What Leaders Want to Know About Recognition

Vineet Nayar, an Indian business executive and former Chief Executive Officer of HCL Technologies, is the author of the critically acclaimed management book Employees First, Customers Second.

Nayar says that employees are the clear differentiator in the value zone for helping organizations grow faster and be more competitive. He further states that the business of leaders and management is to enthuse, encourage, and enable employees to continue creating this differentiating value for their customers.

Great leaders already know the power of employee recognition. But not everyone is like Vineet Nayar.

However, what all leaders want to know about recognition is four major points about the programs and practices that you are overseeing.

Here are the four areas of concern for many organizational leaders regarding employee recognition.

1. They want to know the bottom line impact of recognition. What will be the ROI—or return on investment—of your recognition programs? How will investing in communications and training around recognition practices impact managers?

2. They want to know how employees will be affected by recognition initiatives. How will they impact people across the organization? Will employees feel consistently valued and appreciated for their contributions on the job from the recognition practices and programs?

3. They want to know the timeline for seeing results on your recognition strategies. When is the soonest they will see improvements in recognition metrics? How long does it take before you can start seeing benefits from recognition initiatives?

4. They want to know how you intend to measure the progress of recognition. How will you really know? What quantitative and qualitative measures do you plan on using?

Tools to Help You Help Your Leaders

Implement the following tools to assist you with helping your leaders know more about employee recognition.

1. Create a senior leader persona or profile. Develop a profile on each of your senior leaders to know on what side of the fence—pro or con—they are, regarding employee recognition. Learn what their strengths are with giving recognition and how those who report to them perceive the leader’s recognition capabilities. This will help you prepare answers based on how your leader thinks.

  • What is your senior leader’s focus for the organization?
  • Are they more money and financial oriented?
  • Or are they more emotional and people oriented?
  • Why were they appointed to their position?
  • What are they mandated to achieve? 

2. Know their psychological footprint well. Discover their view on motivating and engaging employees in doing work well. What are their interpersonal skills like? Do employees view their senior leaders in a positive light or not? Getting psychological insights down pat for each leader allows you to know how they feel about recognition and anticipate their likely responses.

3. Find out the unknown answers you need. Ask them what they think about employee recognition. Find out how frequently they stop and send a thank-you card to deserving employees. Is there any aspect of practicing recognition that they find difficult to do? Determine if they view the employee recognition budget as an expense or an investment. Do they use your organization’s recognition programs? Answering these types of questions on your mind will help with ongoing meetings.

4. Understand what their objections might be. Everyone has opinions and biases based on their life and work experiences they’ve had to date. Ask them point blank what they dislike about employee recognition and what their objections may be. Knowing a leader’s perspective on employee recognition gives you the ability to frame the way you word things when seeking their approval and input on matters. 

Strategy for Increasing Leader Knowledge About Recognition

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind to increase a leader’s knowledge about employee recognition.

1. Connect recognition to the business strategy. The more aligned you can make your recognition programs and practices with achieving the business and people strategy objectives, the more leaders will want to learn more about what you’re doing with recognition.

2. Identify how recognition will move the scales. Show them how when managers give more meaningful and effective recognition to staff, their employees have a more positive relationship strength with their managers. This increased positive relationship strength is what leads to higher engagement and leads to better performance results.

3. Focus on business goals such as productivity and engagement. Always keep in mind that as you focus on valuing and acknowledging your employees first the business results that leaders want are a natural outcome. 

Be mindful to show leaders the work behind your thinking about your recognition strategies. Tell of the meetings you’ve had, the focus groups held and their results, along with survey findings, and benchmarking and best practice reviews.

Let them know what other influencers and leaders in the organization are thinking about employee recognition. Share their pros and cons and how you plan to challenge and address these ideas.

Inform leaders that you are accountable to them for how successful the organization’s recognition programs and practices are doing. Now make them accountable for championing the cause of respecting and recognizing your valuable employees.

Recognition Reflection: What have your leaders said that they want to know more about regarding employee recognition?

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