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Employee Recognition: What Works?

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 11:44am | by Helen Hoart

I don’t believe in giving special rewards to employees for doing their jobs. That’s why they get paid. But when I worked at a publishing company several years ago, I did just that. 

When I became head of a division I discovered the marketing department had stopped marketing. (Why that happened is a post for another time.) To get everyone back on track we had a small party every month when all marketing deadlines were met.  Obviously this couldn’t go on forever. After all they were doing the job they were hired for. But as a short-term step to help right the marketing ship it worked.

Most of the time, though, special recognition should be given when employees go above and beyond. Recently I worked with a client who was launching a new health-related plan to change bad eating habits and develop good ones.  One of my employees offered to blog about her experience on the plan.  This was certainly outside her job description but we gave her the green light, and she did a terrific job. 

Her blog detailed her struggles and successes.  She offered tips on how she weaned herself away from her downfall peanut M&Ms and substituted healthy alternatives.  This effort was certainly the sort of thing an employer should recognize (and not with a box of candy). The blog was a key element in promoting the new plan.

What’s the best way to recognize an employee who has gone above and beyond?  First, it should come immediately and not be squirreled away in a folder to haul out during performance review time.  It doesn’t have to be money. And making the recognition public can motivate others to perform above and beyond.

I don’t want folks to get me wrong here. I do believe in thanking employees for their work and acknowledging when a job is well done. It’s just that I won’t throw a party or do something special if it’s part of an employee’s job description

Peer to Peer Recognition

Allowing other employees to publicly say thanks to a colleague who has gone above and beyond can help foster team work.  An organization I’m familiar with allows their employees to post a thank you on the bulletin board and detail what the employee did. This very public display conveys the importance the company places on team work and helps reinforce that important company value.  During the holidays employees have employee recognition certificates that they hand to their co-workers, taking the place of holiday gifts. 

It’s important to recognize the efforts of employees and colleagues. Sometimes a simple thank you can do the trick. Other times something more public and substantial is appropriate. Whatever the circumstances warrant, the recognition should be heartfelt and genuine.  Canned programs like employee of the month can be hallow and rote and not hold much meaning.

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