The No. 1 Talent Management Strategy You Probably Still Aren’t Using

I received an email last week from a former colleague thanking me for shaping the vision for a project that finally got launched to much success five years later.

Again, I am struck by the power of recognition and bewildered at why companies don’t use it effectively or at all.

The research is incontrovertible; recognition has a longer term impact on satisfaction than do raises. People are motivated by more than money, yet, that is where we spend the majority of our time.

So dollar for dollar, recognition is a better use of time and a stretched budget. Why then, do companies resist?

1. Our people just know they are appreciated

This is the lonely, popular girl phenomenon. She doesn’t get asked to the prom because everyone assumes she’s already been asked.

People like it when their contributions are acknowledged out loud, not just implied by not getting fired.

2. What is it that we value, again?

We get turned around in our head a little bit thinking we shouldn’t recognize someone for just showing up and doing his job. But we are also too quick to conflate recognition with performance.

Performance is sustained over time; we typically do a good job at recognizing this. What we fail to acknowledge is someone caught in the act of doing something great.

3. It’s hard to let go of the reins

Creating a culture of recognition is a no-brainer. It’s a low-cost, high engagement activity. But, it requires a distributed network of implementers.

You have to rely on managers to identify opportunities and act on them, in the moment. Some are better than others at it. And it offends our sense of fairness if not everyone is recognized equally.

As HR we need to educate and empower managers and let go. Not everyone will get a trophy for participation, but you’ll find out who your good managers are in a hurry.

Article Continues Below

4. We don’t have the budget or tool for a program

Notice I have not used the word “program” once. If you think you have to have a program to say “thank you,” you’ve missed the point entirely.

Set the tone from the top, model the behavior, and hold managers accountable.

5. Employees will become addicted to praise

So? As long as your recognition is in proportion, in context, and as close to the actual event as possible, I really don’t see the issue.

Here’s a free, no-obligation trial: Stop five people today and tell them “thank you” for some effort that went unnoticed. Then, see how they react.

Chances are they will appreciate your time and kind words. Maybe they will walk a little taller, and maybe they will put a little more into that next presentation.

At the very least, they’ll wonder what you’re up to.

This was originally published on PeopleResult’s Current blog.

Barbara Milhizer, CCP, SPHR is a partner at PeopleResults, a human capital consultancy focusing on change, organization, talent and communications/new media. Barbara’s background includes over 15 years of HR with key leadership roles in rewards & recognition and talent strategy at both Accenture and PeopleResults. Contact her at


13 Comments on “The No. 1 Talent Management Strategy You Probably Still Aren’t Using

  1. Thank you Barbara, for an interesting article. Although this may be addressed to managers, the message can equally be taken on board by support staff who often share in team work. They can also make their manager’s day slightly more pleasant by putting this into practise too.

  2. I love this perspective Barbara – it’s truly such a no-brainer to incorporate recognition into the culture of a company’s day-to-day work. And, I find that one way to call it out more is to incorporate it into the key projects that are being worked, because it’s often the “side job” that doesn’t get recognized or thanked…

  3. Great post, Barbara. The simplest, lowest cost and pays the biggest dividends. I led a workshop recently and we asked the group to describe times that were most motivating to them and celebrated their success – almost all remembered the “thank yous” that you mention here. Very underrated. So, thank you for reminding us!

  4. When you lay it out like this, it’s so obvious. Why the heck not?
    And yes — the distributed network of implementers are the key to success.

  5. Thank you for this article! I’m researching ways to help with morale on a non-existent budget and this article supports my idea that recognition can do wonders for the workforce and that throwing a couple of dollars at an employee isn’t necessarily the answer!

  6. Thank you for your article Barbara. I agree that recognition is an important part of talent management and I would like to add an additional thought. In our practice we have found that people making progress on their goals boosts their moral and involvement. This requires leaders to set clear goals and expectations, but most importantly provide feedback to employees on how they are doing on their journey towards the goal. So although recognition is not bad, it can be supercharged by providing metrics that show how folks are doing. Thanks again for the article. It got me thinking!

  7. This is so true Barbara – thanks for writing about this subject. It’s a no-cost recognition option that has a big pay off!

  8. Thanks for your thoughts, Barbara. I wholeheartedly concur. I’m fortunate enough to hold a management position in a company that supports this vision. Even if this were not the case, as a manager, I have the opportunity to improve morale and work product of the individuals I lead (around 40 or so these days).

    Check out a recent article from our CEO, Andrei Hedstrom, for a better understanding of how this mindset trickles down from the top:

    -Catherine Davis, ID Practice Lead for SweetRush

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *