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Many studies cover the benefits of employee recognition and how the receivers of such recognition are affected. We know it is important for companies to recognize their employees, and we also know that employees perform better when they receive regular rewards and recognition for their efforts.

But that leaves the people doing the recognizing to wonder, “Hey – what about me?”

As it turns out, the benefits of recognition don’t just go to the receiver. The one doing the recognizing also reaps rewards, according to a new study from employee recognition company O.C. Tanner. Employees who are in a position to frequently recognize the accomplishments of their coworkers and subordinates feel more confident, are more driven, and are more dedicated to the success of their organization, the report says.

Varying Types of Recognition

When recognizing employees, it’s important to change it up from time to time.

“We asked how the employee received recognition, which allows us to see how different types of recognition affect things like engagement and innovation,” says Gary Beckstrand, vice president of O.C. Tanner Institute, the research arm of O.C. Tanner. “Overall, we found that receiving recognition solely electronically, either through a platform or via email, is the least effective at moving the numbers. The most effective method was actually a combination of electronic recognition and verbal recognition.”

The O.C. Tanner report also found that one-on-one verbal recognition is less impactful than verbal recognition in a group. In other words: It’s better to praise employees in front of their peers than during a quiet conversation.

“In the end, the data suggests that a good mix of how one gives and receives recognition is best, which is actually something a lot of companies miss,” Beckstrand says. “Recognition can’t be only a technology play; it also has to have an appeal to the emotion of standing in front of colleagues and having a peer or manager verbally express their gratitude for what you have accomplished.”

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Recognition Is Free

Bonuses are great ways to thank employees, but they aren’t the only way to recognize accomplishments if the budget is tight. An email, a pat on the back, or a “thank you” don’t cost anything, yet many companies still struggle to appreciate the accomplishments of their workers.

“It sounds really simple in concept, but a lot of the tim, employees get heads-down in their work and forget to say ‘thank you,’” Beckstrand says. “A lot of managers have an attitude that a paycheck is thanks enough for the work employees do.”

In a survey, O.C. Tanner asked respondents what prevents them from giving more recognition at work. The top five responses were:

  1. I’m saving recognition for only the “best” work.
  2. I have budget concerns.
  3. My organization doesn’t have an official recognition program.
  4. I don’t feel empowered to give recognition.
  5. It isn’t my responsibility to give recognition.

Remind, Recognize, Repeat

A lack of communication is a major force behind the lack of recognition in the workforce.

“There is a huge communication barrier in business,” Beckstrand says. “Most of the time, human resources is used to dealing with benefits and compensation, where they are asking employees to take action one time – sign up for healthcare once or indicate your 401(k) contribution once.”

But recognition is different. It is ongoing. It can’t be given just once.

“We consistently find that organizations launch recognition solutions really well, and then they taper off because the organization simply stops talking about it,” Beckstrand says. “Organizations are hesitant to send their employees another email or another communication, but in reality, this is what employees expect.”

In the study, O.C. Tanner asked employees how often they would want to receive emails from their company reminding them to give recognition. Almost 75 percent of respondents said they would want to receive emails at least once a month.

“Very few organizations are sending out emails monthly to invite and encourage employees to give recognition,” Beckstrand says.

And therein lies the problem.



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