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The Most Effective Way to Praise Employees

Specificity, immediacy, sincerity -- and more.

An inspired staff can boost the bottom line.

For example, Harvard Business Review reports that a 0.1 percent increase in employee engagement at Best Buy added $100,000 in annual operating income to each store.

"Employee engagement involves lots of things," notes Ross McCammon, writing about the Harvard study in Entrepreneur. "But according to Chester Elton--speaker, motivation expert, and co-author of bestselling management book The Carrot Principle--at Best Buy and many other businesses the Harvard study looked at, simple recognition was the single most important factor."

What's the best way to provide that recognition? McCammon boils it down to one thing: praise.

Here are his three keys:

Specificity. "Recall a particular situation and describe a specific behavior; acknowledge the impact the behavior or action had on the group or the project or the action or on you," Dr. Wayne Nemeroff, CEO of PsyMax Solutions in Cleveland, tells McCammon.

Immediacy. "The closer the recognition is to the behavior, the more likely it will be repeated," writes McCammon.

Sincerity. Drop your compliments into "an e-mail that you're sending anyway, the beginning of a meeting that's happening anyway, a team-building exercise." In these contexts, employees perceive the flattery to be much more spontaneous--and therefore, sincere--than they would if they heard it during, say, an annual review. McCammon also provides humorous pointers and a template for handwritten notes.

11 Tips for Praising Your Peeps

1. Praise should not begin with the phrase "You da ...."

2. Ending an expression of praise with "... and stuff" nullifies the praise.

3. Ending an expression of praise with "... now get back to work" also nullifies the praise.

4. In ascending order of forcefulness: e-mail, face-to-face conversation, handwritten note, bear hug.

5. No bear hugs.

6. A handwritten note is worth more than a $100 gift card.

7. But probably not more than a $200 gift card.

8. Easy on the superlatives: "hardest-working," "most glorious," "awesomest," "best-smelling," etc.

9. Praise followed by criticism is not praise.

10. Praise followed by praise is probably a little too much praise.

11. Praise followed by criticism followed by praise is a sandwich.

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The Dark Side of Employee Engagement
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Last updated: Dec 19, 2013

THE BUILD NETWORK STAFF

The Build Network staff curates provocative, actionable leadership advice for executive teams running sustained-growth companies.




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