The Point: Gallup reports that employee engagement is at an all time low. The recruiting field warns that the “War for Talent” will become increasingly difficult to wage successfully. With these two signs pointing towards greater recognition of employees, we started wondering why is it then that employee recognition is so difficult for so many? In this post we’ll take a look at employee recognition, and five (5) actions you can take to recognize your stakeholders as a leader… Enjoy!
We Recognize Our Employees (Don’t We?)
Randy was a relatively new team member in an archaic organization whose new CEO screamed “We’re going to change, like it or not! The foundation for this change is going to be our people… The most important asset this organization has” to the press. It was this battle cry that got Randy excited enough to leave his previous organization and sign-up/on with the current company. He was a hard worker, as well as a subject matter expert that participated in several leadership development programs and knew the value of executive coaching firsthand.
So it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that Randy was the pole-position leader on the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) board for the organization. That’s right, although he was new to the organization, he steadily rose through the ranks and in short-order arrived at the top spot.
No Recognition = No Engagement = No Employment
Here’s where things got a little interesting (or at least our executive coaching conversation took a turn towards a very dark place!) You would think that he would have received a few “That a boy!” or “Great Job Randy!” nods from the superiors in the organization, stakeholders, anyone… But you’d be wrong (Dead wrong as it turned out!) To hear Randy tell the story, “It would have been great if someone had reached out to say ‘Congrat’s!’ to me. But no one did. Not at the time the reports were printed. Not after the reports were distributed. Not ever!”
You could imagine Randy’s confusion: Here he was a still relatively new employee in an organization. An organization whose CEO told everyone and anyone that employees are their most important asset. But an asset that received no recognition whatsoever. Needless to say, on top of Randy’s confusion, he was just plain old pissed with the situation. He lasted a few more weeks before he quit. He’s now being successful somewhere else.
I Wanna Be like Randy, Not Mike!
So what can you do as a leader in your organization to properly recognize your employees so as to have engagement levels soar and turnover diminish? The following five (5) actions are recommended from our leadership development and executive coaching conversations:
Action #5: Timeliness Counts
If you see someone doing something great, recognize them right then and there. Why wait for the Friday Staff Meeting or to get back to your desk to send out the email to the entire department? Instead, let them know that you recognize what they did, and more importantly that you appreciate it.
Action #4: Alignment Counts
Recognition hits new levels, and is shared by all, when the recognition comes in the form of alignment with business goals. Imagine our poor friend Randy and his smashing of the organizational KPIs… The alignment opportunities are endless to tout, that is if you actually do measure KPIs that effect your business!
Action #3: Authenticity Counts
Ever get one of those fake leadership moments? A moment where you’re not certain what they might have taught in the leadership development classroom, but whatever it was it didn’t work? If you’re employees aren’t getting the “real” you, ask yourself who they are getting? Odds are, if you have low authenticity you have low trust, and low trust moments are never a position of strength to lead from.
Action #2: Quality/Quantity Count
While Randy would have been happy with any recognition, our executive coaching research leads us to believe that the recognition should be in correlation to the business goals (See #4 Action above). Too much and it comes off as Pollyannaish… Too little and it comes off as skating the associate.
Action #1: Recognition Definition Counts
If you are confused as to the identification of just the right amount of recognition to provide, please stop guessing and ask your associates. They will tell you! We typically see leader after leader attempt to either “cookie-cutter” approach recognition programs or provide what they would like to receive. Neither is a good moment. Executive Coaching and leadership development should provide you with plenty of ammunition to overcome the leadership challenge at hand, especially when you ask.
So there you have it… The problem of employee recognition as told through the saga of Randy and his former organization, along with five (5) actions you can take to insure that you are on the right path.
PS – You may enjoy several of the other posts I’ve recently written:
- The Leadership Challenge: Office Backstabbing – 5 Leadership Lies to Avoid
- The Leadership Challenge: Should You Stay OR Should You Go? 5 Criteria
- The Leadership Challenge: Succession Planning
- The Leadership Challenge: Why HR Isn’t Developing YOU as a Leader
- The Leadership Challenge: Helping Those That Don’t Want Help