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Effective Recognition

Posted by on October 16, 2012

“Geigle’s 15 Steps to Effective Recognition”

Over the years of training occupational safety and health for Oregon OSHA I’ve come up with what I believe to be 15 very useful and applicable “secrets” of effective recognition. The primary message flowing through these 15 secrets is that recognition is more a function of leadership from the heart than management through policy.

  1. Recognize as soon as you can after the behavior occurs. You’ve heard the old adage, “the sooner the better.” That idea also applies to effective recognition. The longer you wait after the performance to reward, the less likely the recognition will be effective.
  2. Be spontaneous! You don’t need to plan how to recognize someone necessarily. Unplanned recognition is more likely heart-driven than policy-driven.
  3. Be sincere when recognizing. The more heart-driven the recognition, the more likely it will affect the heart. Isn’t that what recognition is all about? Genuine heart-felt recognition is usually much more effective than policy-driven recognition.
  4. Be spirited when you recognize. Don’t be afraid to show how happy you are about the performance of your employee.
  5. Be subtle when recognizing. You don’t need to make it a public display. Recognition in private has been shown to be generally more effective than public recognition. Believe it or not, most people do not like to be paraded in front of peer to be recognized.
  6. You’re motivated to recognize for selfless reasons. The purpose of the recognition is to highlight the great performance of your employee. It’s not to show anyone how wonderful you are. Recognition that’s motivated by selfish reasons will be perceived as disingenuous. It’s all about the employee, not you.
  7. Employees are sure they will be recognized. If you promise them something, follow through with the promise. The number one reason employees do not trust management is that supervisors and managers do not do what they said they were going to do.
  8. Keep recognition simple. A simple “attaboy” or “attagirl” may be all that is required to be effective. The best recognition may not require tangible rewards like money. Keep it simple – make it fun!
  9. Be specific. Pinpoint each individual’s specific achievement. Be careful recognition is based on fact, not just feeling. Emphasize the positive impact that individual’s performance has added value. It’s important that people know precisely how the employee has impacted the success of the organization.
  10. It’s more effective to single out individuals and recognize their personal achievement. If you recognize a group try to mention each individual’s contribution.
  11. Develop standards for recognition. Recognize for achieving specific behavioral and performance criteria rather than being first, best, most improved. Don’t establish recognition schemes that reward for being lucky.
  12. Recognition should be thought of as special. The significance of any recognition is determined by the person who receives the recognition, not the person giving the recognition. You know the recognition has been significant in the heart and mind of the receiver when it increases the frequency of desired behavior.
  13. Let employees choose from a selection of tangible rewards. Don’t make the mistake of thinking one item works for everyone. It won’t.
  14. Keep your recognition program stable. Don’t change the rules of the game too often. People need to know that the reward and recognition they’re working towards won’t disappear before they’re awarded.
  15. Be sensitive to the wishes of the person you’re recognizing. You don’t want to recognize a person in a way that they may not want or appreciate. One lady promptly quit her job as a safety committee chairperson after being recognized for her great work over the previous year. When asked why she quit the position, she said, “I never want to be recognized in front of people like that again!”

© 2005 Steven Geigle. All rights reserved.

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