Why doesn’t employee recognition happen more often? Maybe as a leader you do a great job recognizing the people you manage, but how’s the rest of your team doing? How can you encourage your teammates to recognize each other more?
Recognition is a cycle. As more people recognize each other the amount of recognitions will grow until you’ve built a culture of recognition. However, if you’re not quite there yet, recognition is like most things: it could be that people just aren’t quite sure how to start. You’ll see more recognition on your team if everyone knows the basic why, how, and when of recognition.
Why should you recognize?
Are you thinking broadly enough about what deserves recognition? Too often recognition is saved for the top earner or high-level leaders. Everyone in your organization contributes something, or they wouldn’t be there, right? Offer your teams examples of things people can be recognized for to help everyone catch the vision of just how universal recognition can be, and how often it can occur. If you reserve recognition only for the few people “at the top” it’ll be more discouraging than encouraging.
Here’s a list of things you can recognize people for, but of course it’s not exhaustive:
- Providing good customer service
- Being a team player
- Improving efficiency or processes
- Saving time
- Improving on a specific skill
- Filling in for or helping a teammate
- Solving problems
- Being organized
- Communicating issues
- Having a creative or innovative idea
- Working well with other departments
- Working through a difficult task
- Having an upbeat attitude
It’s easy to take a lot of things for granted because they’re in someone’s job description, but you can, and should, still recognize someone for doing their job—and especially for doing it well. Encourage your employees to recognize each other for the value they add as a teammate. Have them consider how their job is easier because of what the people around them are doing.
Recognize everyone. Yes, even low performers. The old saying goes, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Sometimes a low performer is simply an unengaged performer. You can increase engagement by encouraging others to recognize them for the work they do and remind them that they are a vital part of the team. Especially pay attention to how much you recognize them as they start to show improvement, this can lift them out of their downward spiral.
Try an activity where you have everyone on your team consider things they have liked or would like to be recognized for. What recognitions have been meaningful to them and what was it about them that were meaningful? Then ask them what they can do to recognize people more often.
When should you recognize?
It may seem insincere to schedule out recognitions, but it can help a lot. This doesn’t mean recognizing the same person every week on Friday, but it does mean it might be helpful to put a placeholder on your calendar to take time to recognize someone on your team or in your organization. Just like other habits, it can help to have a designated time for recognition to make sure it doesn’t get lost among your other priorities. As a manager, set yourself a reminder to remind your team or to mention recognition while doing a training.
Another method is to recognize your teammate immediately after they do something awesome. Get in the habit of taking just a few minutes to jot a note or send a digital recognition. Timely recognition reinforces the behavior. As a kid you probably got into the habit of saying “thank you” often. (Or at least we hope you did!) If you haven’t already, transfer that mentality to work and show your gratitude as often as possible. Gratitude is not a finite resource and it doesn’t wear out, so don’t feel limited in when or why you recognize someone.
Set an example as a leader by recognizing often. The best way to teach a principle is to exercise it yourself. As you recognize employees both privately and publicly they’ll be reminded to recognize each other.
How do you recognize effectively?
First of all, remember everyone is an individual and not everyone likes to be recognized or rewarded the same way. Making recognition a team effort comes in handy because some teammates will be closer to each other than others and might have a better idea of someone’s preferences when it comes to recognition.
Here are some examples of different ways people might like to be recognized:
- Privately, publicly, or both. Awardco has a setting that allows employees to turn off public recognition if that’s not something they enjoy.
- In groups big or small. Some people may not like being recognized in front of the whole company, but do like being recognized among a smaller team of people they work closely with.
- In writing or verbally. A benefit to putting recognition in writing is that people can remember them more easily and also look back over them when they’re having a harder time.
- On special occasions. Some people may not care much about birthdays or holidays, but some people may feel a bit hurt if no one acknowledges their birthday or work anniversary. Celebrate the important moments.
The how is important, but what’s most important is just doing it. Recognize. Period. You can work on the how as you get to know your team, but more important is that it happens. Get your team familiar with the Awardco platform, if you use Awardco, and show them how easy it is to send off a recognition. If you don’t use Awardco, start by making a concerted effort to recognize your teammates verbally, in writing, or however you like. Like we said, the important part is to do it.
Logistically, there are so many ways to recognize. Employees can recognize from their computer, from their phone, or write a note on a post-it, whatever their style is. It only takes a little time to think of what to say, the rest is easy.
Recognition improves team dynamics.
Make your employees believers of recognition. It works. As a manager, you should always be looking for ways to build up and unite your team. Recognition increases human connection and social bonds. Show them it works by being an example yourself and by teaching them the why’s, when’s, and how’s of recognition. Once you do you’ll see a culture of recognition forming, and you’ll never want to go back to the drab, hum-drum cycle you were in before you discovered the true power of regular recognition.