How to give recognition that matters

recognitionIt’s every manager’s secret fear: after months of campaigning for a recognition program, the software has launched, the staff has signed up, and the results are…underwhelming. Jim recognizes Kathy for bringing in cookies. David recognizes his manager for an inside joke. This is not what you budgeted for. Fortunately, this scenario is easy to avoid. Just follow these best practices to make sure that your hard-won recognition program works the way you intended:

  • Roll out with fanfare. If you don’t get everyone on board and excited right from the start, your beloved program might be written off as another well-intentioned but ineffective scheme (remember Hawaiian Shirt Day?). Hold a company-wide meeting (or a party!), give everyone digital and hard copies of the rules, and make sure they know who to go to with questions. Make them want to participate.
  • Set clear expectations. Don’t assume that everyone is on the same page. Even if it seems obvious, make a point of stating that recognitions and rewards need to be tied to company objectives. Thanking someone for working overtime is great. Thanking them for bringing your morning coffee is not. (At least, not via your company’s recognition platform.)
  • Make it positive. Your team members and colleagues will let you down from time to time, but the company’s social recognition feed is not the place to point it out. The goal is to reinforce behavior that you want repeated, and a public shaming will not get you there.
  • Do it immediately. The longer you wait after the desired behavior, the less impact your recognition carries. You don’t need to rush to your desk the moment it happens, but make sure your recognition comes at least the same day.
  • Be certain. Qualifiers like “maybe,” “kind of,” and “sometimes” seriously lessen the impact of your praise. If your teammate did a good job, say so! Who wants to hear “You were great out there, I guess?”

Even if you’ve already rolled out your program, it’s never too late to remind employees of the basics: keep it positive, immediate, and certain. (And work-related, of course.) With those three guidelines top-of-mind, you—and your team—can’t go wrong. Got any tips, questions, or stories of recognitions gone wrong? Let us know in the comments!