How to Give Genuine Recognition

Without continuous, genuine recognition employees tend to lose direction or become unsure as to how to reach their goals.
How to Give Genuine Recognition
Refiloe Metsing

Recognition is one of the most powerful tools that any leader has in their arsenal. The desire to be recognised is a basic human need; we all want to be noticed for our individual efforts. Unfortunately, employee recognition is hardly ever utilised to its full potential. In fact, research by the Harvard Business Review found that managers are more likely to give negative criticism more freely and frequently than positive praise.

That’s unfortunate, but not surprising. In a study of 4,500 employees spanning 500 companies, one study found that 79% of employees feel they don’t receive enough appreciation at work.

Under-appreciated employees tend to be disengaged, in other words they’re less happy, motivated and satisfied in their jobs than their engaged counterparts. Disengaged employees are also much more likely to leave their jobs for greener, more appreciative pastures. According to Gallup’s employee engagement survey, companies in the bottom quartile of engagement scores experience 40% more turnover than their industry peers.

Only a few simple words stand between you and the prospect of having to spend time and money recruiting new talent. It can’t hurt to incorporate employee recognition into your business strategy. Before you do, take a look at how these 5 basic strategies will make your staff recognition all the more impactful:

Be timely

Recognition has to happen in the moment when it’s got the greatest impact. That is, immediately. The longer you wait, the less effective your praise will be.

Don’t wait mention your colleagues’ achievements in the monthly newsletter. Once you catch someone doing something right, reinforce that action as quickly as possible by rewarding them with praise.

Be consistent

The reason for giving on-the-spot, immediate recognition is to reinforce specific, desired behaviours. So imagine pulling out all the stops, working through the night to beat a deadline, then not getting any positive feedback about your hard work. Anyone would be discouraged.

Recognition has to be consistent in order to have a lasting effect on an employee’s behaviour. Repetition is essential to helping employees understand which actions leads to success. Without consistency, employees tend to lose direction or become unsure as to how to reach their goals.

Be specific

There’s nothing’s wrong with the tried and trusted “good job” per se, however, the rationale behind being specific in your praise is to make it clear which actions make employees eligible for reward or recognition.

“Thank you for stepping up and taking the lead in the meeting yesterday” is much more impactful than  “great work”. The more you communicate what kind of behaviour you’re looking for, the easier you make it for other employees to achieve success.

Be sincere

Inauthentic praise is as good as no praise at all. It’s easy to sniff out when someone is being insincere. Remember, recognition isn’t about false flattery.

Show real enthusiasm for what your co-worker has done, but keep it proportional to the their achievement. Going overboard with praising the small stuff can turn people off and make them question your motives.

All achievements should be recognised, just make sure that it’s within reason.

Make it personal

People are different.

Make sure to adjust the style of recognition to suit the individual you’re dealing with. One person might enjoy public acknowledgement, while another would prefer a “thank you” note and a one-on-one conversation in their office.

For some employees, there’s nothing more embarrassing and awful than getting up in front of a group of people and receiving a reward. For others, having a one-on-one coffee with their boss makes them nervous and uncomfortable. Get to know your colleagues and make it a point to find out what kind of reward would most motivate and energise them (that’s the point, isn’t it!?).

If your stellar employee is motivated by public recognition, check out this cool tool for making certificates: Canva Certificate Maker.

Further reading

There’s a great book by Dr Gary Chapman & Dr Paul White called The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. We also recorded a podcast episode with Dr White which you can check out here.

Have you ever wondered how to measure whether recognition is genuine?

Check out our 1min crash course on giving effective recognition.

Hi5 is a platform for open company-wide recognition.

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