Image by Siri Wannapat
While countless aspects of daily work have changed over the past year, one thing remains the same across most organizations: Employees value recognition. In fact, now more than ever, employees want their efforts to be seen, heard, and acknowledged. And with the job market heating up, if employee recognition isn’t consistently present, your top talent will go elsewhere.
Nearly 6 in 10 employees (58%) rank culture – including employee recognition – ahead of salary when it comes to what they want from a company.
So the stakes are higher than ever when it comes to recognition and retaining top talent. For companies hoping to thrive as hiring returns to normal, recognition must be a part of every leader’s responsibilities. And it must be incorporated into the flow of work to keep it top of mind and authentic. Yet, according to a recent survey across CXOs and HR leaders, only 36% see recognition as a top priority for 2021.
Employee Recognition: The Difficult Work Lies Ahead
Even for those leaders who acknowledge the need for incorporating recognition into the flow of work, the difficult work lies ahead.
For starters, know that recognition feels more natural and is more successful when leadership fosters a culture built on connection. When it comes to applying connection to recognition, repetition certainly helps. Today’s recognition technology empowers leaders to determine how each employee prefers their shoutouts and communication. For example, a recent study found that 54% of employees prefer a verbal thank-you, while 31% prefer a written note. Only 7% prefer celebration and gifts. As any successful leader knows that recognition is not one-size-fits-all, and it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it initiative.
Putting authentic recognition in the flow of your organization’s work can feel daunting. But leaders must make this a priority and set it as a part of their daily intentions. Let’s discuss five ways to incorporate recognition.
1. Acknowledge specifics
Anyone can hand out a generic “great job.” Such blanket statements feel insincere. Instead, focus on the specific contributions individual employees are making to create heartfelt praise. This will require more involved leadership and higher emotional intelligence than simply offering impersonal, inauthentic gestures of appreciation.
2. Embrace social recognition
Like it or not, social media is a big part of our lives. With remote work so prevalent now, we rely on online communities and interact via digital communication tools most of the time. Incorporating recognition into all of your employee communication tools, including social channels, ensures recognition is timely, visible, and in the flow of work.
3. Schedule virtual events
Team lunches, scheduled times to touch base, and other virtual events deliver two benefits:
- They allow you to stay connected with your employees.
- They provide a natural forum for recognition and communication.
Because remote work can leave employees feeling isolated, it’s important to schedule these virtual touchpoints to ensure a sense of community and connection. You can also let employees select the themes of the virtual events or choose activities (e.g., a virtual painting class or a yoga class) as a part of their recognition. That way, employees feel engaged and rewarded.
4. Make it meaningful
Let’s face it: Some daily tasks feel tedious and thankless. Put meaning in “the little things” — show the impact an employee has, even if they don’t see it themselves. One way to do this is to tie recognition of the smaller tasks to values, mission, or even larger themes within your organization. This lets employees see how their success maps to something greater. This is especially important now because being dispersed often distorts the bigger picture or impedes an employee’s visibility to larger goals.
5. Incorporate variety
Just as you incorporate variety into your messaging, variety is essential when it comes to message delivery. Think outside the box: handwritten notes, a customized gift, a video message, or a delivery of their favorite treat. If every attempt at providing recognition looks the same, employees will undoubtedly start to feel the message is increasingly less special.
The Connection Between Recognition and Results
Providing recognition is not the final step. It’s important to measure your recognition results to ensure program ROI. By infusing analytics into the process – tracking and measuring your recognition strategy’s effectiveness – you can determine which areas might benefit from optimization or where something isn’t working. You need to make sure what you’re doing is having the desired effect. You’ll also want to ensure that your company is getting the most from your recognition investment. Analytics will also help ensure that your programs are positively impacting the behaviors you want to target.
Data and analytics can provide the necessary feedback and a road map to ensure your organization stays on track now and in the future. Keeping an eye on the road ahead not only includes measuring ROI but also retaining your top talent. Ultimately, employee recognition provides the validation, appreciation, and culture to drive retention.
So, don’t let recognition be just a passing thought or a tool that sits on a shelf. Incorporate it daily for your workforce to feel genuinely valued. After all, we endured in 2020. So who doesn’t deserve a shoutout for the tenacity and resilience they’ve shown?