The Dos and Don’ts of Employee Recognition

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When companies recognize their workers with awards, they are likely to see a boost in morale and perhaps even inspire them to work harder. Business leaders of the world have woken up to the value of employee recognition and are continually introducing innovative ideas into the workplace.

Creating a healthy work environment is not always easy but there are many ways to recognize your employees’ efforts and they can go a long way in elevating motivation and increasing business productivity. Here are some simple recognition ideas:

  • Show honest appreciation for a completed task with a sincere ‘thank you’, warm smile or even a friendly pat on the back.
  • Offer praise out loud to an individual or team for a specific job well done.
  • Present a personalized gift to a worker who has reached his/her goal that shows how well you know the person.
  • Reward the office staff by ordering in breakfast or lunch. Ice cream in the summer, pizza or bagels in the winter, are fun foods that can go a long way towards creating good feelings between you and your workers.
  • Provide opportunities for workers to develop new talents by having them participate in business seminars and professional meetings.
  • Make each employee feel special by taking him/her out to the theatre or a sports event. Personal attention is a great way to build a close relationship and retain your best workers. The number one reason workers leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated.

Not Always Beneficial

While employee recognition can prove advantageous in many cases, there are times when it can have the opposite effect. In fact, it can sometimes cause more harm than good. According to a study recently accepted for publication in the journal, Organization Science, non- monetary award programs such as ‘Employee of the month’ and others can actually hurt an organization's overall performance because they can influence perceptions of fairness and equality which may result in marginalizing employees who are instinctively motivated and don't need the extra inducement to perform well.

So along with all the ways to increase employee recognition, here are some tips for pulling back on these efforts:

  • Be careful not to create awards for behavior that already exists among many other workers. This causes dissidence among employees and leads to demotivation and a decrease in productivity.
  • Don’t reward workers for fulfilling a basic job expectation but rather for exceptional performance.
  • Avoid initiating attendance and tardiness award programs. Although these may lead to an initial reduction in the average level of tardiness and more punctual arrivals for the workers who participate, old patterns of tardiness may emerge in later months and punctual attendance can often begin to drop.
  • Stay inconsistent. Don’t let your employee appreciation efforts become expected privileges by becoming consistent in your recognition. As strange as that may sound, consistency leads to expectations and expectations become entitlements.
  • Stay away from competitive games or programs that reward only the winners. If someone is the winner, the others are the losers and that can lead to a sense of resentment among employees.
  • If you are unable to offer praise in a timely fashion, don’t do it at all. Rather than motivate the person, this causes an employee to feel neglected and ignored.
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