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Jamie Lawrence

Wagestream

Insights Director

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11 tips to help you recognise the efforts of your workforce

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Mick Liubinskas is co-founder of WooBoard.com, a Sydney based, global employee recognition platform.

The workplace has changed, so must management. How do you guide a team with large generation gaps, remote working, part-time team and outsourcing? Having your employees engaged in your vision, values, customers and the task at hand is critical to thriving. A recognition system can help in many ways, and here is a few tips to get started.

1. Vision. You may know why you’re running your business but your team might not. If people are working towards a vision rather than just working a job, they will volunteer the best parts of themselves – their hearts, creativity and spare time. Success takes 10,000 small steps by the whole team and if they don’t know the vision, then they won’t know the direction that each step should go in. Take the time each day to reinforce the vision through your recognition. Any deliberate act by a team member that is in the direction of your vision will tell everyone else that it’s important. Also take dedicated time at least quarterly to reinforce the vision. Paint it big and vibrant so that they will remember it when they are deep in the tough part of every job.

2. Values. A strong culture is largely a reflection of common values. Whilst they are timeless, living them is daily. Every time you notice someone exercising a value, give them some recognition for it and they, and the rest of the team, will lean in that direction. Values are a habit, not a moment.

3. Training. Whilst we would think it’s obvious in the training of a child or a pet, for some reason positive reinforcement of the right behaviours is not as common in the workplace. Looking for ‘things done right’ as Tom Peters says, and then telling the employee that it’s right is one of the best ways to get a team, especially new employees, delivering.

4. Triple positive. It’s a harsh reality these days but motivated employees are hard to find and/or create. They won’t automatically share your passion and drive. My rough rule of thumb is that the team will operate at one third your energy and enthusiasm levels. So if you want to be engaged, then you need to be triple engaged. If you’d like your managers giving three bits of recognition per day, you need to be giving nine bits of recognition per day.

5. Share it. Historically, recognition has been a private pat on the back, though much of it is done via email. This misses a great opportunity to leverage the moment by sharing it with the broader team. By sharing, the recognition distributes the positive news, reinforces the right vision, values and behaviours to everyone and also makes the receiver feel even better since everyone knows they did a good job.

6. Private negative. Positive recognition should be shared but negative recognition, or constructive feedback, should be done privately. Follow the One Minute Manager’s advice around reprimanding: Take the person aside, communicate the observed behaviour, outline the expected behaviour, affirm that they are a good person and that it’s the behaviour that needs to change.

7. Timeliness. Recognition needs to be as close to the event as possible for maximum positive impact. Once a year reviews or even monthly catch ups are too slow in this day and age to effectively reinforce the right behaviours, values and vision. Try to do it immediately after the event otherwise you may forget about it. Fast recognition also greatly reduces the gap of the employee wondering whether what they did was good and maximises the time of feeling great about the positive recognition.

8. Personalise. Every person wants to be recognised in different ways. Some people like a lot, some people like a little. Some people like to be recognised as a team and some want individual acknowledgement. It is the responsibility of the manager to work hard to understand each team member and how to best recognise them. Personalising should also apply to each bit of recognition given. Generic "well done" messages are significantly less effective as "Well done for a great pitch to XYZ company this morning. Great interactivity and excellent content."

9. Systemise. Despite the need for personalising, it is still important to use a system for recognition. Having a tool that your company uses could increase the frequency of recognition and the value of the associated engagement. Like most things, a new system takes correct implementation and training. After about six weeks, recognition will tend to become a habit and your employees will see opportunities to recognise each other as they arise. Leaders in the business need to put in the triple extra effort in the first six weeks to set the example and create the new cultural foundation.

10. Keep it fresh. Telling someone "Great job" is wonderful. Telling 10 people "Great job" or even the same person ten times dramatically reduces the impact. Different language, different reasons, different timing all helps keep recognition fresh and valuable.

11. Record it. Giving someone a high-five for excellent work as they walk past you in the hallway is handy, but creating a permanent record of the achievement is even better. This allows the receiver and their manager to track back and see all the good things they’ve done over the year. This is especially helpful for performance review time as you can’t cram for it and you don’t have to try and think back.

One Response

  1. No matter how small

    I agree wholeheartedly – recognition is a one of the pillars of our leadership programmes.  I would add that we need to be keeping a look out for all those small things that can so easily go unnoticed and therefore unrecognised.  We all thrive on recognition, but when people are doing their job pretty well we need to seek out the small additional differences they are making, so that we can give genuine, personalised, positive feedback. We think it is good to practise this principle throughout your whole life, so that you build the habit.  So, start looking everywhere for the small differences that people are making in life around you on a daily basis – it is easy to see the major ones, but heighten your observation skills.  Perhaps you find that your teenager actually put something away without you asking, a receptionist looks up and smiles at you when you enter a building, one of your team submits a report a day earlier than deadline.  These are all small things, but they make a difference to us and others, so why miss the opportunity to notice them and recognise the individual.  

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

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