March 2, 2021
June 29, 2020

Employee Recognition: More Than a Dangling Carrot

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Employee recognition has been around for a long time. We have all signed cards that circulate around the office for birthdays or service anniversaries, and we all understand the power of a simple “thank you.” That kind of recognition is valuable, needed, and good, but recognition is much more than that—it is the entire engine of engagement within your organization.

A Dangling Carrot

Recognizing employees can sometimes take a major back seat to other company initiatives, and it may only be used for motivation to achieve certain goals or as a watered-down “thank you” for years of service. Recognition in this case becomes the proverbial carrot to keep employees motivated just enough to achieve your own ends. Often, this can look like minimal recognition in the workplace—recognition such as a birthday card and a card for X years of service, or maybe, if you’re lucky, a congratulations for hitting a certain quota.

While it’s true a carrot can cause the cart to go faster, let’s stop and consider the implication of motivating your employees that way.

The Devaluing of Recognition

Recognition in the workplace has been stuck in the same place for 30 years—maybe more. President’s clubs, employee of the month, birthday cards, and that one ceramic mug for your 5 year anniversary that sits gathering dust on your desk are all known quantities. We’ve all worked for an organization that does those things.

Now, let’s be clear: any recognition is better than no recognition, even if it’s a mug. There is no doubt about that. However, when recognition is used sparingly, or as a motivator to achieve certain milestones, the power of rewarding recognition is diluted and becomes a mere dangling carrot in front of employees, who then begin to feel devalued at their own workplace.

When employees feel even mildly devalued by the lack of rewarding recognition in their work, they’ll lose motivation. They’ll feel that their efforts and their own milestones aren’t being recognized adequately. They might even feel like they don’t matter to the company, so why should the company matter to them? Motivation, adoption of company values, and productivity all take a hit.

The devaluing of recognition is a serious problem that so many organizations struggle with because too many are focused only on the motivation aspect—the carrot, if you will. Recognition is so much more than a carrot to dangle in front of your employees—it’s the entire engine of engagement.

The Engine of Employee Engagement

In a study from Deloitte it was found that employee engagement is top of mind for many companies all over the world. In fact, engagement is second only to global leadership, which should tell you how important engagement is in the modern workplace, especially as the world deals with a global pandemic.

If engagement is so important to so many, especially now, then rewarding recognition is right up there with it. Engagement and recognition go hand in hand because recognition drives engagement. From spot recognition to service awards, holiday programs to wellness initiatives, recognition should be an everyday part of your organization and should always be tied back to your company values.

The impact of regular value-driven recognition is powerful. It encourages employees to live and celebrate company values in all aspects of their work. Employees that are recognized in valuable, appropriate, and timely ways are more productive and loyal, and share the benefits with those around them. Regular, value-driven recognition is the difference between a horse-drawn carriage with a carrot and a finely-tuned engagement race car with a powerful engine.

Here are just a few benefits of regular, value-driven recognition:

  • 17% more productivity. Employees that are recognized often are 17% more productive. Sure, 17% on its own isn’t a lot, but think about 17% of your overall revenue. That’s a lot!
  • Less stress at work. Regular recognition, like compliments, helps reduce stress because it causes the Amygdala in your brain to ease up on the pedal of stress hormones.
  • Increased retention. Retaining good employees is important, as it fosters reduced costs and improved culture throughout your organization.

When you recognize often with a focus on your company values, engagement in your organization will increase. Recognizing infrequently, inadequately, or inconsistently will devalue the potency of your engagement efforts, and employee productivity and morale will suffer. It doesn’t take much to recognize people, but the return of your investment of time is incredibly impactful. There is no better way to drive your organization forward than regular rewarding recognition.




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