How to Properly Recognize Employees During the Holidays

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During the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen several media articles and blog posts on this topic. None are worth pointing back to as the advice is the same stuff I’m sure you’ve all read again and again, year after year.

So what do I advise instead?

Here are two thoughts: 

  1. Stop making recognition an annual spectacle! Make it ongoing throughout the year. Whether it’s the Winter Turkey or the Spring Employee Appreciation Day tchotchke, limiting recognition and reward to “special events” dilutes the power of recognition. When you wait for “a day” or “an event” to recognize someone for something amazing they did many months prior, they forget why they’re being recognized. Instead, recognize people throughout the year in a timely way so they quickly begin to associate positive recognition and reinforcement with the values and behaviors you want them to demonstrate again and again in their daily work.
  2. Then at holiday celebrations, call attention to particular moments of greatness that occurred throughout the year across the organization. Once you’ve established the tradition of frequent, timely recognition throughout the year, you can highlight major accomplishments or specific recognition moments at the holiday celebration or gathering (or in any other mechanism you may have used in the past for your holiday rewards.)

It’s important to remember that going the extra distance at the holidays is fine if that’s part of your company’s culture. It’s leaving recognition to JUST the holidays that causes problems and dramatically reduces the ROI you could be realizing for your employee recognition and reward investment.

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What’s the craziest holiday recognition or reward you’ve ever received?

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

Derek Irvine is senior vice president of client strategy and consulting at Workhuman, where he leads the company’s consulting and analytics divisions. His writing is regularly featured across major HR publications, including HR Magazine, Human Resource Executive, HR Zone, and Workspan.