Article: Recognition Kit: 3 ways to impact Culture, Talent & Business metrics

Compensation & Benefits

Recognition Kit: 3 ways to impact Culture, Talent & Business metrics

Understanding appreciation and recognition is indispensable to executing it.
Recognition Kit: 3 ways to impact Culture, Talent & Business metrics

Hiking in the woods can be fun. 

Hiking in the woods should be fun if you are equipped with the tools, devices and gadgets that will make the experience fun.

Hiking in the woods will be fun if you are equipped with the tools, devices and gadgets that will make the experience fun, and if you know how to use them.

Hiking in the woods will definitely be fun if you are equipped with the tools, devices and gadgets that will make the experience fun, if you know how to use them, and very importantly, if you know why and when to use them.

This analogy set the tone for the Masterclass on Employee Recognition Kit at Total Rewards Conclave 2017, by Jeff Birk from O.C. Tanner. Just like it essential to know the why, when and how-to of tools and technology to make an experience fun, appreciation and recognition programmes are not just about a sophisticated software measuring performance, or celebrating a generically periodic stepping stones. Identifying the most opportune moment, sharing the appreciation, the values and understanding the deeper connection of the gesture is indispensable for any rewards programme to be fulfil its purpose. 

But, take a step back define what appreciation and recognition actually mean, and how they are different.

As pointed out by Jeff, even the most learned professionals often used them interchangeably, but the two concepts are very different, though deeply connected. Appreciation is a feeling, sensitive awareness and understanding of gratitude – an invisible feeling of being grateful, if you may. Recognition on the other hand is the gesture or the action taken to convey the feeling of appreciation.

And this crucial understanding is where several reward policies fail, because either they often have an ineffective recognition that negates the appreciation, or they have appreciation that they fail to express. 

Appreciating, and expressing it by recognising, need not be a check-box to tick in order to ‘motivate’ employees. In fact, at O.C. Tanner, ‘Appreciatology’ – a combination of the science and art of appreciating is used to reward employees. Jeff explains that a majority of the managers crack the science of it (allocate a budget, plan an event, give a gift) but fail to explore the art of it (making it thoughtful, thankful, personal and earnest). Naturally, when a balance in struck in this science and art of appreciation, the value of recognition increases manifold, and conveys the desired feeling of gratitude. 

So what do you need to do in order to make your reward strategies more meaningful and less mechanical? The answer is not to ‘do something’, but to ‘become something’ i.e. a recognisor. In addition to this clever wordplay, Jeff also has some concrete suggestions to offer:

Encourage Effort: The effort, regardless of the result, when appreciated, confirms that the direction is right, increases the working relationship with the manager and gives confidence.

Reward Results: A reward gives incentive to seek new ways to improve efficiency and results, increases efforts to ensure customer/client satisfaction and just gives that fuzzy feeling of doing good work and making a difference. 

Celebrate Careers: Employees, who have worked a considerable part of their careers with you, need to be celebrated, to help them feel a part of a bigger picture, and show that the organisation cares for, and appreciates them.

All these efforts need to be done appropriately for them to have any kind of impact. For example, if you think that the end-of-year performance review covers most of the above things, you couldn’t be more wrong. The idea is to celebrate the value of work an employee is putting in, and reducing it to a ‘review’ or doing the same while giving feedback is never a good idea. Jeff explains that at O.C. Tanner, a small celebration of-sorts, including team members, managers, family and friends, is held in the office whenever an employee completes a career milestone in the company. The exercise requires minimal resources, effort and budget, but the thought and feeling that accompanies it, often touches hearts. Although he does give a fair warning about checking with employees before recognising them publically, because, the assumption that everybody loves public recognition couldn’t be more wrong.

Various organisations that O.C. Tanner has worked with, from banking, retail, manufacturing etc, have categorically proven appreciation and recognition go hand-in-hand with increased productivity, morale and culture.

But, what is important to understand is that appreciation and recognition when done right – with thoughtfulness, purposefulness and perception – is what makes a difference. But how do we achieve these qualities?

Frequent: The worst thing you can do is to be inconsistent, or begin with enthusiasm and reduce the programme to a chore. While designing your programme, the act of recognition must be done on a frequent basis as deemed appropriate by the organisation.

Timely: However, do not wait to reward a result. If there is a success, celebrate it as soon as possible – while the feeling of success and euphoria lasts. Don’t wait, and make your programme flexible enough to accommodate such instances.

Inclusive: Rewarding the top performers – which might repeat – is as important as rewarding the above-average performers to convert them into top performers. Hence, identify those who are worthy of recognition not only based strictly on numbers, but on effort, input, ideas, and passion. 

Performance-based recognition: Do not make general recognitions – and reward specific achievements. This removes the bias and jealousy factor among employees, when they see that only greatness at work, effort and passion is recognised – and not greatness in general. Hence, don’t recognise an employee simply because they are great, but recognise what they are great at. 

To those critics and managers who claim to be short on time, or low on budgets, or afraid of inciting jealousy, Jeff says that all these are what they are: excuses. In today’s age, time has to be allocated, being creative and figuring out low-cost reward programmes just needs thought and intention and being consistent and fair will take a conscious effort. Still not convinced? Jeff recommends all managers to spare just 10 minutes a week and undertake the following exercise: identifying one achievement by an employee in the last week, and writing a personal, specific, and congratulatory email to them, telling them how their achievement is valued. 

Lastly, a few guidelines while recognising your employees: don’t make appreciation conditional (but you could have done better/but this is just your job), don’t include feedback a part of the recognition (You did a great job, Congrats! You still have to work on ... though) and do not make ‘Drive-By’ recognitions (Great work, Rahul. Nice job, Shveta! Awesome numbers, team.) Jeff says a recognition text (speech/written) must address the employee with their name, must point out the specific achievement and its impact, and how that connects to a core value of the organisation. At the end of the day, appreciation, or recognition cannot be happenstance, and need to be meaningful, personalised and thoughtful to fulfil its intended purpose. 

Additional resources: : To help you understand where you are, where you need to go and help you get started on your rewards programme.

(This article is based on the session ‘Masterclass: Employee Recognition Kit: Top 3 ways to Impact Culture, Talent and Business Metric’, by Jeff Birk, O.C. Tanner, held at the Total Rewards Conclave 2017, on 19th January 2017.)

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Topics: Compensation & Benefits, Benefits & Rewards, #TotalRewards

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