Recognise This! – A culture of recognition relies on employee perception of ongoing appreciation and acknowledgment of exceptional behaviours, effort and results.

In honor of Employee Appreciation Day last Friday, my CEO Eric Mosley shared “10 Tips for Recognising Employees” on Boston.com, the online outlet for The Boston Globenewspaper. Many of the tips are familiar, I’m sure, to readers of this blog, with ideas for making recognition, frequent, specific, timely and crowdsourced. Please do read the tips, as Eric’s added insight I found particularly helpful.

Perhaps as interesting, however, are the comments to the slideshow. Readers were invited to “Share: How is your office celebrating Employee Recognition Day?” The responses are telling:

“You’re joking, right?” (submitted by “only one who works in the office”)

“Employee Appreciation??? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Ya RIGHT!” (submitted by “Ihaveajob Wanttokeepit”)

“April 1st is still weeks away.” (submitted by “Cynicality”)

“The beatings will continue until morale improves. The attitude of this place is ‘be glad you have a job.’ and, good work is rewarded with more work.” (submitted by Tom)

“Are you kidding me??? My company rewards the groups who bring in the money. All others – the people who work in the trenches – get nothing at all. No recognition, no appreciation, no rewards. Well, we do get a paycheck, so I guess I should be grateful for that.” (submitted by Denis)

“Last year, my boss gave away Amazon gift cards to the staff ($15 or so). Very nice gesture. But I generally feel appreciated at work all year anyway.” (submitted by Max)

Why are these reader responses to “how does your company celebrate employee appreciation day” telling? Five reasons:

1) The 5:1 average of feeling unappreciated to appreciated is supported broadly in research, especially the impact it has on employee loyalty. For example, this report shows 80% of employees who feel appreciated at work do not plan to look for a new job, vs. 40% of employees who do not feel appreciated.

2) Appreciation in the workplace can be so rare, employees see the idea of it as a joke. Sure, these particular comments can be reflective of a “sour grapes”-type employee, but that doesn’t negate the reality of this comment for many employees.  A perceived lack of appreciation also directly impacts the bottom line. The same report referenced in point 1 above also shows 78% of employees say they would work harder if they were better recognised. To be clear, this isn’t a plea for a gold star, but for validation that the projects the employee invests time in are worthy of continued investment at a high level.

3) The attitude of “your paycheck is all the recognition you need” is far more prevalent among line managers than many assume. Yes, our paycheck is a fulfillment of our contractual obligation to deliver work as assigned. Recognition, however, is the inspiration to continue to give additional discretionary effort – to truly engage.

4) The “mighty middle” of employees are too often ignored when it comes to recognition. Deals don’t get closed without a strong supporting cast around the sales superstars. Indeed, no critical, important project ever arrives at completion without the dedication, contribution, and assistance of many, many people. Everyone involved is deserving of recognition and appreciation – perhaps at different levels, sure – but acknowledgment of the effort given.

5) Some organisations are getting it right – appreciation is an everyday occurrence, not a once-a-year event.

What did you do to celebrate your employees on Employee Appreciation Day? More importantly, how are employees in your organisation celebrated every day.

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