Most seasoned leaders have been told that their employees are their greatest asset, yet to what extent do we really take care of them? Think of other company assets like a building or manufacturing equipment. You give them attention, and regular maintenance to keep them operating well. The same attitude is important to your employees. One aspect of regular employee maintenance is positive recognition.
Positive employee recognition has a wealth of benefits. It can be as simple as a “thank you” or as complex as a company-wide recognition program. The Gallup Organization conducted a worldwide research project, surveying more than four million employees about the importance of praise and recognition. They concluded:
- Employees who receive regular praise are more productive, engaged, and more likely to stay with their organization than those who do not.
- Employees who are praised receive higher loyalty and satisfaction scores from customers and even enjoy better health than employees who are not.
The Praise and Recognition Cycle
This praise and recognition cycle influences attitudes and behaviors significantly due to our bodies’ chemical processes. When gratitude is expressed our hypothalamus, which controls the release of dopamine, is affected. This release is something desired by our brains; it feels good—and influences future behaviors which will result in a similar outcome. Hence, we work harder, we have better attitudes, and we accomplish more in the hopes of starting that praise and recognition cycle again.
Manager’s Key Role
Managers are key to getting the most out of their employees and probably have the most influence as well. A 10-year study of motivation concluded that when managers are considered to be effective at ‘recognizing’ their employees, they:
- Have lower turnover rates than other managers,
- Achieve better organizational results,
- Are seen to be much stronger in goal-setting, communication, trust, and accountability.
Meaningful praise is specific, timely, and sincere. First, watch for an employee doing something that exemplifies the kind of behavior you want. It doesn’t have to be a momentous or heroic act, but it should be meaningful. The key is identifying a specific noteworthy behavior. This may vary from one employee to another. Second, look for an opportunity to recognize the behavior as soon as possible. Timeliness is important. Third, when you express the praise or recognition, do so in a sincere manner. If you fake it, your employees will pick up on your insincerity. All genuine recognition is valuable and can be given in many ways such as through public recognition, private recognition, performance reviews, monetary compensation, etc. Select a setting and/or manner that honors that employee. Finally, consider memorializing these recognitions in the next performance review.
Keep in mind that employee recognition is personal. One size does not fit all. One employee may enjoy public recognition at a staff meeting while another may prefer a more private way of being recognized. For example, I had an employee who tended to be shy. When he was selected as Employee of the Month, he preferred the presentation in my office with only his supervisor present. People who feel appreciated end up experiencing more self-worth and their performance increases which will benefit your department and ultimately the company.
For the Faith-Based:
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones,” Proverbs 16:24. The Bible makes it clear that your words have an impact. “The tongue has the power of life and death,” Proverbs 18:21. In today’s world, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and that what you’re doing is pointless. Without encouragement, we can feel unappreciated and begin to doubt why we even put in the effort to do a good job. As a matter of fact, the word “encourage” comes from a combination of the prefix “en” which means “to put into” and the Latin root “cor” which means “heart.” When we speak a word of encouragement, we are speaking hope and kindness into someone’s heart.
We see encouragement throughout the Bible because it is necessary for our walk of faith. The apostle Paul wrote about encouraging each other and said in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” The Bible reminds us to encourage each other to restore our hope, give comfort and strength to each other. Paul gave us a guideline when he wrote that everything we say should be used to build up the one who is listening. This is the kind of Christian leaders that God wants His people to be; people who encourage one another.