine and me to have a telephone
meeting with them. These were young leaders in the making and were part of this
company’s emerging leaders’ program. They wanted to learn more about
employee recognition and specifically about our recognition programs at Rideau.
Later, we were invited to attend an
on-site meeting at the company head office. There we connected with these
managers and their peers from across North America, both face-to-face and
While they were from various departments and
held a variety of positions within the company, it was fascinating seeing
the light go on for them, and their asking thought-provoking questions
about employee recognition.
Their emerging leader program project required
them to seek insights on best practices, creating a recognition strategy, and
what programs would work best for their managers and employees.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every organization
desired to develop their managers through an emerging recognition
Some people seem to be just
a natural when they are out and about in the company as far as
appreciating people for who they are and recognizing the wonderful
contributions made by employees.
There will always be others who have a much
harder time in recognizing others. For whatever reasons, such as not being
recognized as a child, perhaps more introverted, or plain uncomfortable with
knowing what to say or do, recognition doesn’t happen.
But the great news is that giving awesome
recognition to people is a skill anyone can learn.
When you know what something hard to do looks
like, such as a new skill you have to learn, observe those people that do it
well. Then all you have to do is reverse engineer how they do the task or skill
and then you can replicate this ideal performance and do it yourself.
What does awesome recognition look like? How can
you learn to master this art and science of giving meaningful and effective
When you think
education and training is the next steps to take with making real recognition
happen where you work, there are a few things to take into consideration first
before planning the training program.
In fact, if you
prepare yourself and the prospective learners properly, then they will better
learn how to give more meaningful and effective recognition to those they work
preparation also impacts those involved in designing and developing the
learning curriculum and planning the right methods of delivery.
Let’s get ready
to educate your employees about recognizing one another the right way.
training and education programs work very well. But now and then you get an
educational program, whether in-class, online, blended, or via one of the many
learning delivery methods, that ends up being a failure.
If you were
following the Kirkpatrick Model and the levels of training evaluation, you
might do a Level 3 evaluation to examine participant’s behaviors after the
training. You want to find out the degree participants are now actively
applying what they learned in the training sessions back on the job.
You conduct a
survey to find out what learning participants are doing or not doing with
giving employee recognition. Now you find out that a majority of the learners
are not doing much with the skills and principles they were taught.
What can you do
to correct this problem? How would you handle the fact that your recognition
Effective use of
recognition programs and exemplary recognition practices are always driven by your
company’s organizational culture. Your culture must stimulate the positive
actions you want to see happening to get more people recognizing others more
frequently. Look at these Top 10 Ways to Drive Recognition Through Your Culture
to spark greater engagement.
Leaders need to own developing company culture. They are the ones who can see the big picture and the corporate vision. Leaders must not only drive organizational culture but also align it with the company business strategy, people strategy, and even your recognition strategy.
How leaders act and what they focus on determines your culture. Leaders must visibly demonstrate daily actions of recognition expressions and celebrating achievements. What employees see their leaders positively doing they will strive to emulate. It is much easier to follow good examples.
Establish a strategic recognition team/committee. Draw upon a diverse and inclusive representation of leaders and employees to steer the integration of recognition into all facets of work life practices. Have them flag any discrepancies with positively living the company culture from top to bottom.
Frame the value of recognition giving and start a movement. Encourage a small number of leaders and employees to become ambassadors of recognition giving. Commit them to passionately appreciate people for the great things being done. Show them how to effectively use your programs.
Expand recognition through company networks. There will be leaders and different departments whose people are better at recognition giving than others. Provide them the chance to share through email broadcast, printed articles, and video interviews how, and why, they are such good recognizers.
Evaluate your stated organizational values and beliefs. People leave and change and so do the way things are done. Your company values may need to be evaluated and revised to fit better. Staff must then identify whether their personal beliefs still mesh with the company’s values and direction.
Create unifying symbols of recognition for everyone. Ensure symbols of recognition are reinforced through branding and meaningful program names. Consider using social badges on your recognition website. Have branded tangible gift items available to acknowledge your employees achievements.
Set simple goals to achieve quick wins. Invite people to set realistic goals for how often they will give better and more effective recognition. Use forum pages or online social collaboration tools to share progress. Or post successes and what you’ve learned through your social recognition program.
Influence your culture through learning. Do what you can to create continuous learning opportunities to develop your culture and recognition giving skills. Get your learning development experts to utilize every available informal and formal learning method to enhance culture and recognition.
Call out the cultural expectations for recognition giving. Use all available communication channels to invite everyone to be true to your culture. Ask staff to gently remind colleagues when they’re not doing or saying things consistent with what your company believes. Recognize those who live it!
Previously published by the author in Incentive Magazine