As a leader, it is your one of your responsibilities to ensure that all individuals on your team are not only productive, meeting deadlines, and hitting targets; but also that they are happy. How will you make this happen? It depends on:
- Your personality and leadership style
- The size of the team you manage
- The personalities and aspiration of the people you people
- The type of company or industry you work in
With all that said, one of the most important aspects of any management strategy is the ability of a manager to recognize their team for the effort and performance – it’s a key piece of the continuous improvement process. Let’s learn a bit more about team recognition.
What is employee recognition?
“Communication between management and employees which rewards them for reaching specific goals or producing high-quality results in the workplace. Recognizing or honoring employees for this level of service is meant to encourage repeat actions, through reinforcing the behavior you would like to see repeated.” – Business Dictionary
Why does recognizing your team matter?
The benefits of employee recognition and praise are well known, and if done effectively, leaders can expect to:
- have lower turnover rates compared to other managers
- achieve better organizational results
- are seen to be much stronger in goal-setting, communication, trust and accountability
If you want to be an effective manager, these three benefits are more than enough to suggest that employee recognition is important. But what about the actual employees, why is recognition important for them?
We’ve summarized the three key reasons below:
Increased team engagement with colleagues, managers, and the overall business which leads to greater fulfillment, better performance, and happiness.
Research has shown that employees can potentially become up to 60% more engaged as a direct result of the praise they receive from their managers. An employee who is non-existent or distant from their colleagues in the workplace only damages their own performance as well as everyone else’s.
Similarly, the more engaged an employee is with the wider business the more likely they are to perform at a higher level.
You might think that employee productivity is only a benefit for managers, but in truth, the employees themselves can actually benefit from it as well.
Research has actually shown that more than 35% of the employees consider lack of recognition of work as the biggest hindrance to their productivity. Additionally, Globoforce suggests that 78% of employees work harder if they are better recognized, and in turn, are more productive.
Thus, as consequence of their managers recognizing their efforts, employees will generally be able to get more work done, and in less time.
Higher levels of morale
Morale boosting on a consistent basis means that employees don’t feel constant pressure without any obvious praise or reward from their manager. As you’d expect, the typical symptoms of a workplace affected by low morale include things like:
- low employee retention rates
- department or company targets missed over a consistent period
- employee satisfaction or internal feedback reports being poor
- the negative atmosphere in teams and throughout the office
- employee’s taking a high number of “sick days” – which cost the US alone, $160 billion every year
Each of these things is a consequence of or related to poor morale, but as a leader, you could ensure that these risks are not associated with your team or department. Of course, one the main benefits of having high-morale employees is that you’ll be more likely to have to the opposite of all the above cases; high employee retention rates, hitting department and team targets, high employee satisfaction, and consistent employee attendance.
How to recognize your team
Recognizing your team isn’t as easy as it might seem, and like most other things, it will come more naturally to some than others. That said, we’ve pinpointed three key components to any good employee recognition strategy that managers should keep in mind.
Sporadic praise or recognition simply isn’t going to cut it in the long-run, and your employees will see straight through it. You should be consistent and genuine with your praise.
Unlike the software, services, or hardware that your team uses daily, praise and employee recognition can be free (or low cost). This can potentially have a more profound impact on your employees than a pay raise or bonus.
Recognition that will resonate most will be the things that the employee can relate to based on specific challenges they’ve faced, big ‘wins’ they’ve had, or matters relating to personal hurdles they’ve overcome. Personalize your praise, don’t just generalize comments and expect your employees to appreciate the “kind words”.
Examples of Team Recognition
Are you unsure what good employee recognition looks or sounds like? Here are a few examples of good and bad forms of employee recognition. The differences might be subtle in some cases and more obvious in others.
Healthy forms of employee recognition:
- Allowing a team to leave an hour or two early on a Friday after hitting their targets for the week
- Taking the team out for a monthly lunch – make the location spontaneous!
- Offering flexible working to an employee who has been with your team or company for several months or years
- Offering ‘duvet days’ to longer-term employees if they’ve been working extra hours
- Praise high-performers who went out of their way to do something for someone else in the past week.
- Say thanks in a 1-1 meeting.
What to avoid:
- Taking the credit (as the manager) for rallying your team to hit their targets
- Awarding praise or recognition at the wrong time e.g. weeks after the achievement or good work by an employee
- Not taking employee recognition seriously and downplaying it as a corporate ‘nice-to-do’
Reap the benefits of a happy workplace
In this article, we’ve summarized:
- the benefits of team recognition,
- why your employees will respect you (or not) as a manager, and
- how you can carry out effective recognition.
Now it's time to put your learnings into practice. As a leader, it’s important to keep in mind that:
- Employee recognition is best when it’s consistent. If you take the attitude that this is only a temporary activity, your employees won’t gain anything from the process.
- This is one of the few things you can do as a manager that literally doesn’t cost anything – it’s free.
- The more you understand each of your employees the better your recognition will be received – target employees with praise that will resonate on an individual basis.