Why You Need To Know Your Leader’s Perception of Recognition

Talking to employees versus talking to your leaders can yield a completely different viewpoint about what everyone thinks about employee recognition.

When Leigh Branham was researching for his book, The 7 Hidden Reasons Employee Leave, he learned that 89 percent of bosses believed their employees quit their jobs because they wanted more money. But when they talked to employees, only 12 percent of them stated they would leave an organization for more money.

Now, what about recognition? How do your senior leaders perceive employee recognition? The answer to this question determines the success or challenges you face with managing employee recognition initiatives in your organization.

That is why if you don’t know your leader’s perception about employee recognition you had better find out soon.

Harsh Realities About Recognition

The number one complaint, at 63 percent, that employees identify as a communication issue with senior leaders is them not recognizing employee achievements.

Gallup organization surveyed employees, and the results revealed the most memorable recognition comes most often from an employee’s immediate manager (28 percent). However, a high-level leader or CEO (24 percent) followed right behind, then the manager’s manager (12 percent) came next, then a customer (10 percent), and finally by their peers (9 percent). 

Interestingly, 17 percent of employees cited “other” as the source of their most memorable recognition. This open-ended response doesn’t help us identify this further.

A study from Psychometrics, A Study of Employee Engagement in the Canadian Workplace 2010, showed that 58 percent of employees say employee recognition is how leaders could do more to improve employee engagement.

Is Recognition an Investment or Expense?

From the WorldatWork 2019 Trends in Employee Recognition Survey, 52 percent of senior management view employee recognition programs as an investment, with 31 percent unsure, and another 17 percent of senior leader seeing recognition programs as an expense.

I wonder what it would take to move those unsure senior managers over to a positive perception level?

This is where you, as the recognition manager or administrator, need to work on tipping the scale with frequent research and communication updates to your leaders. It also requires that you build in greater emphasis on metrics and how recognition programs impact business and people strategy results and move the bar on Return on Investment.

Further reading of WorldatWork 2019 Trends in Employee Recognition Survey reveals several reasons some organizations do not have, or do not proceed, with additional recognition programs. Top of the list is a lack of leadership support and their perception of recognition programs being too costly.

Creating a Positive Leader Perception of Recognition

Helping those managers who don’t “get” recognition and to gain a positive perception of employee recognition requires time and effort.  Explore using recognition education, coaching, and ongoing relevant communications, to elevate the perception your senior leaders have about employee recognition practices and recognition programs.

Following is a list of random ideas to consider in working to improve your leader’s perception of recognition.

  • Encourage your leaders to make genuine and regular connections with their direct reports so they hear about the employee’s work, achievements, and goals, so they will know what to recognize them for and better value the employee’s contributions. 
  • Provide your leaders with information and tips on how to give better recognition and how to make better award presentations so they are more confident and prepared.
  • Find one of your more visionary leaders and give them your recognition vision for the organization. Follow up by sending the recognition strategy document and elicit their feedback and recommendations. Keep your message short and sweet.
  • Keep your leaders informed but not overwhelmed. For example, prime them to ask for more with, “We’ve just launched our new recognition website. Would you like me to send you a report on the usage analytics in six months’ time?”
  • Share exemplary stories such as an employee providing outstanding customer service and suggest they make a personal call to the employee, draft a personalized letter from the leader, or use your recognition programs to acknowledge the employee.
  • When follow-up survey results from award recipients reveal negative perceptions of leaders not presenting awards in a meaningful and honoring manner, do some damage control and immediately suggest individual coaching sessions or training for the senior leader(s).
  • Continually educate your leaders on employee recognition with the latest research and make the connection for them to ongoing business results and employee performance metrics.
  • Make sure they know the progress of new recognition programs and outcomes from employee engagement scores, especially those indicators related specifically to employee recognition.
  • Provide at least an annual special report for your senior leaders on the status of employee recognition throughout the organization.
  • Give leaders the tangible and intangible evidence they need of how improved recognition giving, face-to-face-and online, shows a direct linkage to performance and business results. 

When you don’t have supportive leaders, there is no doubt you have your work cut out for you. However, if you can identify at least one positive and committed senior leader towards recognition, then enlist their help on finding out what they recommend for engaging and encouraging others on the senior leadership team.

Recognition Reflection: How will you find out your senior leader’s perception of employee recognition practices and programs?

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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