Most employees want to know that they are doing a good job. Recognition can be in the form of financial compensation. But it can also be given by a “thumbs up,” a pat on the shoulder or even a non-monetary award. The key is to let your employees know they are valued and then they will give that valuation back to you every day.

Most of us want more pay for a job well done. For some of us, it’s a higher salary; for others, it’s greater tips. But sometimes, money is not the answer when it comes to recognizing an employee for performance “above and beyond the call of duty.”

As a manager, I know, first-hand, how easy it is to show employee appreciation. For example, immediately following a situation in which the employee did a really good (or better) job, a nod of the head, a thumbs up, a handshake or even a pat on the shoulder can tell an employee that he/she is appreciated. Following up on this with a brief memo (in office or related settings) thanking the employee and reiterating WHY they are being recognized provides a model by which that employee and others can continue to outperform.

If your setting has periodic staff meetings, recognize outstanding employees in public, again reiterating the reason(s) for the recognition. Note that sometimes you may witness the performance. At other times another employee may bring it to your attention or a customer may provide the input. Citing the source is sometimes as important as citing the performance.

Many organizations have employee newsletters, web pages, blogs and other vehicles for showcasing the workplace. These can be great places to let the entire staff and others know what makes for excellent job performance through appropriate employee recognition.

Sometimes, excellent job performance can make someone stand out for career advancement. If there are two employees (with nearly identical resumes) competing for a job and one has earned far more recognition for job performance, it’s easy to make an informed career-related decision. And the new position doesn’t have to involve a higher salary. It can be a move to a more favorable geographical location, a job that is more enjoyable, or a job that involves certain things the employee really relishes.

Most professional societies, governmental agencies and larger corporations have annual awards programs. Take the time to nominate someone deserving of such recognition and get others involved (possibly writing support letters). If the employee is granted the recognition, give them time off and even travel support to attend the awards event. Photograph the award presentation and include the picture and a brief write-up in appropriate company publications.

Even if the employee isn’t chosen for the award, just being nominated carries a lot of weight in the employee recognition department.

One caveat is in order, however. Be cautious about praising only one or two employees. This can make it appear to other employees that favoritism is involved, even if it isn’t.

You can also recognize whole teams or divisions just as you recognize individuals.

If your employees are doing a great job, have worked especially hard to meet a deadline or otherwise performed well, you might host a company luncheon or declare an early dismissal on a holiday weekend. The key is to make it clear WHY you are doing this and that employees see how their good work is translating into positive feedback. Don’t use normal events (e.g., office Christmas party) as a way to say thanks. If you want employees to go outside normal performance bounds, you have to set the bar as high for yourself.

Even if some employees balk at public recognition, most welcome it. And nothing begets great performance than modeling it, recognizing it and encouraging it through positive feedback. The key is to let your employees know they are valued and then they will give that valuation back to you every day.


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