Recognition Results in Repetition
Posted by Nikki Morrison on Fri, Mar 08, 2019 @ 10:00 AM

In our first blog to this series, we provided a synopsis of Dr. Jack Wiley’s paper Suggested Actions for Human Resources to Create a Better Employee Experience, which offers strategies based off his research-based RESPECT framework. If you haven’t had a chance to read part one, you can do so here.

As humans, we crave a sense of belonging and appreciation, and we want to know that our actions have a purpose which is valued by our peers and leaders. So it’s probably no mystery to well-informed HR professionals that the number one reason employees seek work elsewhere is lack of recognition.

The benefits of recognition extend far beyond the recipient. Pioneers of modern psychology have long known what we believe to be true today: recognition results in repetition. One such psychologist was 20th-century behaviorist B.F. Skinner, who developed a theory that fits neatly into one of the fundamental goals of employee recognition, productivity. Skinner’s fancy psychological term operant conditioning refers to using positive reinforcement – or a desirable stimulus – to encourage a behavior to continue. For our purposes, this practice can be broken down into three basic steps: 1) behavior is observed, 2) behavior is directly acknowledged, 3) behavior is repeated.

In today’s performance-driven recognition program world, this desirable stimulus can be introduced in many forms, ranging from verbal praise to tangible rewards. Where HR leaders must practice diligence is in learning about their audience. Just like fingerprints, no two employees are the same, which means preferences in the desired way to receive recognition can vary greatly. While a one-size-fits-all approach is not likely to produce the intended outcomes, building an effective program that is also flexible and adaptable need not be as daunting a task as it may seem.

Whether you’re interested in ideas to jazz up an existing recognition program or looking for ways to build one from scratch, here are a few of the strategies Dr. Jack Wiley presented for Human Resources to create a better employee recognition experience: 

  1. Implement a total recognition and rewards system. A holistic approach to recognition and rewards ensures touchpoints that are both predictable and aligned with your organization’s core values. Celebrate career milestones such as onboarding, length of service and retirement and promote desired behaviors with a performance-based program. 
  1. Promote peer-to-peer recognition. Recognition is valued by employees whether it comes from a manager, leader or peer. Encourage employees to recognize when their peers perform well and give them the tools and training to do this in an effective way. Create an appreciation wall where they can post their praise and take pride in knowing their actions are valued. Provide opportunities for face-to-face praise through shout outs at team meetings. Use handwritten notes or system-driven eCards as a means for personal recognition. 
  1. Begin recognition early in the employee life cycle. 81% of millennials believe that receiving recognition or praise during the recruitment process is very important or important. You probably know that candidates don’t necessarily stop job seeking once they receive or accept an offer. This makes the preboarding/onboarding phase of the employee’s journey of vast significance. Consider a welcome box delivered to the new hire’s home or a handwritten card before their first day. 

These are just a few suggestions to get the gears turning. To find the best solutions for your organization, you’ll need to track program progress and success. Evaluation data will help determine what works and where changes should be made to increase program effectiveness. Once you’ve discovered the right formula for success, you’ll begin to see the positive behaviors repeated regularly, and your business objectives will become more obtainable than ever.


Topics: employee recognitioon

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