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EMPLOYEE RECOGNITION

5 Ways to Make Recognition Really Mean Something

Everyone likes to feel like a winner but not everyone deserves it. Here, Inc. columnists share the best ways to reward the accomplished and make others strive.

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Watching this year's Nobel Prizes get announced, it's clear how much esteem is tied to these awards: winners gain instant fame and respect. Recognition is a critical component of success in the work environment, but sometimes it seems overly abundant and undeserved. There is much discussion that millennials have grown up receiving too much recognition for non-accomplishments--to the point where the adjustments being made in the workplace cause standards to blur, the mediocre to be wrongly rewarded and those who truly accomplish to feel under-appreciated.

You want to find ways to make people feel good about themselves and their contributions but, if everyone gets rewarded for everything, it lessens the impact of rewards and can make true achievers resentful. What's worse is that non-achievers get the wrong message and have little motivation to work harder. Personally I love the Jack Stack approach where recognition is tied directly to the numbers and everyone plays the game the same way.

Here, my fellow Inc. columnists share their best practices for using recognition in a way that motivates and rewards appropriately and deservedly.

1. Consider All Parties

When deciding how to make recognition meaningful, there are two angles to consider. First, recognition should be meaningful to the company. Make sure that you tie any recognition to a quantifiable goal--for example, percentage increase in revenue, percentage reduction in support calls or overall cost savings. I built a quarterly review program and tied it to the key metrics that drove our company's success. Everyone knew the program, so there was no question as to how the decision to recognize a group or individual was determined.

Second, recognition should be meaningful to the recipient. Not all recognition is equal. Millennials in particular want experiences and desire a deeper understanding of how they fit into the company's success. Strive to understand the individuals who will receive the recognition in order to understand what will be motivating to them. Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward

Want to read more from Eric? Click here.

2. Make Recognition Meaningful

One reason the Nobel Prize is so sought-after is that it comes with about $1.2 million in cash. Not that recipients like Barack Obama need the funds, but the fact that Alfred Nobel devoted his large fortune to creating these prizes, rather than to his family or a charity, denotes how highly he held advances in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace--as well as those who created those advances. Praise, plaques and special coffee mugs are all great, but they come in infinite supply. If you want to truly reward someone, do it with a limited resource such as cash, a nicer office or extra time off. Minda Zetlin--Start Me Up

Want to read more from Minda? Click here.

3. Ask What Matters

I recall a coaching client who sold millions in business for his employer each year, consistently outselling other team members by a long run. This was reflected in his bonuses, yet he felt undervalued because he received no verbal, written or public recognition for his significant contribution. The business owner felt that money spoke volumes and no other recognition was merited. Big mistake! Different personality types are motivated by different things, which might include public or private recognition, money, awards, lunch out with the boss, vacation points or a day off. So how do you know what's right? People know what makes them feel appreciated, so just ask! Just make sure they do the work required to be worthy of their desires. Marla Tabaka--The Successful Soloist

Want to read more from Marla? Click here.

4. Don't Be Stingy

Research shows that most managers give employees far too little recognition--not too much. Rewards and recognition really do work, and most managers would benefit from giving out more to their people, not less. By far the most effective form of recognition is a simple written or verbal thank-you. Recognition works best when initiated by the manager, and when it is contingent upon performance--not simply for showing up. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter reminds us, "Recognition is so easy to do and so inexpensive to distribute, that there is simply no excuse for not doing it." Peter Economy--The Management Guy

Want to read more from Peter? Click here.

5. Never Too Much Recognition

Yes, millennials love recognition. But do you know who else loves recognition? Everybody. That's right, we all love praise and recognition. It motivates us and makes us feel valued and happy. So leaders should err on the side of over-recognizing. Kudos, thank-you notes, shout-outs at meetings, simple positivity and praise all lead to a happier, more positive culture--which in turn leads to better performance and results. Dave Kerpen--Likeable Leadership

Want to read more from Dave? Click here.

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IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Oct 16, 2013

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, KEVIN DAUM is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York.
@awesomeroar




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