This Is How You Stop Making Recognition So Hard

Too many people at work don’t feel appreciated for their contributions or anything they do and that’s not right!

So they have days like Employee Appreciation Day with the hope that with a few events, refreshments and decorations you can make things better.

Employee Appreciation Day has been around since 1995 but we still can’t seem to get this recognition stuff happening the right way.

How can you know this? You typically measure the presence or lack of recognition in terms of employee engagement and stick a recognition question or two somewhere in those company surveys conducted almost every year.

Stan Phelps, Forbes contributor, author and speaker, reported that only 43% of highly engaged employees are recognized once a week while only 18% of disengaged employees receive regular recognition.

Gallup‘s 2017 State of the American Workplace shows employees are receiving better praise or recognition and improved by 5 percentage points in the last 4 years.

But keep in mind that Gallup’s analysis also found only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree they actually received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days.

Which translates into a whole bunch of ungrateful and unappreciating peers and managers, right?

Well, maybe not. Perhaps that is an extreme parallel to take.

Truth is, some of us have a pretty hard time knowing how to do this “soft stuff” of giving people recognition.

Lagging Indicator of Engagement Surveys

I pose the question to you: Do engaged employees get recognized more often or are recognized employees more engaged?

By measuring recognition solely through employee engagement surveys we’ve all done ourselves a disservice. Looking at recognition only through the engagement lens causes us to focus on the consequence or outcomes of recognition done right rather than how to get it right.

I think you and I need to measure successful recognition in a different way.

Leading Out With Recognition Giving

Let’s make your metrics more action oriented and leading indicator focused versus the pervasive lagging measures people use.

Why don’t you define success with recognition giving as whenever youwe make time to actually say the right kind of words and demonstrate positive actions to express your appreciation to another person?

I believe you succeed when you give the right recognition the right way.

This would make any attempt to acknowledge someone well a measure of success. It would become a personal barometer of how well you are doing.

Now I know some of us treat saying words of praise or positive feedback as if you worked with a foreign language you cannot speak.

So let me give you some simple hints to expressing recognition the way people like it.

  1. Put the receiver of recognition first. Giving praise and positive feedback is all about the other person and never about you. So focus on always lifting people up to new heights, inspiring them and by focusing outward on others.
  1. Be yourself and don’t copy others. The right words to say will simply come to you when you permit yourself to be fully open and vulnerable and not worrying so much about your imperfections. Sure, it’s good to have some words to guide you but don’t get too rigid.
  1. Tell people what impressed you. Many of us do not believe the things we do each day are that important, and that is why you and I need reminding of the wonderful difference we really make. Tell people how their actions contributed to living the company values or achieving a specific business goal.
  1. Let what you feel inside come out. Appreciating and recognizing another person stems from your inner feelings of respect, validation and positive emotions towards another. Stop and reflect on how grateful you are and learn to express those feelings to others.
  1. Vary your medium of communication. Whether face-to-face or remotely, learn to be creative in speaking, writing, and demonstrating the many ways of expressing your appreciation. Getting a handwritten thank you card in the mail or flowers with an accompanying note card can beat out any digital card or email.
  1. Know what your peers like. Just because you like recognition a certain way doesn’t mean another person wants it the same way. You had better learn their preferences and dislikes first. If you don’t already know what your people like for recognition sit down with them real soon and find out.

Each of us needs to get rid of the idea that recognition is hard.

It is quite simple really. You have to let go of yourself and any negative perceptions you have of recognition giving. Learn to discover the rich and rewarding experiences that come from sincerely acknowledging everyone around you.

You also need to change how you measure effective recognition giving by leading the way and just doing it.

By being a grand observer of life and the people you associate with each day, you will begin to see things all around you that merit appreciation and recognition.

Get ready to be blown away!

Question: How do you get around the awkwardness or difficulties with recognizing people?

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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