Culture, Rewards & Recognition

The Myth of Workplace Recognition: Only Top Performers Get Recognized

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I encounter many myths about employee recognition in my role as a consultant to companies looking to establish or strengthen a culture of appreciation in their organizations.

One of the most common myths I look to debunk quickly is “top performers are the only people deserving of recognition and rewards.”

Why is it important to recognize beyond the top performers? Three reasons:

  1. The middle 70 percent of performers are the “Steady Eddies” who constantly crank out good, solid work, making it possible for your top performers – the stars – to shine.
  2. The power of recognition lies in reinforcing through the daily work that matters most to you as an organization – your core values and strategic objectives. You need all of your employees, not just the top 10 percent, to understand these values and objectives – and how to contribute to achieving them – in what they do every day.
  3. The goal of strategic recognition is to influence the culture of the company as a whole, which you cannot accomplish by impacting only 10 percent with recognition.

Misconceptions about hiring a great team

Recently, I read an article by Bright Horizons CHRO Dan Henry about attracting and retaining top employees. In the article, Mr. Henry debunked several common misconceptions about hiring a great team, including these:

  • Hire as if only “A” players matter: We all know the “A” players — they’re the people we hire with the greatest expectations. “A” players are great, but “B” and “C” players can become great. The latter can be mighty dedicated and industrious. They’re also unusually scrappy and willing to jump in and creatively problem solve when the occasion calls for it. And people given the opportunity and inspiration to grow into a position feel invested in the company in extremely meaningful ways.
  • Don’t worry about employee recognition … raises and new titles are plenty: A lot of bosses make the mistake of thinking job performance is all about money. It’s not. Appreciation counts, too. “Isn’t a raise appreciation?” you might ask. Sort of. But it’s expected. Recognition from a supervisor or a manager, on the other hand, shows added value. Company-wide recognition via employee awards illustrates worth on a larger, public scale. Neither can be underestimated. At Bright Horizons, we’ve taken it a step further and included awards employees can nominate each other for. Winning then becomes something everyone is invested in, and that in turn generates something else you can’t put a price on — team spirit.”

Everyone on the team contributes to success. Recognition is a powerful factor in communicating and emphasizing to employees what behaviors and contributions you want to see again and again.

Therefore, work to create a culture of recognition in which all employees are actively encouraged to participate by both giving and receiving recognition for excellence in living your core values in their daily work.

Who is eligible for recognition in your organization?

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

Derek Irvine is Vice President, Client Strategy & Consulting Service at Globoforce, a global provider of strategic employee recognition and reward programs. In his role as a thought leader for employee recognition at Globoforce, Derek helps clients set a higher ambition for global, strategic employee recognition, leading consultative workshops and strategy setting meetings with such organizations as Avnet, Celestica, Dow Chemical, Intuit, KPMG, Logica, P&G, Symantec, and Thompson Reuters. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.
  • Philip Uglow

    Thank you Derek, I enjoyed reading the article.

    I agree with your points and would like to add two others.

    First, luck often plays a role. So we end up recognizing people for positive things that happen beyond their control.

    Second, when everyone is progressing towards a goal, and everyone sees that progression with monthly data, scorecards or the like, it is often a much more effective motivator than recognition.

    Thanks again for a great post!

    Phil

  • http://bamboohr.com/ Jeana Quigley

    I agree. There are small things that managers can do such as simply saying thank you for this or that. These small comments mean a lot more than most people realize.