Why Learning About Recognition Needs To Be More Strategic

Learning about effective employee recognition practices and skills requires developing clear, behaviourally focused learning objectives.

But I find there is a problem in most organizations. When I ask how much focus is given to recognition practices in their leadership or management development curriculum the answer is often zilch.

Or at best they talk about recognition and motivation at the 30,000 feet level with no practical skills, know-how, or insights on how to get better at giving recognition.

Yet these organizational leaders are concerned when employee engagement survey results reveal poor, or at least below average, employee perceptions of the recognition given.

Why Be More Strategic

I know that when you help managers get better at understanding the why of recognition and how to give it better, many things improve.

First, you’ll find the quality of recognition given significantly improves, along with employee perceptions of both face-to-face recognition and use of online recognition programs.

Secondly, managers who have positive relationship strength with their employees, to begin with, and raise their recognition giving skills, automatically lift their employees’ engagement scores.

Lastly, we’ve observed with our Rideau clients, that there is a correlation with better-educated managers of effective recognition skills, not only will recognition get better, but the company’s core business metrics improve too.

Ways to Be More Strategic

1. Onboarding

Onboarding typically orients employees to departments, policies, procedures and the organization’s mission, vision and values, and of course compensation and benefits questions.

Most onboarding targets what the new employee is going to get.

This goes for recognition and rewards too. We show them what they will receive.

Switch the tables on this and set a different expectation.

Have each new employee receive a blank thank you card and a pen. Set the expectation for them to give a well written, thank you card, to any employee who helped them during the past few days or made them feel especially welcome.

Show them how to write a meaningful thank you card and how they can use the same principles in expressing appreciation verbally as well.

2. Supervisory and Management Training

Review your existing supervisory and management training objectives and materials to evaluate how much time is allocated to giving effective praise and recognition.

Dealing with poor behavior and performance issues are always necessary. But effective recognition giving skills are essential and can often prevent bad performance in the first place.

Then there is accountability with performance management, which should include plans for performance development. Here’s where you can recommend and follow up on the need for online or in-class learning of recognition skills.

3. Leadership Development

I must admit that I have been surprised how often employee recognition practices are excluded from leadership development. It is as if recognition is beyond them in the eyes of organizational development or learning and development specialists.

However, I can tell you that exemplary senior leader involvement in giving recognition and being present at celebrations of achievement, all go a long way to encouraging others to be better givers of recognition.

4. Emerging Leaders Program

Develop your leaders before they even take the helm of major responsibilities.

Have them research what it takes to be an effective giver of employee recognition. Let them investigate the benefits of having a recognition strategy that has an active plan of action for improving recognition throughout the company.

Have them report back to senior leader sponsors what they’ve learned and what they are personally prepared to commit to doing to be a recognition ambassador.

5. Recognition Strategy

Conduct a gap analysis of where recognition is at in your organization.

Get your core leaders, or a cross-department representation of leaders, in a room and craft a written recognition strategy.

To get this group of leaders to articulate what they collectively believe the purpose of recognition should be at your company is huge.

You will get more of your leaders aligned and educated about employee recognition through this process in one day than any other activity.

The skills they may still have to learn.

Then, armed with the data from the gap analysis findings, they can identify what everyone needs to focus on to improve recognition throughout the company.

6. Organizational Culture

Okay, I want you to randomly pick 10 employees from your company – literally, or perhaps in your mind. How many of those 10 employees do you think could tell you what your organizational values are?

Your answer will be a broad indicator of the strength of your culture.

Now, for each of your values, what exactly do you collectively agree to do, and not do, to demonstrate you’re living this value? Do people even know what you mean by the one or two-word value headers?

That’s where the rubber hits the road. And it is also where recognition comes in.

You can educate all of your employees on what your values really mean and what they look like in action. And when they see something positive and good happening, encourage everyone to recognize people for living your values.

7. Business Strategy

Within your business strategy are focus areas or strategic initiatives that your company leaders want all employees to achieve.

The irony is most employees rarely know these painstakingly researched strategic plans and goals.

This is where your education about recognition can include awareness building of your strategic plans and what the company wants to accomplish.

Now, all you have to do is build in strategic themed and branded communication such as e-cards on your online recognition programs or offline with themed note cards to commend people for achieving your goals.

Make recognizing people for working on your strategic initiatives something you talk about and teach on a regular basis.

All of a sudden, learning about recognition goes beyond just the practices and skills of positive interaction with people.

Learning about employee recognition is all about seeing recognition as a powerful driver of engagement, culture and the organization’s strategic plans.

Reflective Question: How would creating a more strategic learning plan raise the value of employee recognition 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.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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