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Understanding Recognition

Understanding Recognition

“Thanks a million!”  “Your help was much appreciated!”  “Many thanks for your efforts!”  “Excellent work!”


Expressing appreciation to people in your company is one of the better tasks an HR person gets to do.  Unfortunately, however, it is also one of the most overlooked.  More often than not, recognition ends up taking a back seat to the daily demands of the job.  Ironically, dealing with a difficult employee often will take precedence over thanking a great-performing employee.


There are a lot of positives that come out when you take the time to sincerely recognize outstanding work.  Everyone wants to feel that they are valued.  And recognizing your employees is just a way of saying that their efforts have not gone unnoticed; that you are paying attention.  And as a bonus, it may inspire others to follow suit.


What types of things can you recognize?

There are duties-related, measurable performance indicators that can be your guide when selecting people to recognize.  At the same time, people who’s attitudes foster teamwork, people who will help others to achieve company goals, people who do the little things to make is easier on everyone else are also deserving of recognition.


But in the end, it really depends on what you and your company value in a good employee.  Think about the people in your company who you would not want to lose.  What do they do that sets them apart?  What do they do that should be encouraged in all your employees?


Anyone doing stellar work is ripe for recognition

  • Top sales performance in the month
  • Top customer comments
  • Special project completed
  • Working off hours to meet a deadline
  • Solving a complex problem
  • Implementing a new process
  • Landing new business


Anyone who goes the extra mile to contribute to an excellent working environment should not be forgotten

  • Taking time to help out in a crisis, or when there is special need
  • Consistantly pitching in with common tasks like tidying up the break room or meeting room
  • Bringing in homemade food and treats
  • Organizing holiday events, or decorating the office
  • Someone who can lighten the mood in a tough day
  • Someone who is a great team player


What to give?

It may be easy to just give out money or gift cards, but where is the fun in that?  Don’t get me wrong, monetary bonuses can be very useful, and a structured plan for holiday bonuses will always be welcomed by employees.  But, for recognizing employees for their contributions throughout the year, monetary gifts can come across a bit forced.


One reason for this is there is absolutely no thought given to the actual individual being recognized.  And, unfortunately, it ends up making the act of recognition somewhat boring.  Perhaps even insincere.


It’s kind of like giving someone a gift.  If you wanted to get someone a gift, but could not rely on throwing cash at them, what would you do?  It’s not as easy as writing a cheque now, is it?  You would actually have to take the time to get to know them (at least a little bit) to see what would interest them.  Are they an avid golfer?  How about personalized golf balls.  Do they love coffee?  Think about giving a few pounds of gourmet coffee beans from around the world.  Are they into art?  Try a membership to a local gallery.  See the difference a little thoughtfulness can make?


You can spend the same amount of money, but, all of a sudden, because you took the time to see what they would actually appreciate, the gift has special meaning.  It doesn’t seem like you are doing it because you have to.  It looks like you sincerely want to do it!  (Which I hope you do!)


When to recognize?

Sometimes the nicest gifts are the ones that are given totally out of the blue.  For example, if you are pleased at how one person in the office always seems to go out of their way to welcome newcomers to the company, how about surprising them with a small “welcome” basket of their own (filled with candies, fruit, chocolates, etc…) and a card that thanks them for all they do to support the company.


On the other end of the spectrum, what do you do for employees who come through for the company when they are really needed.  Those who burn the midnight oil, or work through the weekend to complete a big project on time, and do a wonderful job in the process.  If your company allows it, how about giving them some extra time off, to take at their discretion.  Or treating them (and their spouses) to dinner and a show.  Giving them something enjoyable, and memorable, will show your personal appreciation for the way they came together in a pinch.


The Catch

The catch to all of this… and it’s a big one… is that you actually have to pay attention to your employees to see them at their best.  There is no use planning to recognize someone every month (for example) if you have no idea which employees are giving it their all.  And if your recognition program turns into a cursory process of “let’s just pick someone out of a hat,” or “Bill was recognized last time so now it’s Mary’s turn,” it will quickly lose its meaning.


True recognition should be personalized and sincere.  And if it’s done in the right spirit, it can go a long way to ensure your employees feel valued and appreciated for the work they do.


Further Reading on Employee Recognition:


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  1. Thanks for this article, it was very useful 🙂

  2. Thanks for stressing the importance of this fundamental aspect of leadership!

  3. Thanks very much for making me understand more about recognition. It was very inspiring.

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