Epic employee recognition fails

annoyed_girlWe were recently discussing the most memorable reward we’d ever received from an employer.

A colleague shared a story from a previous role of when they’d been given an expensive bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. (OK, not mind-blowing, but decent).

However as it transpired, this was an employee recognition fail.

Firstly, the wine was pitched as a ‘thanks in general for doing a good job’ and not connected to any specific achievement.  Secondly, it quickly became clear that the wine was surplus from the company’s Christmas party; and just to add insult to injury – the employee in question doesn’t drink.

That’s how you create a lasting memory for the wrong reasons.

Not all employee recognition is created equal.  So much of it is to do with context.  And if you’re not doing it right it may be more detrimental than not doing it at all.

It’s not individual. There is no one display of appreciation that answers to the individual needs and wants of every employee.  Whether they enjoy a game of tiddlywinks on the weekend or a steak dinner, it’s important you find out. Why?  This is insight into what motivates them.  Recognition for great work must be personalised, because nothing will discourage your employees more than a ‘one for all’ reward.  (See case in point above.)

It’s not spontaneous.  It’s unlikely anyone would commit to their employer for the long haul just to get a branded laser pointer on their 5th anniversary.   Often rewards are tenure based or expected at mid or end of year events.  This is all well and good, but it’s too predictable in isolation.  Recognition and reward should be tied to a specific achievement and received ‘in the moment’ to encourage repetition of the desired behaviours.

It’s too hard.  If your employees have to jump through hoops to give or receive recognition, they’ll lose interest.  It doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.  Avoid putting obstacles in the way by including everyone and encouraging recognition in all forms – peer-to-peer, e-cards, on-the-spot; whatever works.  Don’t be afraid to mix it up and keep it interesting to inspire involvement.

It’s unfair.  From the intern to the CEO, recognition should be an equal opportunity. If it’s structured to favour top performers, it’s not only unfair but unrealistic for the majority of your team.  Instead, put objectives in place and tie recognition to your corporate values so that everyone has the chance to be rewarded for their input.

What does all this boil down to?  There is a right and wrong way to recognise employees.

Recognise like you mean it.


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