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The Value of Employee Recognition

The Value of Employee Recognition

Here are suggestions for how you can execute a sustainable and valuable employee recognition program for your IT team.

How often have you heard during webinars or conference sessions or read in industry publications that recognition is important? It’s something we hear regularly, yet few organizations have an effective recognition program in place.

What about your team? Do you have a formal means of recognizing achievements? Often, even when a program exists, management can get so tied up in the day-to-day routine that following through on recognizing an employee who’s gone “above and beyond” is forgotten. We have good intentions after an annual employee survey shows low employee engagement, but a few months later it again falls by the wayside in the face of more pressing concerns.

Let’s examine some statistics:

  • Over half of the employees desire more recognition from their manager.
  • Over 40% would like more recognition from their peers.
  • The majority of employees value recognition from their immediate manager the most.

So how do we make recognition part of a team’s culture?

A good start is to formalize some sort of recognition that can be shared on a regular basis. For example, at my company, we started an “Analyst of the Month” program that was objectively based on an employee’s quality scores. Every employee was audited a set number of times, and the person who had the highest overall score was selected. Ties were possible, so if we had two or more that scored the same, they would all be recognized. This formal recognition fed into an annual “Analyst of the Year,” which identified the highest scoring/highest performing analyst based on the monthly scores. The annual winner takes home a trophy, a cash award, and a nomination for the HDI Best Service and Support Analyst.

The Analyst of the Month winner is announced during a monthly team meeting. In addition to that objective, metrics-based recognition, we also do a “Kudos” section, where we call out any positive feedback or recognition from customers, peers, or other IT teams.

One caveat when doing recognition is to understand how the employee feels about it – someone who has an introverted personality may not enjoy public recognition, so the manager may want to provide any feedback to those employees privately. An extrovert may be fine with it. Statistics show that generally around 45% of employees like public recognition. The important thing is for the manager to take the time to learn the employee’s preferences.

Don’t underestimate the value of a personal touch. Recognition doesn’t have to be flashy or public, or even about some impressive achievement. It can be a handwritten note from the manager letting someone know their work is appreciated and valued. I’ve heard comments from different leaders on how some employees value and keep that type of recognition for years.
A manager can work to integrate recognition into their weekly routine. Add a half hour or an hour of time onto your calendar, then use that time to pick out an employee and write them a note, send them an email, or, if available, use the company’s recognition process.

Keep in mind that recognition should be sincere and authentic. Avoid using templates or form letters. If recognition is just a form letter where the employee’s name is plugged into a blank, it could come across as indifferent and insincere, and your employees are smart enough to know the difference between something mass-produced and something from the heart. Insincere praise can do more damage than good.

Leaders should use the time set aside for one-on-one discussions with their team to provide positive feedback, as well. It’s valuable to balance performance discussions with recognition of where someone is doing well. This can act as a positive reinforcement and could make them take any performance advice more seriously.

What types of things can be recognized? Great performance is obvious, and easy to point out. But a good attitude is also something that can be mentioned. Does someone have a consistently positive outlook? Are they always willing to help less experienced staff? Keep in mind as well that sometimes a goal doesn’t work out, maybe there were unexpected barriers, or business expectations changed. In those cases, recognize that the employee tried and made the attempt, and commend them on their hard work even if the ultimate goal didn’t pan out.

To summarize, the keys to an effective recognition program are:

  • Formalize the process.
  • Make time to recognize individuals in the way they prefer to be recognized.
  • Be sincere and authentic.
  • Recognize the small stuff – attitude and attempts.

Don’t underestimate the power of recognition. It motivates your employees to try harder, improves morale, and creates a culture of appreciation.

Additional information was gleaned from “Bamboo HR & Quantum Workplace, Report, pp 1-15, Recognition in the Workplace – Breakthrough Secrets & Stats”

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