Teaching People How To Give Amazing Recognition Takes Time

Is recognition easy to learn? Not necessarily. 

For some people expressing appreciation and recognizing peers comes naturally. But there are a few people where telling others positive things about their actions is both awkward and an uncomfortable experience. 

Teaching your employees how to give meaningful and effective recognition might take a longer time for some of your staff.

Recognition: A Soft Skill That Can Be Hard 

Recognizing people for their positive actions and the contributions they make on the job is a powerful soft skill to develop.  

Stanford Research Institute International along with the Carnegie Mellon Foundation found that 75 percent of long-term job success depends on mastering soft skills while only 25 percent of this success relies on technical skills. 

Further research at Harvard University, Boston University, and the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business found workers with soft skills training are 12 percent more productive than those without them. 

Of course, the soft skills referred to here are more than just recognition giving skills. But they certainly include communication, observation, and listening skills, which are foundational to recognition. 

When managers say thank you, and express recognition to their employees, it immediately improves the relationship between them both and builds greater trust and respect, too. All of this takes time. 

Assessing Recognition Strengths

Like any soft skill, it is worthwhile to assess the strengths and areas of development needed for learning how to give amazing recognition. 

Dr. Charles Scherbaum and I developed the Recognition Skills Assessment® (RSA) to assist in this area. The RSA is an online assessment focused on the manager’s recognition practices and behaviors. This content validated assessment tool is a five-step questionnaire where individuals rank the importance and rate the frequency of occurrence of specific recognition behaviors we have identified are present in successful givers of recognition. 

We use the RSA to determine the strengths and developmental areas around recognition skills. Once managers complete RSA, they are assigned 2 Sets of Learning modules prescribed in the order of their individual needs.

The first set of modules includes 5 or 6 online micro-learning modules. Each module focuses on just one recognition behavior. There is a learning check at the end to ensure information has been retained. We then requested managers set a goal to put the new skill into practice on the job. Further modules are only released when they have applied the behavior and after 14-days.  

Transfer of learning into the real world is essential for managers to feel confident and capable of recognizing people better and more frequently. 

Practice and Reflection 

Whether you use live and/or recorded webinars, online learning programs, or in-class learning sessions, recognition giving takes practice to master and personal reflection to feel successful.

Individuals should be open to feedback on the recognition they give to people. They can invite peers or direct reports to give them feedback on how well recognized they felt, if they were specific enough on what they acknowledged, and any suggestions for how they could improve their recognition.

Learners could also keep a log of recognition they give during transferring of new recognition skills into the workplace. Have them identify the employee, the specific situation that led to their observation, the behavior they wanted to recognize, and the overall impact the employee’s actions had on others.

The learner could record the reaction and observations of the employee to their attempted recognition. They should also write their own observations on giving recognition and how they felt about it.

Observe and Learn from Others 

Another way of learning how to give better recognition is to look for recognition given by peers, managers, and leaders in your organization. Look out for the exemplary ways people express recognition and examples that you admire. Keep a record of these positive observations and put some of them into practice when recognizing someone soon. 

I recently recorded the wording of the recognition I received through ecards and emails from leaders and colleagues for reaching a milestone anniversary. It was extremely useful in better understanding each individual who congratulated me. But this process also helped me learn how to better write congratulatory messages, including shared treasured memories made, gratitude for contributions to the organization a person has made, and comments towards a positive future. 

Understanding and learning how to give better recognition doesn’t just happen by taking a onetime course and receiving a certificate of completion. Giving amazing recognition that hits home every time you recognize someone takes constant practice and committing to being a lifelong learner. 

Recognition Reflection: Do you keep a log of recognition statements heard or read that help you give amazing recognition?

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