Making Recognition Work for You: Part 3

May 3, 2011 -- Sal Silvester

In Part 1 of this series we talked about the "case" for recognition. In Part 2, we have debunked some of the myths around recognition, the next steps are to put a framework in place for an effective recognition program.

In The Carrot Principle, the authors outline a four-level approach to recognition that is straight forward and easy to implement.

1. Day-to-day recognition. These are the no cost and low cost ways to recognize people every day. They
are the "pats on the back," the "thank yous" said verbally or by a handwritten note and the 101 other ways to recognize people for their efforts. Effective leaders intentionally take time every day to provide this recognition to their people. And, just like feedback, they link recognition to specific behaviors and offer it in a timely manner.

Nonspecific praise is actually disheartening for an employee, since it implies that the manager has no idea of the unique value he or she brings to the team. Many managers who offer this type of general praise may think they are rewarding the entire team with comments such as, "Thanks, everyone, for all your hard work," or "You all make me proud." But such general praise has no effect and has been shown to have a negative impact on those in your charge. - The Carrot Principle

2. Above and beyond recognition. The second layer of recognition is comprised of the efforts that have a significant impact to the organization, customers, and other team members and stakeholders. These are the ideas that save the organization a significant amount of money, or the achievements that generated additional revenue, or the extra efforts to ensure the customer was taken care of. To make Above and Beyond recognition work, rewards should have a perceived value in line with the efforts made by the person, and the recognition should be delivered in a manner that is personal and meaningful. Having an ice-cream social after a team has worked nights and weekends to deliver a major revenue generating project will not just lose its impact, it will give your team members good reason to find another organization that will value their contributions.

3. Career recognition. In most organizations, people get recognized for career tenure at year five and then every five years afterward. But, as pointed out in The Carrot Principle, most turnover in an organization happens within the first 18 months of an employee's service. Create a plan that awards people publically when they first arrive at the organization. Then follow-up with awards at years one, three, five, and then every five years afterwards. Like all other recognition, make it personal. Don't just leave an award certficate on your team member's desk. Present it in front of others who are closest to the person, tell a story, and link it to organizational values and goals.

4. Celebration events. Ok, perhaps now is a good time for the ice cream social. Celebration events are an opportunity to recognize major achievements and key milestones. We often get bogged down in the urgency of the day-to-day and forget to reflect on where we are and where we've been. Celebration events are an opportunity to reinforce your brand, vision and commitment to your people.

With these four layers, you can start recognizing people in a way that will have a positive impact on engagement and productivity. How far away from this model is your team or organization today?

Stay tuned for the fourth part of this series where we'll explore the "how to" on giving recognition.

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