Good Job! How to Give Recognition That Promotes Outstanding Peformance

Everyone, yes, even YOUR employees respond well to authentic, timely recognition. Typically they respond by doing more of the very thing for which you recognized them, and that’s good for you and the organization. When employees and their work are valued, job satisfaction, productivity, and quality rises. Who doesn’t want more of that from their employees?

Recognition Defined
First, let’s define recognition! It’s the timely, informal, or formal acknowledgement of a behavior, effort, or result that truly serves the organization’s goals and values. Often it is behavior that is beyond your normal expectations and may be related to just one person or a whole team of people.

How Often Do My Employees Need Recognition?
The Gallup organization has conducted studies on employee engagement and came to the conclusion that most of the time, recognition for good work has a shelf life…..of just one week! They suggest that if your employee feels recognized on a weekly basis, that he or she is more likely to be an engaged employee. And as you might suspect, engaged employees are the kind we all want. They’re productive, happy, demonstrate initiative, need less supervision, and routinely exceed your expectations. Now, before you panic and start buying a bushel of thank you cards or scour the net for inexpensive trinkets, let’s go back to the definition. It needs to be timely and can be informal. That means don’t wait for their anniversary, their performance review, or any other “formal” moment to provide recognition. If they’ve done something well, all it takes to give them that boost is a 2-3 minute conversation. Best of all, talk is free and is often more valued by the employee than a gift. Why? Because it’s real and it explains why they’re valued. Remember, authenticity is key here.

Recognition Conversation
How can I provide recognition to my employee informally? Here’s a basic script you can follow:

1. Specifically describe what was done that is worthy of recognition.

“Thanks for all your hard work,” is too vague and won’t reinforce the desired behavior.

2. Explain how the behavior impacted you or made you feel.

3. Identify the impact, value, or importance of the behavior to your team, your goals, the project, and/or your organization.

4. Point out how the behavior links to bigger goals of the organization if possible.

5. Thank them by name for their effort or results.

Sample Situation

“Jane, could we talk for a moment?

I just wanted to express my appreciation for your efforts on the implementation of the new software for student services.

I was personally very pleased with your efforts and results as project lead.

Your excellent organizational skills, coupled with your ability to really listen to the users and involve them in the process, shaved weeks off our project timeline and enabled us to implement a product that is even more user-friendly for our students than I originally had planned.

You saved us time and money, while simultaneously enhancing our credibility with the students.

Ultimately the students will have a much improved experience and that helps with so many goals, including student recruitment and retention.

Both your skills and extra efforts on this project have been outstanding.

Thank you, Jane.”

Get to Know Your Employees Preferences for Recognition
Some employees like to be acknowledged publicly in front of their department or peers. Some cringe at that thought. One member of your team may value a hand-written note while another just wants you to have the conversation directly. Some people want to hear about the “business impact” of their work while others want to know how it directly impacted you. The message here is that you’ve got to get to know their preferences and what they value so that they can truly appreciate your effort at recognition. Otherwise, it can be frustrating for the both of you.

So how do you find out what works for your employee? Some things you can notice over time by listening to them talk about their projects. Do they always talk about the goal in terms of how it will help the University, its students, visitors, or alumni? Maybe they often mention certain qualities such as accuracy, effectiveness, or efficiency when they describe their project goals. Yes, that type of listening will help you. What might help you most is to simply ask them. “What do you value the most about this project or responsibility?” You might be surprised at what you hear. It’s also perfectly acceptable and I’d even encourage you to ask about their preferences for delivery. You’d rather find out they hate public recognition in a quiet one-on-one conversation than after you’ve gone on ad nauseum about them in front of a big group.

Stay tuned to the HR blog for future posts about recognition and how to use it well with all of your employees, even those who are struggling to perform well!

Got a question or need help with recognition? Email the employee relations team for assistance.

About Lorea Seidel

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