Take Time To Find Out What Is Meaningful To People

Some people raise the concern that to expect their managers to recognize their employees is too much on top of everything else they are doing.

However, since it is employees or associates who provide the goods and services that produce satisfied customers, appreciating your people is the very least you can do.

What they need to do is to raise managers’ level of intrinsic motivation for recognizing, praising, and rewarding staff, so they can become proficient at giving recognition and willing to do so every chance they get.

One way for people to give better and more meaningful recognition is to first find out what is meaningful to each of their employees.

I will review with your key ways to teach and help supervisors and managers to practice this needed skill.

Find Out

Nothing worthwhile will ever happen unless you invest time in wanting to find out what makes each of your employees tick. Keep in mind that giving meaningful recognition requires managers to do some homework. Once done initially it is easy to update the recognition preferences and personal motivators of each employee.

A big focus here is to have managers commit to having one-on-one time to connect, coach, and give positive feedback to staff. These could be as short as 10 or 15 minutes. Dependent on number of reporting employees, location, and circumstances—this could happen weekly but at a minimum on a monthly basis.

Observe What You See

When speaking with employees, managers should be observant to the employee’s nonverbal body language for when a person gets excited when they look disappointed or sad. Ask clarifying questions to see if the employee will share with you. And if they don’t open up now, then they at least know you genuinely care and would like to know.

If employees have desks or workstations, check out if they have personal items on display that might reveal their outside-of-work interests. Sports memorabilia, photos of family and pets, an award earned, all give insight for future conversations and potential reward ideas you can use.

Actively Listen To What You Hear

A lot of employees work remotely and you may only speak with them over the phone, either one-on-one or on conference calls.

Listen to upfront conversations on the call or by asking directly; casually find out what individuals did on the weekend, how different life events are going, and upcoming plans. Make note of anything that lends itself for appreciating people more or ideas for tangible items to give to people.

When you contact people regularly you pick up on nuances in their voice inflection. Share what you heard and express concern privately if their voice characterized difficulties. Sometimes people will open up with what is going on in their lives. However, respect declining to reveal more information.

Engage in Genuine Conversations

Get out into the employee’s world. Make site visits and stop and linger with staff. 

Walk around and talk with employees on home turf and connect with them in the cafeteria at lunchtime to converse with them and get their input. Find out what makes them happy and also what bugs them at work.

Bottom line is to be fully present with staff. When you’re in the room, be in the room with them. Don’t let your phone or other devices distract or impede meaningful conversations.

Explore Personal Interests

When you have a positive and open relationship with staff, you can ask about their personal interests, hobbies, and community involvement. 

Details like this can provide you with a wealth of ideas for tangible and intangible rewards, like paid time off to take part in community or fundraising activities, or getting their favorite sports team jersey as a reward for outstanding performance.

Find Out About Family and Significant Others

Never neglect learning about an employee’s family and significant others. Life is fragile and situations can arise where an employer needs to step in and show care and compassion for an employee.

But it also builds awareness of the people that mean the most to employees. It allows managers to continue conversations over time and to know the personal side of people they work with most of their day.

Learn Their Favorite Things

What are a few of their favorite things? Find out by sitting down with employees one-on-one to find out their favorite foods, treats, and drinks. 

What do they do in the spare time? They might go away to cottages or go hiking on weekends. Discover ways to bring up these subjects in your meetings and conversations with them.

What about pets? Are there special places they have loved to visit or go on vacation to? Be creative and incorporate this kind of knowledge, with permission, into celebration events or award presentations.

Ask How They Like To Be Recognized

Managers have to ask what they have done well with giving meaningful recognition and when they have blown it. Drill down with questions to employees on particular details. They can either replicate positive actions they hear about or remove negative practices from their repertoire.

You’ll be amazed to find out how many employees dislike being singled out with public recognition. Be adaptable and respect if an employee prefers a private recognition experience.

Bottom-line is to keep a record and commit to putting what you learn into practice right away. To not do so could negatively impact employee perception of your recognition attempts.

These are just a few ways you can help your managers and supervisors to give more meaningful recognition to your employees.

Recognition Reflection: How do you make sure managers are giving meaningful recognition?

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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