What Employees Think of Recognition From Their Leaders

You and I know that there are many employees who are not getting recognized enough. 

To give people the right recognition, it would also be helpful to know the best person to make this happen. Who do your employees prefer most to be recognized by? Is it by your leaders, by their immediate supervisor or manager, or by their peers?

According to a recent Deloitte survey conducted this year on The Practical Magic of Thank You, they found that on average, 37 percent of employees preferred recognition from those in leadership above their direct supervisor.

Many employees (32 percent) prefer recognition from their direct supervisors while right behind, at 31 percent, employees say that recognition from their colleagues is most important to them.

From a recognition perspective, Marcus Buckingham recommends tailoring the source of the recognition given to each employee. Your task as a manager is to seek out the sources of recognition that are most meaningful to each employee. For one employee, the preferred giver of recognition might be their peers. Further investigation could suggest the employee is open to public recognition in front of their colleagues.

You could orchestrate this by encouraging an employee’s peers to recognize a colleague’s outstanding work in the way they like the most.

To another employee, you, as their immediate manager, are the best person to recognize them. They might prefer some one-on-one time with you while you share why you appreciate them and the contributions they make on the job. 

This is where you have to be the eyes and ears of what your employee does. Acknowledge they for their positive behaviors and the effort they make on the job.

And for some employees, having a quick connection with a senior leader or a handwritten note from them that commends their expertise and the impact they’ve made, will be what stands out for them.

What the Deloitte study does not cover, however, is how some employees will benefit most from recognition their customers give, or for healthcare workers, from their patients and their families. Nurses, for example, may never interact with their supervisor or nurse manager when delivering care. But they interact constantly with their patients or with a family member, who know firsthand the caring and top performance given.

It would be worthwhile creating processes and systems that makes client recognition another viable source of recognition.

Buckingham reminds all of us that the most powerful trigger of a person’s strengths is recognition and not money. If you’re not convinced, he says, start ignoring one of your highly paid, high-performers, and then watch what happens.

Always remember the context of who is giving the recognition and the varying value employees place on the different recognizers. See what you can do to influence the preferred recognition givers to give the recognition employees most want.

Recognition Reflection: Who is the most influential recognizer for each of your employees? 

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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