How To Develop Emerging Recognition Leaders in Your Organization

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 virtually.

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 leaders’ program?

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This Is What Awesome Recognition Looks Like

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 recognition?

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What It Takes To Teach People How To Give Wonderful Recognition

Too many people are not getting the recognition they deserve.

And the reason they are not receiving recognition where you work is because the people they report to, and those they work with don’t know how to express recognition to them.

This very fact motivated me to leave the healthcare field and begin a career in teaching people how to give meaningful and effective praise and recognition to those they work with.

Here’s what I have learned on what it takes to teach others to be real recognition givers.

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How To Get Ready To Educate People About Giving Recognition

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 with.

Prior 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.

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What Should You Do If Your Recognition Education Fails?

Most corporate 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 education failed?

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Should Care and Concern Fall Under Recognition?

Is showing care and concern for our fellow employees an act of recognition or something completely different?

From my point of view, I have defined recognition as mostly an intangible expression of acknowledgement and valuing of an individual or team, for their positive behaviours, their personal effort, or contributions they have made.

By this definition, recognition occurs because:

(1)  Some positive action or specific positive behaviors have occurred by an employee on the job. 

(2)  You feel their actions merit you acknowledging and valuing them for who they are or what they do.

(3)  And, unlike rewards, you are not expecting the employee to do something in return just because you’ve recognized them.

So now, in response to a recent question asked of me, do you give recognition to people because they’ve experienced a positive life event or perhaps they’ve had some serious challenges?

Let’s examine this carefully.

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Show People How to Give Recognition the Right Way

Historically, recognition training was always a knee jerk reaction to low scores on recognition related questions on the latest employee engagement survey results when I first started speaking and training on recognition skills.

These days recognition training is much more planned and strategic as human resource leaders and organizational development specialist have grown in awareness of recognition’s role and realize a lot of us need skills training.

The good news is that giving meaningful, memorable, and motivational recognition can be learned.

However, learning how to give recognition has not always been at the forefront of most organizations’ learning curriculum.

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Here’s How to Get Engagement With Your Recognition Program

Sometimes companies launch recognition programs and they don’t exactly light up the sky and shine, as they should. 

For a variety of reasons you might not have gotten the engagement and traction you thought you would when you designed and developed your organization’s recognition program. You thought you got everyone’s input and their buy in, and then… pfft! 

Lots of foundational things can stop recognition program engagement whether it’s access to technology, the nature of the work of most employees, or simply a lack of respect thinking employee recognition is unimportant.

But let’s look at what needs to be in place to engage your managers and employees with your employee recognition programs.

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How To Transfer Recognition Skills Back on the Job

An area of concern when conducting workshops around learning recognition-giving skills is ensuring learners will apply the learned skills back on the job.

Below are my recommendations I use with participants in my learning sessions. 

Set up your workshop or seminar session so that attendees sit in table groups with fellow learners. Where possible, try to get a diversity of attendees at each table so they’re not sitting with everyone they know from their own department or work team.

Towards the end of the training session the final activity is choosing a realistic and manageable goal to implement a recognition specific skill or principle learned from the session over the next 30-days. The expectation is that you will follow up with each group’s participants to gather team results and compile a transfer of learning report.

This is the best way to get people to apply the recognition skills they learn in training into their jobs. Consider the following steps in making a transfer of learning a success.

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Helping Employees Learn To Give Recognition Their Way

Your employees need to receive clear expectations from your leaders to take ownership for learning for how they can give more effective and meaningful recognition to everyone they work with.

You won’t be able to do this well on your own. But with solid leadership support you’ll be successful.

I had thought about personalization before especially when I think of how to recognize people. With learning about giving effective recognition skills, I can make assumptions about how personalization could work there too. But I had never thought about the term individualization with learning.

For this insight I am grateful to Sharlyn Lauby from HR Bartender for defining these two terms as they relate to training and learning.

Look and see how you can put these concepts into practice to make learning recognition easier and more practical for your employees. (more…)