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Use these principles for memorable employee recognition

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of www.cuttingedgepr.com

Recognition of employee achievements in the workplace is one of the most important things a team leader can do. It is low-cost and effective, but you have to do it right.

These principles, or employee recognition criteria, are essential to observe for the successful application of employee recognition in the workplace:

Seek out opportunities to praise

We're conditioned to spend the majority of our time looking for issues and problems we can correct. Spend a little time trying to catch employees doing good things, too. It can be done quickly and spontaneously.

Don't wait

The more time that passes between excellent performance and recognition, the lower the impact of the recognition. Immediately is never too soon.

Be sincere and genuine

Good leaders honestly know and feel that their business would not survive without the work and commitment of their people. This knowledge should be reflected in every policy, practice, principle and action that the leaders demonstrate. Sincere appreciation drives creativity, productivity and willingness to operate at the highest performance levels. Never praise just for the sake of praising. It is obvious to everyone, and you lessen the impact.

Be fair and consistent

Recognition programs need to have a fair process, contain fair outcomes, treat employees fairly (recipients and observers), and to provide fair explanation for each case (reasonableness, candor, thoroughness and timeliness).

Recognition loses its power and value if it is perceived as inequitable and inconsistently applied. Most recognition programs make management solely responsible for the initiation of recognition, and many managers simply don’t notice good work. Everyone in the workplace makes a contribution and each individual should have an equal opportunity to receive recognition. An organization should list the behaviors and activities that best serve achieving its business goals, then give everyone the responsibility of initiating recognition when these behaviors or activities occur.

Be timely

Immediate recognition is critical because:

  • It ensures recognition is not overlooked or forgotten.
  • The act worthy of recognition is still clear in the minds of the giver and the receiver.
  • The recognition is more meaningful.
  • Recognition is more likely to be remembered and the behavior or practice is more likely to be repeated.
  • The closer the recognition is to the occurrence, the more emotion it is likely to generate.

Be frequent

To be effective, saying “thanks” and showing appreciation for those behaviors and practices that support business success should happen at the time the behavior or practice occurs. There will be daily opportunities. Saying “thank you” is not a great investment and should be applied liberally. The benefits from frequent, sincere appreciation can positively affect every bottom-line measurement, including productivity, sales product and service quality, customer satisfaction and employee turnover.

Be flexible

Corporate recognition programs often provide only one or two alternatives for offering recognition. By offering a variety of methods for showing appreciation, an organization ensures that the needs of both the giver and the receiver can be met. This is very important.

Be appropriate

The recognition method selected should match the effort expended, the behavior exemplified or the results achieved. It is critical to provide a thoughtful structure that ensures the right recognition goes to the right situation. Inappropriate recognition, such as a casual acknowledgement by the boss for a lot of hard effort over and above normal levels of work, only undermines the whole program as well as casting doubt on the competence or sincerity of the person making the recognition. Likewise, it is not appropriate to wait overlong to give the recognition – it should be offered while the work being acknowledged is in recent memory.

Be specific

Recipients should know exactly what they are being thanked for and why their contribution is valuable. The desired performance should be specifically identified so that the employee or employees clearly know the reason for the recognition. This creates a strong link between the desired performance and the recognition, and is a compelling precedent to all those who are observing the recognition act take place.

Save constructive feedback for later

Many bosses just have to toss in a little feedback while praising an employee. If you include something about how they could do even better next time, all they will hear is what they should have done. Give praise and recognition now. Save performance improvement advice for later.

Remember the power of the ‘thank you’ note

Taking the time to handwrite a note of thanks has lasting impact. You can do this by email as well, but it is not as personal or effective.

Extend the appreciation experience

After the recognition activity, you should want the moment to live on, so record the event and give the employee something tangible to save and share with friends and family. Include in your organization’s internal communication activities as well.

You can read more about employee recognition techniques in my ebook.

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