Employee Recognition: Sometimes, It’s Just About Simply Paying Attention

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During the last five years or so that I’ve been blogging about employee recognition and rewards, I’ve written innumerable posts on best practices for strategic, social employee recognition.

These include frequent (not just at the annual awards dinner), timely (soon after the event deserving of recognition), specific (not just a quick “thanks!”), personal (describes how the event/action/behavior personally impacted you, the team, the company or the customer), and a surprise (never expected, never “if you do this, then you get that.”).

One factor I don’t believe I’ve ever spoken to is the importance of simply paying attention and treating as important what your employees and colleagues also deem to be important. Trish McFarlane brought this to my attention in her HR Ringleader blog:

What I think we all forget is that to the sender, it was important enough to write. The reason isn’t important. What is important is that we should take a second and acknowledge that it is that person’s work. I use the term ‘work’ in the sense of discretionary effort put forth with a specific outcome in mind. I don’t want you to spend all day dealing with only answering email or other messages. What I  want you, and me, to do is realize that we shouldn’t just dismiss the work that someone else finds important.”

Courtesy and recognition

Trish is writing about this from the perspective of information, reports or emails you may receive that you don’t consider important. But the team member who developed that report or sent the email clearly considered it to be important or they wouldn’t have bothered. Simple courtesy – and, indeed, recognition – requires you to treat that information with the same level of importance.

So, how is this recognition?

It signals to employees that the work they do has meaning and importance, that what they invest their energy in matters.

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Of course, if the employee shouldn’t be spending their time in this way, then a different conversation needs to take place. But ignoring or deleting the information is not acceptable. Engaging in a coaching or feedback conversation to acknowledge the employee’s efforts and redirect to more important paths is also a powerful form of recognition.

Are you walking the talk?

One last word of caution on why this is important from Douglas Conant, former CEO of Campbell Soup, in a Harvard Business Review blog post:

When providing people with the direction and expected behaviors, you need to be alert to the fact that they will hold you accountable. People want to know if you are walking the talk. They will be watching your every move and you need to be one in the same … every minute of every day.”

Do you treat employee communications to you with importance? Does your manager extend that courtesy to you?

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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