Many times employee recognition just isn’t happening the way it should be. The reasons can often be some of the deep-seated and misguided management myths people hold dear.
Organizations with successful recognition practices demonstrate strong leadership focus on the importance of giving people recognition, a concentrated effort to draw on organizational values as a foundation, and an ability to provide training and tools for skill development to make things happen.
But before such structures and supports are in place, the prevailing myths and attitudes toward employee recognition need to be addressed. Here are the most frequently expressed concerns:
• Myth No. 1: If I give recognition to one person, what will the other people think? This question occurs quite often and is always a surprise. Individuals miss some basic behavioral science around this attitude. A manager has probably given someone recognition and then received negative feedback from others who did not feel recognized. The result is the manager stops recognizing people altogether.
If managers were regularly expressing appreciation to the majority of their people, this issue would never arise. The reason people complain is they are not being recognized at all.
In other instances, you’re dealing with management’s attitudes or lack of confidence in giving recognition, and this myth is an excuse covering their inabilities.
A solution is to increase the number of people receiving recognition. The everyday recognition of acknowledging people for who they are—greeting them by name, asking about their welfare, etc.—and appreciating them for what they do, will go a long way toward removing the concern of what “other people” are thinking. If management gets everyone on board, recognition becomes multi-directional and can be peer-to-peer or manager-to-subordinate, as well as up to one’s manager. We are people first, not positions.
Immediate supervisors and managers need coaching and training on effective recognition to improve their confidence and competence in making a difference.
• Myth No. 2: It costs too much money. Recognition does not have to cost a lot of money. Most employee surveys report that employees are expressing a desire to hear “thank you” more often. Some organizations get caught up in high-cost and glitzy, formal recognition programs and events and forget to plan lower or no-cost, informal, and everyday recognition practices. The line, “It’s the little things that count,” hits home with meaningful recognition efforts.
One fundamental point here is to strive to increase both the intangible and tangible value of recognition occurrences. By taking extra care in how you give recognition, the thoughtfulness behind what you give the person, and the connection of relationships with peers or those important to the recipient, you add more intangible value to the recognition.
From the tangible aspect, work with your recognition vendor to ensure gifts or award items provided fit the needs and preferences of your employee demographics. Perhaps generational fit or better-quality items are required. Examine whether the available awards or merchandise communicate the appropriate message and value associated with the actions or performance levels.
• Myth No. 3: I don’t have enough time. Welcome to the real world! All of us have more than enough work for the time we have available. Take a look at the pile of work you have after you get back from a vacation. The questions here are whether we are leaders or managers and how we value our employees.
Current research on employee engagement continues to show a positive correlation between high employee engagement and the impact on customer satisfaction levels and productivity measures, which in turn improve profits. A leader takes this information and realizes the importance of coaching people for improving their capabilities and increasing performance as something he or she must constantly do. The feedback process will include giving recognition when merited.
Engagement puts an emotional connection into the equation, and we learn to treat employees as people instead of emotionally detached human capital or automatons. Not having enough time is a misnomer. We are really dealing with self-discipline. To do the right things—for example, recognizing people—we can use various electronic tools and reminders to cue us into becoming better at recognizing others.
Myth busting generally takes education and awareness building. Leadership by example is always the best approach in making recognition-giving a way of life and dispelling the management myths that devalue the people we work with.