Employee recognition works best when it's most personal

by on May 12, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Focus on workers’ individual preferences, not the company’s

How are your employee recognition efforts working? Do people consider it an honor to be Employee of the Month, or a bad joke that means very little?

If the way your company gives recognition isn’t working – if you can’t see much influence on morale, performance, or retention – you might want to ask yourself this question:

Is our employee recognition program built around the preferences of the organization, or of individual employees?

Survey data shows that recognition works best when it’s tailored and personal.

“Getting that plaque”

Some employees may find it a great honor to receive an Employee of the Month award. Receiving a plaque in front of a crowd of co-workers may be just the thing to fully engage them in what the organization is trying to do.

On the other hand, other employees may consider employee awards just empty symbols. And they may prefer a quiet pat on the back and words of encouragement from a manager they respect to public acknowledgement.

Similarly, some employees value tangible rewards more than others.

One size does not fit all with employee recognition

The challenge for HR, of course, is how to individualize employee recognition. In the minds of many managers, it’s a lot easier to have a one-size-fits-all approach that they don’t have to give too much time or thought to.

Managers need to be trained to recognize the value of personalized employee recognition. Tell them that if they’re willing to give it a try, they’re likely to benefit from lower turnover, better safety records, higher customer satisfaction, and higher productivity. If your managers are constantly scrambling to fill schedules due to employee turnover, they may be willing to listen.

It’s also important that honors be deserved. Employees quickly catch on – and lose interest – when it appears that everybody eventually gets a reward just for showing up.

Asking the right questions
To get started on personalizing your approach, here are some useful questions to ask:

  • By what name do you like to be called? (It’s amazing how well people respond to the name they like – and it isn’t always the one on the paperwork you keep.)
  • What hobbies and interests do you like to participate in and talk about?
  • What gives you the most positive emotions and feelings?
  • Who is the person you would want to recognize your accomplishments?
  • Do you like to be recognized in public or private, orally or in writing? (When appropriate, and if you’re sure the employee will appreciate it, you may want to let an employee’s family or close friends know about his or her honor.)
  • What kind of recognition motivates you? A gift certificate, a logo item like a mug or t-shirt, a title, a personal note from a top manager?
  • What was the most meaningful recognition you ever received, at work or elsewhere?

Personalize your employee recognition

This kind of personal employee recognition requires a lot more effort from the organization than the boilerplate, ho-hum kind. But when you stop to consider that the top reason people leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated (that’s according to DOL), the effort may just be worth it.

Source: The Gallup Organization

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