Recognition is one of the most important jobs of any leader. How do you do it from a distance?
In this blog, we’ll:
• cover the “what” and “when” of employee recognition
• explore an easy template for getting started on the “how,” even with a remote workforce
Employee Recognition is Important, Even if Your Team Doesn’t Always Admit It
No doubt, deep down, you love to be recognized. We all do. It makes you feel valued, confident, connected and empowered. It shows that somebody notices your efforts. When teams are remote and, particularly, when your employees are feeling stressed and under pressure like they are right now, recognition is an even more valuable and essential management tool.
In fact, recognition is one of the top three skills every great manager must master. And there is no time like the present.
It’s YOUR Job as a Manager to Generate Recognition
For 75% of employees, it’s been at least a month since they were recognized, and for 34%, it’s been a year or longer…if ever.
Especially now, as employees are dealing with new challenges, questions and uncertainty, not to mention the lack of daily in-person connection with the rest of their team, acknowledgement and appreciation from their manager goes a long way.
If you’re not already in the habit of regularly recognizing your employees, you may be thinking you just don’t have the time. Or it’s not high on your list of priorities. Or maybe you’re just not sure what to do.
But think about this for a moment: Recognition is a critical part of being an effective manager, and recognition is absolutely essential to creating employee engagement. The challenge for you today is to not let out-of-sight become out-of-mind. You have to be vigilant and intentional about looking for the opportunities to virtually recognize the work your employees are doing. Many are going above and beyond, and they need to be show praise and appreciation for it.
Let’s look at how you can make recognition a part of what you do every day.
Acknowledgement — That’s All We’re Talking
Recognition is about acknowledging someone sincerely. It’s paying attention to the people around you, even when they’re working remotely. It’s making them feel valued for who they are and what they do.
It’s NOT a “hi-how-are-you” email before you launch into a to-do list. It’s NOT a vague “great-job-keep-it-up” comment as you sign off from a Zoom meeting.
It requires you to stop, reflect and talk with people, and to specifically and genuinely express your appreciation for what each of your employees contributes. It takes time, but it’s not complicated.
A Few Ideas to Get You Started
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have nothing to recognize because your direct reports aren’t all top performers. Recognition should not be reserved for super-human accomplishments. Sure, you want to acknowledge successes — especially the big ones. But recognition is broader than that. You can recognize a person for who they are and what they do in and outside of work. It can be related to any of these:
1. Appropriate personal interests they’ve mentioned to you: family, friends, neighborhood/community activities, pastimes or valued possessions
2. Employees’ strengths, skills and talents
3. Employees’ efforts and achievements
But you need to know your employees well enough to discern what actually matters to each of them. Once you have that insight, you’ll be well on your way.
The short answer to “When?” is: any time and all the time. In fact, you can’t go wrong following a saying from Dale Carnegie himself: “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” Put another way, praise people enthusiastically, generously and frequently.
Recognition isn’t a one-size-fits-all. To be effective, it needs to be genuine, specific and unique to the individual and the situation.
It also needs to be personal. If you’re rolling out technologies that digitize recognition, do it thoughtfully.. The personal touch, even when it has to be delivered through technology, makes all the difference.
Keep in mind that not everyone wants to be recognized the same way. You need to play to each employee’s favorite audience, whether that’s you, your organization’s leadership or an employee’s peers or clients. If you can do that, you’ve got recognition under control.
Three Ways to Effectively Recognize an Employee
For managers still struggling with recognition, here’s a way forward:
1. Begin by identifying a specific behavior, attribute or achievement to praise. It should be something unique about that individual employee.
2. Next, provide the evidence, and put it in context. How does this behavior, attribute or achievement affect the employee, the team, the organization or the customer? Evidence makes the praise credible. Credibility makes it sincere.
3. Reinforce your recognition with another positive statement. That’s the frosting on the cake, and it drives your point home.
Like anything, recognition won’t become second nature unless you make it a habit. But doing so will improve the work environment as a whole and each individual employee’s morale and commitment. And that’s especially critical now.