Recognize Right!

"My model for business is the Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other's kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That's how I see business: Great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people." – Steve Jobs

When it comes to recognizing employees an either/or scenario is often presented: “Should we recognize only our top performers, or should we recognize all of our employees?” The answer is both…and more.

Workforce dynamics are evolving with whiplash intensity. A new generation of workers is becoming the dominant determinant of organizational initiatives, technology is revolutionizing the way we collaborate, and the modern day employee population spans the globe. With so much diversity at such volume how can we find a way to keep everyone engaged?

Employee Recognition Programs Fail for 3 Primary Reasons:

  1. Companies recognize only their tops performers.
  2. Departmental directives are not aligned with employee rewards. 
  3. The ability to recognize is limited to leadership.

Level the Playing Field

Only recognizing the best of the best in an organization can be demotivating to everyone else. Let’s not mince words, top talent should be given the greatest merits in any organization. With that said, there is a way to share the pie.

The behavioral economics theory of Idiosyncratic Fit teaches us that we perform based on the likelihood of success. When a new hire is held to the same production standard as a person with a prominent book of business; the odds of success are limited. By segmenting your employee population based on performance groups you level the playing field while maintaining a competitive spirit.

Through a workforce discovery process based on performance metrics you can formulate an incentive strategy that will produce measurable results without deflating collaborative spirit.

Give It Meaning

Many companies struggle with creating a recognition strategy that enhances everyone’s performance. Employees may tend to neglect a “thank you” program because of the priority of their personal performance objectives. So it is incumbent upon us to answer the question, “what’s in it for me?”

The behavioral economics theory of Goal Gradient Theory proves that we are more prone to participate in an initiative that presents an attainable goal. In essence, a loyalty program that starts us with 10,000 points in our account (even if the reward milestone is 10,000 points greater) ensures greater adoption. This is where individual and organizational goals are synchronized.

By giving each line manager the ability to reward his/her team based on the core metrics of their personal performance objectives you can reward along each mile of the race. Affording thanks for the things that enhance individual achievement marries the objective of the employee with the objective of the organization. This puts skin in the game for everyone.

Give Everyone a Megaphone

Our functional fixedness has conditioned us to believe that title dictates authority and therefore the rewarding process should follow the chain of command. It is understandable, however, that a leader of any team is simply not resourceful enough to recognize the effort of everyone. So when a single mother leaves her child at day care for an extra hour to complete a business critical initiative only her co-workers may recognize her sacrifice. Recognition of effort should be an all-accessible process.

The behavioral economics theory of Anchoring Effect creates the concept that our initial perception plays into our long term motivation. We cannot assume to walk into an organization and achieve top performer status in the first month (it may take a year or more). By allowing employees to appreciate one another in a formal manner, a manager’s perception of effort is multiplied tenfold.

In Summation:

You may reflect on the above and ask which technique would be most effective in building your recognition strategy. The answer is simple: All of the above!

There are 3 essential steps to becoming a best in class organization:

  1. Recognize and reward your top performers.
  2. Align departmental objectives with recognition strategy.
  3. Empower individual contributors to expand recognition frequency.

Thank you for reading!

David Kovacovich

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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