You know who you are. You grew up in a family where no news was good news. When your parents had a conversation with you, it meant you had screwed up. You’re focused on work, not that you don’t like people. You do. You just like them better when they are working. While you make pleasant conversation with others from time to time, it drives you nuts or at least makes you a bit antsy, and you feel it’s a waste of your time if the chit chat goes beyond 5 minutes.
Now, you lead others. Maybe you have your own company, you’re a CEO of a large company, or you’re in charge of a department or a small work crew. Doesn’t matter. You’re now faced with getting the most out of others, and the concept of employee recognition or appreciation comes up. The idea alone makes you crazy. Employee appreciation. After all, employees are getting paid to do their jobs. You think, “Why should you have to gush all over them? Geez. Grow up, employees. This is the adult world. Not everyone gets a trophy for showing up to work.”
Granted, it would be a lot easier if everyone could simply show up, hit their marks, and know in their heart of hearts that they did a good job without you needing to say it. But that’s not the way the world works. Employees’ need to belong and to feel good about themselves and that means they need you to recognize their efforts from time to time.
Yes, some recognition programs miss the mark. They put too much emphasis on the token given to the employee (a watch, a trophy, a bonus, etc.) than on the meaning and sentiment behind the token. (How many of you have commemorative service pins that you don’t want and don’t know what to do with?) If a program stresses form (getting something) over function (appreciation), then the recognition program is the problem and needs to be revamped or dismantled altogether.
Here’s what we know about employee appreciation:
1. Performance is higher in groups where the leader shows more encouragement.
2. Teams with managers who were encouraging and offered praise performed 31% better than teams that did not.
3. Deliberate and specific recognition/praise is more motivating than money.
When you show your appreciation, be deliberate in recognizing employees and be specific about what it was they did so well and why it mattered to the company.Don’t say only, “Thank you.” Instead say, “Thanks for the long hours and hard work you put into the ABC project.Because of your efforts, we landed the account.” Deci, E. L. (1996)