By Claudine Kapel
What kinds of messages does your organization communicate through its recognition program?
A recent study by the Conference Board of Canada suggests that 97 per cent of organizations in Canada have an employee recognition program. Yet less than one-half of the study respondents felt their employees are satisfied with the organization’s recognition practices.
Further, most of the study respondents felt their recognition program was having no effect on employee morale.
The study findings are hardly surprising when one considers that the most prevalent type of recognition is the long-service award. And nearly two-thirds of organizations have a recognition program that provides gifts to employees who are about to retire.
Service awards essentially say: Thanks for sticking around. But they don’t acknowledge the contributions employees make day-to-day on the job. They don’t recognize the times when employees go above and beyond the call of duty to help a customer or colleague. And there’s nothing timely or “in the moment” about a five-year pin or plaque.
When employees say they don’t feel valued, they are not suggesting that service awards should become an annual event. What they are saying is that they want their good work and achievements to be acknowledged in a timely manner.
Whether that’s a heart-felt “thank you,” some kind words of praise, a celebratory team lunch or something more elaborate, what employees really want is timely and authentic acknowledgement that what they do is appreciated.
To that end, almost three-quarters of the Conference Board study respondents said their organization does deliver performance-base recognition, including manager-to-employee recognition and “on-the-spot” recognition. Yet only 26 per cent of the organizations surveyed say they provide training to managers on how to apply recognition programs.
To ensure meaningful recognition is happening in your organization, consider that perhaps what you really want is for employees to authentically acknowledge each other. Which means that recognition works best when it’s a way of being in the world, rather than a program.
To achieve that, managers and leaders need to serve as role models for effective recognition. They need to utilize recognition as a means of engaging hearts and minds. Further, the importance of acknowledging others needs to be socialized and cultivated as part of the organizational culture.
Training and tools can be helpful to nurture and reinforce desired behaviours. For example, managers could benefit from tips and guidelines on how to make recognition meaningful to employees. Such training should ideally be addressed in broader training courses emphasizing interpersonal skills or management development, so the capacity to effectively recognize others becomes embedded in how employees interact.
Ultimately, most employees aren’t longing for another pin or plaque. They may not even want to be the “employee of the month.” They just want to feel the love.
Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a Toronto-based human resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of compensation and total rewards programs. For more information, visit www.kapelandassociates.com.