Keep it informal. The truth is, that’s actually what employees want.
Employees want to have a personal connection with their manager, so the most authentic thing you can do, is approach them one-on-one, and give them a personalized praise.
Most companies, unfortunately, make the mistake of setting up a very formal program like “employee of the month”, but it doesn’t have the same effect as a personal connection.
There’s nothing nicer than having a manager or co-worker come to you, and recognize you for a specific action.
Not long ago, we released a great infographic about employee recognition, with some pretty interesting statistics.
Let’s go through a few together.
- Manager’s recognizing employee performance increases engagement by 60%
- Organizations with a strong employee recognition approach are 12x more likely to have strong business results
- Organizations with effective recognition programs had 31% lower voluntary turnover than organizations with ineffective recognition programs
There are plenty more statistics and research that show that employee recognition is an important part of engagement.
So why is recognition still a problem?
According to research by Deloitte, 70% of employees receive recognition either annually, or not at all.
Something I don’t understand, is why is employee recognition still such a big problem for managers?
Something I’ve heard many times before, is that they don’t have enough time.
While I could argue that saying “thank you” takes literally 2 seconds, if you have to go around thanking all of your employees all the time, that could easily add up.
This could explain why companies choose formal reward and recognition programs, because they’re somewhat more automated, taking the responsibility away from the manager.
Another theory of mine, is that it’s not part of their formal job description as a manager to “praise employees”, so they don’t really see any urgency in doing it.
But again, knowing what we know about recognition, why wouldn’t they want to?
According to Gallup, employees who report that they’re not properly recognized at work are three times more likely to say they’ll quit in the next year.
Employees need praise very frequently, and in fact, when they don’t get it, it does some damage to their psyche.
Let me explain.
When you receive praise, dopamine levels rise, which is great, and will get you to continue working on tasks that get you that dopamine.
But the dopamine high only lasts for so long, which is why it’s recommended to give praise at least once a week, if not more.
The problem is, when you go for a while without receiving praise, your dopamine levels drop, and as an employee, you start to avoid the tasks that you’re not being thanked for.
The Problem With Physical Rewards
According to Deloitte, the employee rewards market is a $46 Billion market.
There are so many companies that do this as their recognition program, when in fact, it doesn’t work all that well.
Like I was saying before, I think a big reason why companies use these types of programs is to automate the recognition process, but they might be wasting money.
There are 2 problems that I see with physical rewards.
- I’ve spoken about this many times, but the whole intrinsic vs extrinsic motivator issue is an obvious problem with physical rewards.
- It’s hard to place a monetary value on contributions, and employees can perceive this in the wrong way.
For example, if an employee completes a project, and you get them a $20 gift card to Starbucks, then technically what you’re saying is that their work was worth $20 to you.
This is the wrong message to be sending.
A Tricky Balance
One thing that I think is important to mention, is that I can easily see the employee praise and recognition task as being a tricky balance between not too much, and not too little.
What I mean by this, is that I explained above about the concept of how praise affects dopamine, and how praise should be given very frequently.
On the other hand, you don’t want to give praise too much, because then it will become meaningless.
I don’t have a magic formula for when praise is warranted or not warranted, but it’s something to keep in mind.
If I had to pick between the two though, I would go for more praise, as long as you can make the praise specific, there should be no reason why it would be perceived as meaningless.