30 Jul

How Recognition Can Fire Up Your Team

How excited is your team to be at work? Ok, “excited” might be too much to expect, but if you sometimes feel like some of your people are just going through the motions, it’s not just you: according to Gallup, only 34% of employees are engaged at work. And what’s worse, that’s an all-time high for this particular poll.

Do the math: that equates to 2/3 of the US workforce being discontent … if not completely disengaged. How is that even possible?

Better question: WHY is it happening?

How about a few more stats that might explain the situation? According to OC Tanner research:

  • In a global survey of what job seekers asked, the number-one attribute in a new job was “appreciation for my work.”
  • When employees are appreciated, they feel less stressed and feel more able to take on anything.
  • Employees who receive strong recognition generate twice as many ideas per month compared to those who aren’t recognized well.

And yet:

  • 65% of Americans claimed they weren’t even recognized one time last year.

It doesn’t matter how good a job your people are doing: if they don’t know that YOU know, they are not going to be happy.

So What’s the Problem?

Giving recognition isn’t easy for some people, but if you’re a manager, one of your jobs is learning how to overcome those barriers. We’re not talking mindless or undeserved kudos: those tend to do more harm than good. Nobody wants to feel like you “recognized” them simply to fill a quota.

But when you make the effort to give people the recognition they’ve earned, acknowledge the unique talents people bring to the game, and demonstrate genuine appreciation, some remarkable things happen. People start feeling more upbeat—a characteristic that will spread to others. You’ll see more energy, more enthusiasm, and more interest in the job.

It also carries with it a level of respect, which as one entrepreneur wrote, is an “essential teamwork skill.” Spending time and energy on developing a culture of recognition is one of the best investments you can make. So why aren’t more leaders engaging in this manner?

It’s Harder than It Sounds

“Give recognition” sounds easy enough, but there are all kinds of obstacles that keep leaders from providing it on a regular basis. For one thing, like we said, recognition it has to be earned. But that means your people have to know how to earn it. Unfortunately, there’s no code book, no set legal precedent set-in-stone standard concerning what does or doesn’t receive praise.

Sometimes it’s obvious. Mostly, though, it isn’t … which means you’ll have to clearly define what you recognize. That can get tricky if you’re in middle-management, and feel that you don’t understand or receive recognition yourself. Tricky, but not impossible.

Think about the things YOU would like to be recognized for. Start with what you want to accomplish as a team. Identify goals and essential behaviors that will lead to those results, and then make sure your people know what you’re looking for.

Not everyone is good at giving praise; it doesn’t come naturally for some. Do it anyway: like most things, practice makes perfect. At first, it may feel forced, but the idea is for it to become the way things are done, as natural as breathing.

So build recognition into your daily routine. The more you recognize someone’s good contributions, the more easily you’ll notice when it happens, and the more comfortable you’ll be mentioning it.