Jason is a go-getter too, but he’s a quieter worker than John. He’s usually one of the last to voice his opinion, even though he has a gift for picking up on unique perspectives others might miss. He has also exceeded his sales goals for the past three months, and his clients routinely ask to work with him again.
It’s easy to agree that both of these employees deserve to be recognized for their contributions. In many companies, John and Jason would both earn an award of some kind. They might be recognized by name during a team meeting, honored at a company event, or given a cash bonus.
These are all great steps to take. But what if you could do more?
Recognition Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All
Formal recognition programs excel at tracking productivity and rewarding achievement. But that alone isn’t enough to motivate and engage your workforce. By nature, formal awards and incentives can’t happen in the moment. They don’t provide immediate feedback for positive behavior, and that means much of the effort your employees put in on a daily basis slides by under the radar.
Let’s go back to John and Jason for a moment. They’re high achievers with different personalities. But what about their colleague Jill? She works hard, but she never quite achieves the top slot on the leaderboard. John and Jason get the recognition and Jill gets nothing. It would be very easy for her to get discouraged – and ultimately, to disengage. Why bother if no one ever notices?
The point is that recognition isn’t just a formula to follow. It’s a mindset shift. For your strategy to be effective, it must take a multidimensional approach that includes both formal and informal actions. By tailoring rewards to the key motivators of each person, you can let every employee know that they matter to you – even if they aren’t the top performer on the team.
What Effective Recognition Looks Like in the Workplace
Of course, personality isn’t the only thing that should shape recognition. It’s also important to consider the context of each person’s work and come up with ways to connect positive behavior with reward.
Let’s bring this down to a practical level by looking at some ways you can tailor your recognition approach for different contexts:
- Remote Workers – Remote workers can’t always participate in a reward program the same way in-house workers will. Online tools are useful for keeping everyone on the same page, especially if you use a gamification strategy. Hand-written notes and phone calls also communicate appreciation for effort, and if the individual is local, you can include them in team events or celebrations.
- Office Workers – Keep a “Favorite Things” list of your office workers’ favorite candy, restaurant, color, food, beverage, and other preferences. Use the list to create personalized recognition incentives. For example, you can choose something from the list to celebrate a special occasion, say thanks for a job well done, or recognize an achievement. Managers should also take time to stop by team members’ desks or write a note to express appreciation on a regular basis.
- Manufacturing Workers – Safety and excellence are twin keys to success in a manufacturing context, and your can frame recognition opportunities around achievements in these areas. Offer rewards for completing safety initiatives or reaching production goals, provide daily recognition verbally or with a quick email, and reward employees who take initiative to come up with more efficient ways to get the job done.
- Sales Team – Use a leaderboard to track performance and celebrate both large and small wins with public acknowledgement. Be specific in your praise and recognize personal bests for all employees, even if they don’t earn the top sales spot. Consider team member personalities as well. Some employees may prefer a handwritten note rather than a public announcement.
For any recognition strategy to work, managers must be on board. Since they are the ones who connect with employees on a daily basis, they must be trained to see frequent, personalized feedback as an essential element of their job. By learning what motivates each team member, managers can show personal, genuine gratitude on a regular basis.
And that’s the key to setting employees up for long-term engagement.