Everyone loves to be recognized, but not everyone—and not every employee—loves to be recognized in the same way. Sharon might enjoy a personal note of praise and encouragement, but would probably hate public hoopla. Greg might love the attention from a public recognition, but feel less enthused about a private one where nobody else sees it.
While it can be overwhelming to think about the many different ways to recognize someone and how best to go about it, we offer these Seven P’s of Recognition™ (it’s not really trademarked, you can use it too) to help you recognize the people in your life in the best way possible.
Why is it important to recognize employees?
This should be a no-brainer, but we're going to talk about it anyway before we dive into how best to recognize employees. Think of it this way: if you did something for someone else and did that thing repeatedly, day after day for years, and received no thanks for it, would you keep doing the thing? Recognizing employees is just like that. And yes, you can make an argument that paying employees is recognition enough, but here's a news flash for you: it's not enough. Employees need to be appreciated. They need to be celebrated, recognized, and rewarded outside of normal compensation for the work they do, because they show up for you day after day and get the work done. Too many employees feel invisible at work, but the great thing about recognition in all its forms is that it can literally change everything about work from productivity to engagement to quality defects and more. And here's how you can do it.
How do you appreciate and recognize employees?
Seven wonders, seven seas, seven dwarves & seven P’s. It's catchy, right? Science suggests that the number of things we can retain in our memories hovers somewhere around seven. Is it such a coincidence that we often relegate things to the number seven, like seven wonders, or seven seas, or even seven dwarves? (Here’s a fun challenge: see how many of Snow White’s seven dwarves you can name!) There really is something to the number seven, so that ought to help make it easier to remember these different forms of recognition we humbly present to you below. As you go about your work these seven P’s will help you recognize more effectively and more often, and hopefully will stick in your memory as easily as the other “seven” things.
When you think about recognition, perhaps you might think of some of the more popular recognitions around the world like the Nobel Prize, or the Oscars, or maybe even the Razzies. These are great examples of public recognition—including the Razzies with their “Own Your Bad” tagline. (Side note: you probably don’t want to be recognizing your employees for the bad stuff. Though we have heard of organizations using “oops emails” where employees send out an email owning their mistake if something big went down. If you do the oops email thing, be sure you follow that up with additional love and support for the employee.)
In the workplace, public recognition usually takes the form of programs like “Employee of the Month,” “President’s Club,” or something similar. These recognitions have an important place in any workplace culture because they can often motivate others to do excellent work—especially those who enjoy public recognition. Remember that recognizing publicly doesn’t have to be a huge deal, either. It can often mean a simple shoutout in a team meeting for a job well done on a project, and doing so can have just as much impact as a big public recognition.
Not every achievement needs to be recognized publicly, and some people prefer that their accomplishments aren’t recognized publicly. The attention and the hooplah can actually make the recognition less impactful for employees that feel uncomfortable being put on the spot, and may make them less likely to strive for greatness if they know they’ll be recognized publicly.
Private recognition is just that: private. It can be a small note, an email expressing appreciation, a comment in person about the great work someone is putting out. Private recognitions can have just as much power and impact as a public recognition, and need to be used just as much in the workplace—especially since some of your employees might be “Shy Sharons” and don’t want the attention.
Whether they’re public or private, recognitions are always more powerful if they’re personal. Think about all the recognitions you’ve ever received—and think about how much more powerful the personalized ones are when compared to the generic ones. “Great job!” “Well done!” or “Happy Birthday!” are a little boring when compared to a heartfelt note that accompanies the recognition, right?
Personal recognitions require some effort, especially from managers. Giving such recognitions requires that you know your employees, know what they like and dislike, and at least know a little bit about their life outside of work. Trust us, when you put in the effort to make recognitions more personal, your employee satisfaction and trust will skyrocket. (Pro tip: let teammates in on recognitions. Often they’ll know more about their coworker than you will, and including more people shares the love even more).
It should be a no-brainer, but just in case it isn’t we’ll say it here: when people feel cared for, they care more.
Recognition doesn’t have to include a physical reward, and recognitions have the same effect in the brain whether they’re tied with an award or not, but sometimes it’s nice to give something physical to help commemorate the recognition. Some people react especially well to this kind of recognition, and like to have a tangible item they can use or look back on with pride.
When giving physical rewards, the options are essentially limitless. If you want a snazzy acrylic award that looks like a giant cheerio and says “We’re sad to say Cheerio!” to a retiring employee, you can do that. If you want something less breakfast related you can always opt for something else. We suggest giving employees the option to choose their own reward from millions of options on Amazon, hundreds of hotels through hotels.com, and yes, even gift cards. (People like gift cards, okay?)
Recognition from a peer can often be much more powerful than recognition from a manager. A good manager knows their employees well, and knows how to help them feel appreciated. A bad manager will recognize only because they have to, and the recognition will be out of touch at best. Think Leslie Knope vs Michael Scott. That comparison might be a little sticky but you get the idea.
Peer recognition is different—and for good reason.
Peer recognition comes in many forms: in-person interactions, team meeting shout outs, a quick scoot in your office chair over to your teammate’s desk to say thanks, or maybe even a small gift. Because so many are working remote and don’t have the luxury of those small, daily interactions, digital employee recognition software is more important now than ever, and will continue to be increasingly important in the future. Leaving a digital recognition on a company-wide recognition feed, giving private recognitions through the same digital platform, and leaving comments or reactions on the recognitions is a great way to foster peer-to-peer recognition and build teams.
While not every recognition needs to be performance-based (looking at you, birthdays, new hires, new babies, and extracurricular achievements), often recognizing work performance can be a great way to keep people motivated and thank them for their work. In fact, we’d argue that most recognitions in the workplace are based on performance. That’s the basis of a yearly pay increase most of the time, right? Whether or not that’s the only thing to recognize at work is up for debate, but recognizing performance certainly isn’t a bad thing!
When recognizing performance, utilizing things like yearly evaluations, customer satisfaction reviews, and achievement in sales is a fantastic way to highlight success and recognize the people in your organization.
Ah yes...good old greenbacks. When recognition is brought up, often the first thing people think of is additional money to go with it, and that’s totally okay. Recognizing with money is one of the most established ways to recognize your employees. Some of the earliest uses of prize money were in the 16th century by naval...actually, that’s not important. You get what we’re saying. It’s been around for a long time. Probably as long as money has been around. (Which, coincidentally, is around 5,000 years!)
When we talk about recognizing with pay we’re talking about pay on top of what is already given. Think of things like promotions, raises, bonuses, and the like. Recognizing with pay is a time-honored way to show your employees you care, and while it’s not the only way (or perhaps the most effective), it still plays an important role in recognizing the people around you.
When people feel cared for, they care more.
The most important thing to remember with recognition is that there isn’t one right way. Recognition comes in many forms (more than these seven) and each one is useful and plays a part in recognizing the people around you. What matters most, though, is that you’re out there recognizing your coworkers, your employees, and the people around you that might need a boost. When you recognize others a whole host of tangible benefits come along with it—both for the one giving and the one receiving the recognition—and both work and life will improve.
Employee recognition can change lives in and outside of work. Keep these seven P’s of recognition in mind to help give you ideas on how best to recognize, and remember that when people feel cared for, they care more.