Yearly feedback loops like employee evaluations and promotion reviews have carried us for decades. But once a year is no longer often enough to praise your team -- frankly, it never was.
Annual reviews with team members rarely have the effect you want on employee engagement and productivity--and as the workplace is evolving, with more people working remotely and outside the typical 9-to-5 schedule, we must change the way we recognize employees for their work. The companies that resist change when it comes to employee recognition are the ones that will struggle to retain top talent.
Here are three ways to modernize your recognition strategy:
1. Plan regular one-on-ones.
Employees crave regular feedback and recognition--but when you lament taking time away from your everyday responsibilities, you miss a significant opportunity. It's common for you to focus on getting through your email and avoid having real conversations with your employees, all in the name of productivity. But the yearly cycle of feedback doesn't give employees the recognition and feedback they need to course-correct throughout the year.
Instead, plan weekly or biweekly conversations with employees to recognize their efforts and highlight ways they can improve their performance. Taking time for these meetings is a big barrier when you're busy, but it's worth it. What scares me the most is when leaders aren't even aware that people need to be recognized for their work.
2. Enable peer-to-peer recognition.
Getting recognition from your direct leader in a private meeting feels excellent. However, when peers are allowed to praise one another in an open forum, there's a particular pleasure triggered that has a higher chance of spreading throughout the organization. Peer-to-peer recognition provides a powerful way to reward others and create the culture you want.
One easy way to expand your recognition strategies is through technology that allows peer-to-peer capabilities. Imagine the power of having Jack express gratitude to Susan for helping out on a project using a technology that displays it to everyone.
One of my fast-growth clients uses a Slack channel for team members to share how someone has helped out on a project or how they shared an idea that has had an impact. This gives everyone a view across the company of teamwork and signals what others can do. I have noticed that this also gives ideas on how team members can support others.
3. Celebrate your values with rituals.
Some companies have their values branded on their headquarters' walls. Very few companies have created rituals that allow core values to become a part of the everyday experience. When I talk with fast-growth founders and CEOs, I'm never surprised when they tell me how important their values are to the organization.
I remember exactly where I was when I heard the term "operationalize your values." This is a practice of integrating your company values into every workday. In other words, it is a way to live by the values of the company. A speaker asked the audience of more than a thousand if they'd done the work beyond just creating company values. Only a small cluster of people raised their hands. It turned out they were all from the same company.
One way you can add a ritual to your culture is taking time in your weekly meetings to share stories of how an employee has demonstrated the company values. It does not have to be a long process; most of the time, it takes less than five minutes to share a few examples of how someone has lived the values. My clients that have adopted this strategy have seen other meetings adopt the same approach.
Another way to live the company values is to have meetings solely focused on what the values mean to each person in the group. It allows those discussing each value to align on one definition. Taking it a step further, you can discuss the behaviors you would see when you are living the company values. As a leader, you will want to participate in these meetings so you can tune in to who is participating and fully buying into them too.
Modernizing your employee recognition strategies will help your team perform better. Better yet, it will put your employees on a path to make an even more significant impact on your business.