The Importance of Recognition in Business

By: Bruce Munro

In business today, companies that create environments where people are motivated, and positive behavior is rewarded, will attract the best talent, maintain strong morale, retain key employees and ultimately stay ahead of the competition.

Despite popular belief, money isn’t the best way to recognize superior performance. In fact, research shows us that the number one reason people leave jobs is “limited recognition and praise.” Issues such as compensation were all deemed less important than recognition. Clearly, people value respect, appreciation and recognition just as much as — and often more than — monetary rewards.

Recognize individual achievement whenever you can. Or, you may choose to implement a more formal recognition program. The program can be tailored to suit any goal, from increasing points scored to improving corporate sales to bringing up the class grade point average. It’s a fairly simple process, and it doesn’t have to involve spending a lot of money — remember, it’s the recognition itself that’s so important.

Creating a recognition program
A recognition program is the best way for any company to provide employees with these "good vibrations." How you design and implement a program, however, will determine how successful it is. It must be carefully planned, consistent and meaningful to employees and managers alike. Remember, the ultimate goal is to motivate those involved to reach higher levels of achievement, as well as provide for recognition among peers. Follow these tips to get the most out of your recognition program.

Step 1: Determine the goals of your program. It may be sales, cost reduction, customer satisfaction, or promoting a new product. Get input, then make the goal simple but specific.

Step 2: It needs to be clear exactly whom the program will target (warehouse personnel, salespeople, etc.) and you may need overlapping programs for different groups. Make sure your objectives are realistic and quantifiable.

Step 3: Communicate the program clearly and completely. When the program has been formalized, post it in a conspicuous place.

Step 4: Will you give the recognition and awards to just the top person, or will there be second and third places? Keep in mind the power of personalization. Whether it's a crystal obelisk, a silver desk clock, a plaque, certificate or a small medal, it's important to have the person's name inscribed. Every time the winner sees her personalized award, her relationship and commitment to the organization, herself and her peers is enhanced.

Step 5: Once the plan is in place, promote it. Send reminders to participants, being sure to rally them to the cause. Before the awards are distributed at the end of the promotion, send congratulatory notes with messages from top management recognizing your employees’ efforts and contributions to the company.

Step 6: The distribution of awards should be done as lavishly as your means will allow. A bit of fanfare will make the awards all that more special. This positive feeling will extend from the actual award recipients to their peers and even to upper management.

Step 7: Evaluate the program's results. Poll the participants to see if the program reached its goals, met the participants' expectations and resulted in any unexpected fringe benefits. Sit down and analyze the feedback carefully.

How to give a reward
Whether your organization presents awards in a black-tie ceremony or you do the lunch thing, here are a few points to remember:

There are three elements common to every award presentation: the people getting the awards, the people giving the awards, and the awards themselves.

Determine who attends the awards ceremony, who presents the award, and who receives the award. This is especially important in larger events, with multiple presenters and recipients.

Develop an agenda, so things run smoothly. Limit your lunch fete to an hour-and-a-half, and clear your calendar so there are no interruptions. Big or small, every event runs better with a schedule.

Motivation and morale
People often need a reason to work their hardest and their smartest. They need motivation. And more often than not, coaches, managers, teachers and even parents need help in learning how to motivate those around them.

Our basic physical needs are simple to meet in today's world, however, once they are met, mankind turns toward meeting higher, less defined needs. On the ball field, in the workplace, in the classroom and at home we can ask ourselves, "What makes us strive to work harder, produce better and be satisfied with our accomplishments?"

By improving our individual attitudes, overall morale improves. Not surprisingly, low morale leads to plenty of moaning and complaining and poor, or at the very best, mediocre performance. High morale lends itself to superior performance, greater effort, and improved concern about the health of the group and how to make it stronger. Now, which would you rather have on your team, in your company, in your classroom or at your home?

How motivation affects employee retention
Studies have demonstrated that the number one reason for people to leave a job is "limited recognition and praise." Issues such as compensation, limited authority and interpersonal conflicts were all deemed less important than appreciation. But just recognizing and praising employees is not enough. You must do it consistently, sincerely and on a company-wide basis.

Giving employees opportunities to perform, learn and grow as a form of recognition is quite motivating. Beneath all this, however, is a basic premise of trust and respect. Your employees will feel it, and acknowledge that you have their best interests at heart, not your own. And who wants to leave that behind?

Motivation's effect on performance and productivity
Too often, we're afraid to push for increased productivity. Perhaps we'll set the bar too high and the goals won't be met. We worry that this may lead to benching a player or letting go an employee. We also worry that an increase in resources may be required, or that the player or employee may become resentful, feeling that they are already working at their limit. Another fear is that their failure to achieve may be a reflection of our own performance.

To compensate, we rely on incentives and sometimes threats to produce a desired result. In corporate America, salary increases, stock options, even titles and promotions are offered. It is assumed that if the right "carrots" are dangled, employees will produce the desired result. In sports, we may threaten with an extra hard practice or the embarrassment of losing in order to "motivate" players to produce.

First of all, select a goal. Make it an urgent problem. Ask for input, and make sure everyone understands why this goal needs to be set. Now take the broad goal and narrow it down to one or two specific, quantifiable ones. Not only does a broad-based target become overwhelming and intimidating, but also people will have a better understanding what they are aiming for.

Now that you have "nominated" a goal, you must communicate expectations clearly and concisely to those around you. The individuals responsible for achieving the goal must understand the timetable, constraints, determination and responsibility of the goal, and that this is not a goal that should be met, but one that must be met.

Creating a mission for people goes a long way in improving performance. The most effective goals are those people believe they can achieve if they plan and execute properly. Now you will see a marked increase in effort, which will translate into an increase in performance.

Corporate logos and symbols as motivators
It's your corporate logo. Employees love their company's logo. They love it on tote bags and t-shirts, pens and paperweights. That logo, that symbol, reminds you that you are part of a community, that you belong, and have similar goals, interests or experiences as others. So it goes for your company and corporate logo. It's a well-known fact that your logo may just be the most powerful marketing tool your company owns.

Here are some great places to use items imprinted with your company's logo:

• Any time you meet new clients or customers.

• Any time you introduce new products or services.

• As employee incentives and rewards.

• Souvenirs of company events, like parties, picnics and awards ceremonies.

• Upon graduation from an employee training program.

• Any time your company appears at a trade show.

• When you sponsor or take part in a fundraiser.

• As a reward or thank-you gift to customers who purchase your products.

• To celebrate new store or office openings.

And that's just a start. Any time you can make others feel part of the team, your company will reap the rewards. Need more proof? Walk through your local mall, and see how many people pay to wear another company's logo: from Ralph's polo pony to the Hermes "H" to a big "G-A-P" across the front of a sweatshirt. You're giving away your logo as thanks, as appreciation for a job well done. Your employees are going to love you for it!

Never let an opportunity to create a sense of belonging and affiliation to your company pass you by, both inside and outside your organization. Give people this point of strength, and they will respond with a sincere effort, improved morale and renewed vigor.

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