In some organizations, employee recognition means giving an award (perhaps monetary) to a few employees who are proclaimed to have done something exceptional. But is this approach to recognition too narrow and exclusive? Is it the most effective use of organizational resources?
Taking an inclusive, systems approach to recognition means more than developing a traditional awards program. Effective recognition systems include activities on three dimensions: day-to-day, informal, and formal.
Praise is an example of day-to-day recognition. It costs nothing and can be given by anyone, to anyone at any time.
Informal recognition can take a variety of forms, has few restrictions, and often includes a low-cost, tangible gesture of appreciation or congratulations.
Formal recognition can include not only awards for achievements, service, etc., but also celebration events at which all contributing employees can participate and receive recognition. Formal recognition often has certain policy and legal requirements.
Successful organizations make recognition a priority. They realize that well designed recognition provides the organization and its employees with several positive results. An effective recognition program
opens channels of communication,
reinforces organizational values and culture,
enhances recruitment of desired applicants,
improves retention of key employees,
acknowledges noteworthy achievements,
builds mutual commitments and relationships, and
enhances self-worth and self-confidence.
While there is more than one way to design an effective employee recognition program, many successful programs share common attributes. The most effective recognition programs typically
use a systems approach to develop a "culture of recognition,"
reflect the organization's values and business strategy,
are clearly defined and well-publicized,
involve employees in program design and implementation,
are multi-layered (organization-wide and unit-specific),
have a mix of formal and informal programs,
are creative and fun,
change periodically to avoid stagnation,
are timely and provide a specific reason for the reward,
are supported with tools and education, and
match the reward to the person to make it personal and meaningful.
One of the big ironies cited by recognition experts is that the recognition techniques that often have the greatest motivational impact are practiced the least, even though they are easier and less expensive to use. Day-to-day praise or other informal recognition gestures can be very inclusive, flexible, and powerful. Here are a few resources with some ideas on how to broaden your approach to recognition.
'More Than Awards' - Ideas for Recognizing and Appreciating Your Colleagues
Whether you are a supervisor or not, here are a few ideas on how you can recognize your colleagues beyond giving them formal awards. Remember, almost anything can provide meaningful recognition if it is sincere, specific, timely, and creative. And, the more you know about a colleague’s interests and preferences, the better you will be able to ensure that your recognition gesture will REALLY be appreciated. Keep this list handy to help you remember that recognizing and appreciating your colleagues should be a habit that you keep up throughout the year. Make it a priority to help create a culture of recognition!
Give a handwritten 'thank you' note or card. It adds a personal touch.
Include 'kudos' as an agenda item in staff meetings.
Leave a flower, balloon, or chocolate and a note of thanks on a desk or chair.
Send an e-mail congratulations on a job well done (copy to supervisor if from peer).
Use 'Award Wizard' software to create a fun/interesting certificate of appreciation.
Make or buy your colleague’s favorite food and bring it in to work.
Send an electronic thank you card—many have movement and sound to add fun.
Create a recognition board to display 'thank you' notes from clients and co-workers.
Offer to do your colleague’s most unpleasant task for a day to say 'thanks.'
Plan a surprise party to celebrate a special achievement.
Make a banner of appreciation to hang in the work area.
Greet your colleagues by name and take a few minutes to see how they are doing.
Write a newsletter/newspaper article describing a special achievement.
Take out an advertisement to thank colleagues, including names and/or pictures.
Give a memento (pen, cup) with a UA/department logo to commemorate an achievement.
Make personalized note pads with your colleague’s name on them.
Ask for a colleague’s opinion or ideas on a project or to help implement a new process.
Say a simple, sincere 'thank you.'
Set up a flip chart in a common use area to record 'thank you’s' — legit graffiti.
Create a picture poster of a colleague or group to celebrate an accomplishment.
Create a thank you 'traveling trophy' that can be passed from colleague to colleague.
Wash a colleague’s car in the parking lot at lunch.
Write several 'thank you’s' on post-its and hide them among the work on his or her desk.
Make a contribution to the colleague’s favorite charity in his or her name.
Create a display arrangement (streamers, stars, flowers, figurines) for a special occasion.
Give an inspirational poster to a deserving colleague who can put it up in his or her office.
Recognize and thank colleagues who set the example by regularly recognizing others.
Pass on positive remarks you hear about a colleague to that person as soon as possible.
Give a book by the colleague’s favorite (professional) author.
Creative Low-Cost Recognition
department newsletter article/picture
list of department award recipients in Lo Que Pasa
wall of fame (pictures) in department
banner of appreciation hung in main walkway
walk of the stars - floor signs recognizing individuals (Hollywood Boulevard-like stars, pawprints, etc.)
Celebration (especially during Employee Recognition Week in April)
lunch/breakfast prepared and served by management
potluck luncheon with 'employees are #1' cake
reception with family members invited
Humor / Fun
computerized certificates, e.g. cool under pressure award (with sharks circling), rude awakening award, painting yourself into a corner, etc.
'purple ear' customer service award
play money recognition - highest amount at end of year gets award
'A+ Award' note pads
employee appreciation buttons/balloons
department award certificates
letter/card of appreciation (from management and co-workers)
UA logo pencils/pens
plants/flowers for work area
professional development day that has been described in a development plan with outcomes and measures linked to current or future career goals; creative way to encourage professional development
equipment upgrade that recognizes exceptional performance and does not give unfair work advantage over co-workers; not for equipment that the employee needs to perform job properly
special training/conference opportunity that recognizes exceptional performance and does not give unfair work advantage over co-workers; not for training tied to fundamental position duties