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.
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.