Employee Recognition Needs to Be More Sustainable Than a Fad Diet

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Over cake with colleagues at a recent company celebration, I had an epiphany. Well, perhaps not an epiphany as this is a truth I’ve long known, but definitely an analogy worth sharing.

As we enjoyed cake and petits fours (they’re smaller, so fewer calories, right?), my colleagues shared their plans to “get into shape for swimsuit season,” as they called it.

New Year’s resolutions for losing weight and getting fit have long passed, so now it is time to focus on the latest quick weight loss scheme – the newest pill, the craziest fad diet.

As we all joked together, I realized that this is what many companies do with employee recognition, motivation and engagement. They try the “quick fixes” – Pizza Party Wednesdays, Bagel Fridays, Employee of the Month, and my personal favorite, some form of peer nomination with a “winner” drawn from a hat.

Strategic recognition, not just a grapefruit diet

Like the infamous grapefruit diet, these are all quick fixes. Just as no one can eat grapefruit every day for months on end, no strong company culture of recognition can survive on the infrequent and untimely Employee of the Month program and other similar plans.

A healthy lifestyle and long-term weight-loss maintenance comes from one approach – diet and exercise. The same is true for your company culture. A healthy culture and long-term employee engagement and motivation come from one approach – truly strategic employee recognition.

The hallmark of strategic employee recognition is consistent, timely, frequent and specific recognition of all individuals when they demonstrate your core values in contribution to achieving your strategic objectives. Not just one worker once a month, but any employee who deserves that praise and positive reinforcement.

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And this needs to come not just from managers, but from peers, too. That’s how you build a true culture of recognition – give everyone responsibility for contributing to and maintaining that culture over the long term.

(I must also give a hat-tip to Lance Haun whose recent post Fad Diets and Facing Reality cemented my thoughts on this analogy.)

Is your company on a fad diet for employee recognition or committed to a wellness routine for strategic company recognition?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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2 Comments on “Employee Recognition Needs to Be More Sustainable Than a Fad Diet

  1. Great article, Derek! I couldn’t agree more. For a company to grow, it needs to retain the best talent, which correlates to employee recognition. Managers need to make recognizing good work a habit, and not consider it only a once-a-month thing. It can be in various forms—outward recognition like public praise or an award, face time with a
    manager or tickets to a ball game. Regardless of the form, it should be consistent. Plus, when you hire the right people this won’t be a task, but a natural reaction to the good work your employees are producing!

    I talk more about this topic on my blog here: http://pastfive.typepad.com/pastfive/2012/03/four-ways-to-retain-employees.html

  2. People can tell when they are truly being recognized and when they are just getting paid lip service. Personally, I would rather get fewer, more sincere compliments from a manager than an “employee of the month” award that doesn’t really mean anything. I think there is nothing wrong with having some kind of company award or recognition ceremony but that on it’s own isn’t as powerful as a corporate culture that rewards employees for their real work.

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