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If you’re a regular reader of our blog (there are dozens of us! Dozens!), you might notice that we talk a lot about recognition. Wait, what? An employee recognition and rewards company that talks about employee recognition a lot? Shocker! But we do it because we’re passionate about it, and we're passionate about the way it can change work and even change lives one small bit at a time. And if you doubt that recognition can change a life for the better, just take a second and think back on how you felt at one small point in your life when somebody told you that you did a good job. Go ahead, we’ll wait.
So recognition is important. We all get that. It can literally change your brain chemistry, change a workday, and change an attitude. But when we’re talking about the workplace specifically, what’s the best way to recognize? HOW do we recognize? What are those ever-elusive best practices we so often talk about in so many different areas of business?
Well, we’ve got some best practices here for you—but it’s way more than that. We have something new that will give you a fresh perspective on recognition in your organization, how best to begin thinking about it (or how to rethink it), and how to actually DO it. We’ve taken the old “once-a-year-on-your-service-anniversary” idea of recognition and tossed a glitter bomb at it. We’ve made it better. We’ve reimagined it into something more, and yet something so simple that anyone can do it.
Recognition is stuck in the 80’s with plaques that are gathering dust on desks and closets full of last year’s employee summit windbreakers. It’s time to reimagine recognition into something new—something that celebrates every employee, recognizes exceptional effort, and rewards incredible achievement.
To reimagine recognition in your own organization, think of a pyramid. You may have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Well, this is Awardco’s Hierarchy of Deeds. Or the Amazing Pyramid of Achieves. Whatever. You get where we’re going.
This is an easy way to remember how to reimagine recognition in your own organization:
- Celebrate everyone. We’re all human, and all deserve to be celebrated just for that.
- Recognize achievement. Some go above the call of duty, and that deserves a shout out.
- Reward exemplary effort. When something is truly amazing, it should be rewarded.
Reimagining recognition is about using your company values to foster purpose-driven achievement and effort in your employees. When that effort and those values are demonstrated by an employee, they need to be recognized for that and then rewarded. This leads to a cycle of showing, seeing, and feeling values in organizations, and the recognition pyramid we mentioned above is at the heart of it all as we celebrate, recognize, and reward the people around us.
We’re all humans here. Well, hopefully we’re all humans. We’re not entirely sure about Doug in accounting but that’s beside the point—and even then Doug deserves to be celebrated too! The idea of humans in the workplace being degraded to a resource called “human capital” should bother you. It really bothers us. Have we devalued each individual so much that we now see them as a cog in a wheel, a resource to be exploited and managed?
Whatever your viewpoint on the above, it still stands to reason that every individual in your organization deserves to be celebrated simply because of who they are. And there are multiple ways to do that. Everyone has a birthday. Everyone has a work anniversary. Every company celebrates at least one holiday. And you know what else? Every organization has an employee appreciation day, whether they knew that already or not.
These occasions are perfect to celebrate your employees just for being who they are. Birthdays and service anniversaries are especially great for this, and are an integral part of the workplace. Now, most workplaces do this part of recognition at least mildly well. If they don’t (and if you’re in one of them) then maybe there are bigger problems there to worry about. We’ll just let that marinate.
The point here is that everybody deserves to be celebrated at work, and as we all strive to celebrate people just for being who they are, we’ll build that sense of community and belonging that every good organization needs. And just a small side note here, celebrating doesn’t have to be hard. You can automate it on Awardco's platform to make it almost a non-issue and take the busywork out of trying to remember every birthday or anniversary.
Recognize High Performers
When you’ve got a great base of celebration in your organization, it’s time to start recognizing those that really excel at what they’re doing.
Recognition can help drive the behavior your values promote, and to be effective must be given out early and often. And just like that famous quote from Spider-Man, with greater effort comes a greater responsibility to reward with greater value. Okay, maybe that metaphor is a little sticky. Or a little threadbare. Maybe a bit spindly. But you get the idea.
Recognizing your high performers shouldn’t be overwhelming. You can build all kinds of programs that can help with this, including sales incentives, wellness programs, work from home programs, referral programs, value spotlights, spot recognitions, and much more. Recognition should be as inclusive as possible. In other words, let everyone (peers AND leaders) participate in recognition programs to make sure you really get that special something out of your recognition efforts, and it will build that sense of self-esteem in your employees.
One more thing that will help your employee recognition programs? Variety and choice in rewards and recognition. When one type of recognition or reward is relied upon too heavily, it becomes mundane and insincere, which will ultimately weaken its value. Your strengths lie in a variety of programs and a variety of rewards. Consider giving employees more power to choose their own rewards, and you’ll find this step of recognizing your employees becomes even easier.
Reward Your MVPs
There are always employees that are going to truly exceed expectations and do incredible work. Those power players need to know their efforts are being seen and rewarded. If that seems a little overwhelming, just think about this: the cost to reward your most valuable players is very small compared to the cost of losing them.
When rewarding your MVP’s, make sure you consider multiple forms of rewards. Things like a public ceremony (if that’s their thing), a commemorative award, a monetary amount, or perhaps the most potent: the power to choose their own reward coupled with the recognition you already have planned to give them. You might notice a theme with us here: we’re big on choice.
Rewarding MVPs is, and should be, a no-brainer. We reward people for exceptional work, and we truthfully should do it more often than we actually do in the workplace.
A Rising Tide
Now that you’ve gotten this far in our TED talk, you might be wondering how you can possibly begin to implement all this. That, dear reader, is easy. Just start somewhere.
All it takes is to do a little more than you were doing previously. Do you have a service anniversary program that you celebrate once a year? See if you can’t start something that celebrates people more than once a year. Maybe you have a service anniversary program, a spot recognition program, and a holiday program? Maybe try a structured recognition program around new employee onboarding. Whatever you decide, research the merits of recognition and take those findings to the stakeholders in your company to help increase buy-in. And if they give a little pushback, just remind them that a rising tide of recognition lifts all boats—including the company boat.
And when that tide of recognition does rise, and it will, it will rise as a tide of celebrating, recognizing, and rewarding each individual with those experiences and rewards that they most value. It will rise with power and purpose. And that rising tide, that powerful current, that thundering surf will create a culture other companies can only dream of—but one that you will actually achieve.