Self-recognition? Why not? (Editorial)

They work long nights, miss their kids’ hockey games or forego outings with friends. Sometimes they feel their effort goes unnoticed, but HR’s reward programs should be there to say “thanks” and keep staff motivated. Unfortunately, while recognition seems an intuitively simple item, many organizations struggle to do it right.

Recognition offerings may not match employee wants or interests. The right behaviour may not be recognized. Or a reward program’s structure may cause more jealousy among co-workers than pride among recipients.

Even when HR has designed the perfect combination of recognition offerings, managers may neglect to use them.

Some organizations have tried to get around managers who fail to appropriately recognize employees by having staff nominate their peers for awards. This not only circumvents managers who can’t express appreciation, it cuts down on complaints that recognition awards undeservedly go to a supervisor’s favourite reports. There’s value in employees selecting peers, but this too can be seen as a popularity contest rather than recognition of achievement. And front-line staff may not be aware of the true value and profitability of a co-worker’s efforts. Plus there’s a need to recognize supervisors’ contributions, as well.

So how does HR ensure a hard-working employee gets that little extra something that makes the lost personal time easier to swallow? Why not let high-achievers reward themselves?

Employers trust staff with customers or expensive equipment. They’re trusted to work independently. They may even be trusted to set their own hours, or implement their own innovative ideas. It’s not much of a leap to trust them to say, “I put in a lot of extra time and effort this month, so I’m drawing on my recognition fund and charging a night for two at the movies to the organization.”

This can be an inexpensive and efficient way to motivate staff. It could make recognition more flexible and appreciated without any added cost.

Employees who are recognized for a certain level of achievement in their performance reviews could be given a “personal recognition fund,” valued at $100 or $200, for the coming year. Then, anytime the long hours start taking their toll, the person can access the fund and reward themselves with an outing, or a new CD, DVD or book, knowing that their employer thinks enough of them and their effort to provide an extra boost when the going gets tough.

No more co-worker jealously because of being overlooked. No need to hope managers are rewarding appropriately. No more urgency in spending HR resources training supervisors to say “thank you” on a regular basis.

So, while HR professionals consider the value of technology systems that offer employee-self service for a score of staff enquiries and administrative tasks, why not go a step further? Self-service recognition could be the reward of the future.

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