There’s too much reliance upon recognition program data and engagement survey results as the source for trying to make recognition better.
All these metrics do is tell you what happened with recognition a month ago, six-months, or a year back. We don’t do a very good job with this hindsight learning. And we rarely stop to ask ourselves questions about these measurements. Nor do we plan well and take action on the data we collect.
These “output” oriented metrics are easy to measure. If you use a recognition program this is noted and recorded. Check. For engagement surveys, you answer each question using a Likert scale response, such as I feel valued and appreciated for the work I do at that particular point in time. Strongly agree.
When was that again? The program I used last month and the last engagement survey was 8 months ago. Measures like this are referred to as lagging indicators because they lag behind the occurrence of the recognition experience. A problem with lagging indicators is they are hard to improve upon or influence because they are in the past.
Let’s stop looking at retroactive memories of what caused someone to be recognized. My suggestion for improving recognition is to ask what happens before every recognition experience? Think about it.
Are you ready to see what you can do to improve the frequency of recognition being given to everyone where you work?
Find the Exciting Beginning
The secret to leading the input for recognition giving is pretty simple. You start with the recognition experience in mind and ask what happens beforehand and then stimulate that action. Get to the very beginning.
This preceding type of action, or input, is considered a leading indicator. Leading indicators can certainly be more difficult to measure. But the amazing thing about leading indicators is that they are easy to improve upon and influence.
Think and ask yourself this question: When recognition is given what happened before that positive recognition encounter to make the recognition materialize?
Lots of things previously transpired before any recognition expression occurred.
- A positive relationship was present between the giver and the receiver.
- There is genuine respect and valuing of each other’s work.
- Positive actions or behaviors from an employee were observed.
- A report of an employee’s outstanding work was received second-hand.
- An employee’s email outlining the successful completion of a work project was read.
- You walk around the floor and converse with employees about their work.
- One-on-one meetings with employees are consistently conducted every other week.
- Connect with employees at breaks and lunches and learn about their lives and families.
- Consistently show care and concern for employees whenever they experience positive or negative life events.
Look for the Pattern
There is a pattern for every great recognition experience that employees have. Did you see anything emerge from the leading indicators listed above?
Here’s a clue: The more often you have an encounter with an employee the more chances you have to recognize them.
The more often you have an encounter with an employee the more chances you have to recognize them.
Your leading indicator is to have managers and employees actively create positive employee encounters. Close encounters of the recognition kind.
- Pick up the phone and spontaneously call someone to see how they’re doing. Listen to them and don’t do a lot of taking. Even if you have to leave a voicemail message, make sure you ask a question about them and their work and invite them to call you back.
- Join employees at a lunch table in the cafeteria and listen to conversations and ask questions about employees and their lives.
- Plan in some walk-around time and find out how people are performing. Go directly to someone’s office or place of work, if you have to, and learn specifically how an individual is doing.
- Ask your direct reports for a weekly meeting and have them share with you examples of employees showing outstanding customer service, positive teamwork, or great accomplishments. Now you have details you can use to recognize these employees face-to-face, by email, through your recognition programs, or via a handwritten thank you card or note.
- In your one-on-one meetings ask employees about recent achievements. Ask them what they would like to do with their career development.
- Solicit feedback from employees in your one-on-one meetings about how they feel you’re doing in giving praise and recognition. Commit to doing one recognition behavior better over the coming month. Ask how they felt you did the following month.
You can tally how many employee conversations you had in a day. How many times did you find out about their work successes? Did you find out if they like public or private recognition? Are you scheduling in your one-on-one sessions with each employee? Have you planned in times you can eat with staff in the cafeteria? Do you have new information about an employee or their family that you didn’t know about before?
You get the idea.
The more employee encounters you have the more often you will see or hear about something good or well done that merits recognition. The more frequent positive observations you have or receive from others, the greater the opportunity for you to recognize people for their actions.
Lead the way with creating recognition experiences rather than relying on out of date, lagging information.
Reflective Question: What leading indicators for employee recognition do you think you should use where you work?
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.
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