Providing Recognition - 27 April 2011
Reams of academic research show beyond doubt the impact of touch. One study proved people give bigger tips in restaurants if the waitress touches them. Another study revealed people were twice as likely to complete a questionnaire if the surveyor lightly touches their upper arm. And many other reputable studies demonstrated that people were more likely to return lost items, give someone their phone number, agree to go on a date, help strangers on the street, and even think more fondly of used-car salesmen if they happened to be touched.
Of course, the touch has to be appropriate. But a similar principle plays out in the workplace with one important distinction: the touch needs to be metaphorical. Employees are more likely to be loyal, engaged and productive if their managers regularly touch them. The best way to touch your employees without placing your hands on their body is via the forgotten and neglected art of recognition.
Here are ten thoughts to think about.
1. Be proactive: Sometimes managers spend too much time looking for performance gaps. Aim for balance by being as vigilant in catching employees doing stuff that’s great.
2. Customise it: Some people will love public praise; others will hate it. Some will love a gift voucher; others will prefer an early mark. Tailor your recognition to the individual.
3. Make it urgent: The longer you wait to recognise your employees, the more its impact will be diluted. Give recognition with immediacy.
4. Don’t overdo it: Too much recognition too frequently can appear insincere. Once a week per employee is a good target. Once a month, though, is not enough.
5. Keep it positive: Mixing praise with negative feedback can only ever have one result: the recognition gets negated. Instead, let recognition stand out on its own.
6. Aim for fairness: If you attach a reward to your praise, make it commensurate. If someone’s done more work or achieved a bigger outcome, the reward should be larger.
7. Add the details: Link recognition to performance. For employees’ good deeds to be repeated, tell them specifically why they’re receiving the recognition.
8. Mean it: If you genuinely feel grateful, express it. If you don’t, don’t. Your recognition will be counterproductive if people feel it’s just a task you’re ticking off a to-do list.
9. Surprise people: Expected recognition isn’t remembered as long as the unanticipated, such as ice creams on a hot day, a spontaneous break, or handwritten thank-you cards.
10. Get personal: Providing recognition by sending an email isn’t as powerful as making a phone call, or even better, doing it in person.
Leo Buscaglia was a professor and author who sold 18 million books about the barriers preventing people from expressing love. The last word goes to one of his most famous quotations: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
To download complimentary e-books on employee engagement, retention, and recruitment (valued at over $100), please click