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Employee recognition is a communication strategy

16 July 2013

Should sports personalities get MBEs for just doing what they do? The political positioning following Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win was somewhat sickening. I’d rather recognise and celebrate people who have dedicated themselves long-term to tackling and making a difference to the root causes of injustice and unfairness in the world. Advantage Mandela, not Murray.

Sponsoring the Sheila McKechnie Lifetime Achievement Awards has made me think a lot more about the importance of reward and recognition for good work done.

I particularly like recognition for people who would ordinarily be invisible. One such place of invisibility can be the workplace itself. Employers cannot really say thank you enough for good employee engagement, resilience in the face of pressure, a positive mental approach.

However, employers more often than not don’t see the relevance in thanking their workers. There are so many seemingly legitimate reasons to neglect employee recognition: lack of time, other priorities, they’re doing what they’re paid to do, etc. etc. But it’s only natural that people have a need to be thanked and recognised for their efforts, paid or not. People are motivated by praise, which validates and strengthens their commitment to a team.

Recognition is a vital part of a successful communications plan and must fit your organisation’s culture. How it’s given to an employee, however, is often more important than what is given. Carefully choose who you recognise and for what. The value of recognition is diminished if given too frequently to too many. Inspire with a visit, memo or letter of thanks from senior management – as long as you send it within two weeks of the event. Hold an award presentation to publicly recognise the qualities you want to see more of.  Make sure you invite employees to talk about the achievements at seminars and other public platforms. Of course, this calls for setting targets and clear measurement of achievements – so that you know and have the evidence.

When Forster was overall winner of the Sunday Times Green Business awards, yes, we felt good, but it certainly drove us to do more. In tight financial times, ongoing, meaningful rewards and recognition provide an effective, low cost way of raising morale and encouraging higher levels of performance.

Exercising your power to recognise: ten tips for making things better, more productive, happier and healthier in the workplace:

  1. Acknowledge and celebrate birthdays.
  2. Arrange for a team to present the results of its efforts to management.
  3. Answer your assistant’s telephone for a day.
  4. Establish a Behind the Scenes award specifically for those whose actions are not usually in the limelight.
  5. At a monthly team meeting, award an Employee of the Month and have everyone at  the meeting stand up and say why that person is deserving of the award.
  6. If your team is under pressure, bring a bag of marbles to work and take a break to have a contest – a sure stress reliever.
  7. Serve Ben & Jerry ice cream to all of your employees at the end of a project.
  8. Send a letter to all team members at the conclusion of a project, thanking them for their participation.
  9. When you hear a positive remark about someone, repeat it to that person as soon as possible (face-to-face is best, e-mail or voice mail are good in a pinch).
  10. Employee awards – be careful not to be patronising or cringe-making; make it personal; do it for real; and it doesn’t have to be in the form of £ bonus!