The buy-in and part managers play in employee recognition can literally make or break your whole strategy. Most managers are aware that recognising employees for a job well done makes business sense. Yet in numerous companies efforts at employee recognition have stalled and in many cases that’s due to managers failing to get on board. They may not necessarily be actively opposing employee recognition but the end result’s the same. If they aren’t getting involved, your employee recognition strategy won’t work. Why do some managers – and even directors – end up sabotaging the company’s efforts to recognise employees effectively?

1. Some managers don’t understand how culture and values have evolved

Over the years employee recognition has become more sophisticated. It’s become increasingly integrated with engagement and culture strategies. But some managers cannot get away from the view that employee recognition is a low frequency performance-based activity. That was fine in the 1970s. But today’s employee recognition is high frequency. It provides employees with the progress, purpose and competence reinforcements they need to make their work rewarding and to embed and sustain company values.

2. They think reward and recognition are the same things

Certain managers cannot tell the story. They write 40% less content when delivering recognition via some form of reward or perk because, it seems, they think the reward says everything. Wrong. Employee recognition is what you see and what you say. Reward is just what you spend.

Today’s employee recognition strategies are striving for high employee adoption. They are focusing on removing all barriers and achieving a low, or no, hierarchy programme with no greater than an 80/20 reward split. Recognition stories are being shared across offices and countries. They’re included in performance reviews. Individual employees and teams are receiving additional recognition from leadership teams and being voted for in company award polls. Genuine, personal, high frequency multi- channel recognition means managers need to re visit their use of reward.

3. They believe they’re the only ones who can do the recognising

For many managers, the shift towards social and peer to peer recognition strategies feels uncomfortable. They don’t like losing control and they don’t like the reduced sense of hierarchy. Even if their words indicate they believe empowering employees is important, their actions can end up disrupting and ignoring HR initiatives because they fail to truly grasp why they’re so instrumental to employee engagement. Employee recognition, in their mind, is not a matter of perspective.

4. They view it as another task to complete

And that’s another task on an extremely long list. Employee recognition is an inconvenience they haven’t really got the time (or budget) for. How can they tick the box? By making recognition a once a year event so they can do it then forget about it. Perhaps on birthdays, or even better, at Christmas when they can dish out a job lot of ‘thank you’s at the same time.

Instead of understanding that effective employee recognition is an interaction, they’re unable to get away from viewing it as a transaction.

5. They’re uneasy with transparency

Some managers feel the public data and activity profiles within social and peer to peer recognition means they’re being scrutinised. Their activity (or inactivity) places them in the spotlight. They can be resentful of what they believe is greater visibility and evaluation of their ability to engage their team.

6. They don’t know enough about their people

Many managers will not spend time getting to know their people. It takes significant effort to fully understand personal lives, personality traits and professional aspirations. However, effective and powerful recognition requires managers to be well versed in each of their employee’s needs and values. This is where the ingredients for great recognition are found.

Overcoming the barriers to employee recognition

Managers can make HR’s life hard going when trying to move from a disjointed ‘every manager for themselves’ recognition practice to a cohesive universal approach that fits within – and is instrumental in achieving – engagement and culture objectives. How can you help managers overcome these barriers to making employee recognition a success? By guiding and inspiring managers on the broad role employee recognition plays in developing a culture employees are attracted by, and respond to.

Here are some ideas on why employee recognition is far more than a 110% programme.

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