Recognise This! – Employees often clearly tell you what they need to be engaged. How you respond can increase or destroy their willingness to do so.

Survey time is here. Ask employees what they think are the two most fruitless activities they are asked to engage in every year and many will say the annual performance review and the annual employee engagement survey.

Why do employees think these activities are pointless? It’s simple – they rarely ever see any action or results taken based on employee surveys or reviews. Abhishek Mittal addressed this brilliantly in his excellent Mumblr blog:

“I work with several companies on rolling-out the results of their employee surveys. … In my experience, the companies who come out successful from such initiatives are the ones with a strong ‘bias for action.’ They have a sense of urgency for getting things done, for making the workplace better, for taking the organisation forward. Often companies, leaders and HR professionals fall into the “excessive deliberation” trap. Deliberation is good, but an overdose of it can paralyse actions. It can be demotivating to people. …

Tom Peters … shared some slides on this on his website. I just loved the quote on the second slide: ‘We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.’ ~ Herb Kelleher”

In a similar vein, employees often see a major HR launch of an employee recognition programme as just another motivational “flavour of the month” unless you put real intention behind it. Paul Hebert on his I2I blog advised against re-launching an employee recognition and reward programme unless you’ve done at least one of these (quoting):

  1. Trained managers on what “recognition” really is – how it is done effectively.
  2. Trained managers on how to really engage with their direct reports and listen to them.
  3. Trained managers on how to let go of worrying about “how” a job is done and teach them how to communicate the “why” work is done at an organisation.  Managers are guides – not instructors.

That’s the brilliance of strategic recognitionrecognition done right. It focuses far more on the “why” by putting the emphasis on recognising employees for demonstrating your core company values in their daily work. Of course, by doing so employees also achieve the “how,” but the real reason for recognition is the “why.”

If you survey employees and find out they crave more recognition for their efforts, understand they are telling you they need to know their efforts are noticed and appreciated – that their work has greater meaning and purpose. Then heed Herb’s advice and implement a strategic recognition programme to fulfill those needs – but be sure in the process to heed Paul’s advice as well.

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