Recognise This! – Perfect attendance awards are a bad idea.

Can we talk about a dirty little secret of employee recognition?

“Perfect Attendance” awards are a really bad idea. Yes, we want our employees to come to work. But we already pay them to be here and to do their job. At their base, that’s what attendance awards are all about – show up and do your job.

In fact, attendance awards aren’t recognition. They are incentives – “do this and you’ll get that.” Show up every day without missing and you’ll get an award. And like many incentives programmes, it’s easy to incent the wrong behaviour. In this case, you’re often encouraging employees to come to work sick (and infect those around them).

What should you do instead? True recognition. That is, after-the-fact praise of employees who, yes, come to work and do the job, but do it exceptionally well whilst demonstrating your core values whilst they do so.

Or, as Lisa Haneberg put it in a recent post on her Management Craft blog:

“This is a portion of a real email: ‘Super! Very well done. Exactly what I requested.’

“After seeing this, and feeling its effect, it got me thinking about how some people are so much better at providing feedback and reinforcement than others. A message like the one above, sent in a timely manner so that the ‘what’ is very clear, not only reinforces expectations and provides feedback, it buoys the spirit. We all want to hear that we nailed it.”

Reinforce for employees what you want to see repeatedly in their work. Praise them for achieving big goals as well as making progress along the way. Don’t just award them for “showing up.”

Do you have “perfect attendance” awards at your workplace? Do they deliver the results management expected or wanted?

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