In a 2016 study, Gallup looked at employee recognition and found that the most memorable recognition comes most often from an employee’s manager (28 percent), followed by a high-level leader or CEO (24 percent), the manager’s manager (12 percent), a customer (10 percent) and peers (9 percent).
Moreover, the study also recommended that employees receive some form of formal recognition every seven days. However, given the time formal recognition requires and leaders’ increasing workloads, this suggestion appears unreasonable.
One way to solve this problem is to crowdsource recognition.
When I refer to crowdsourcing recognition, I mean that organizations should plan to include and embrace a multitiered approach to recognizing employees. By planning and opening up the recognition pipeline, organizations take the pressure off managers to do all of the heavy lifting. While an employee’s manager is still the most important recognition source from whom employees should receive recognition, hearing praise from others outside of that employee-manager relationship can be the difference between an employee feeling valued or not feeling valued at all.
Organizational recognition would take the form of birthdays, anniversaries, service awards and “Employee of the Month”-like celebrations. This level of recognition tends to be less frequent and more formal. Because there are many employees, not everyone can receive this type of recognition.
It leaves many out, but does serve its purpose. Instituting these forms of recognition begins to bond your employees with your brand. Nonetheless, it does not fully serve the employees’ needs of being recognized more often, and the responsibility to see this level of recognition to successful implementation rests in the hands of human resources. HR cannot nor should not be the keeper of the recognition flame. We need to look at the next level: recognition by a manager.
This level of recognition is by far the most influential and long-lasting for employees. In most cases, the manager hired the employee whom they are now managing. The employee likes to know that the manager still perceives that the employee is adding value in accordance with the original psychological contract that the parties entered early on in the relationship.
This type of recognition might take the form of a simple “thank you for all you do” in a one-on-one meeting. At a team meeting, the manager might even say, “Jessica did a great job improving this process. Nice work, Jessica!” It can be more formal with a point system for different types of positive behaviors that allow employees to buy movie tickets or dinner out with their significant other. A “thank you” note would be just fine too.
The point is that the formality of recognition is not as important at this level as the frequency of the recognition. An employee’s relationship with their manager is crucial to their overall experience with the employer’s brand. However, depending upon the size of a manager’s team, it can be very difficult to quench the thirst of the employee who thrives on recognition as a part of their job. This is where the idea of crowdsourcing recognition really gains momentum.
Over the years, I have found that co-worker recognition is a great way to fill the potential gaps that exist in the first two levels of recognition. What processes do you have in place to help all co-workers recognize when they see the good deeds of others?
TinyPulse, an employee feedback, recognition and performance management software company, created Cheers for Peers, a co-worker recognition module. Ketti Salemme, the company’s senior communications manager, told me that they “realized that managers don’t see all the things employees do. When other employees send recognition, it goes miles. The cool thing is that managers can see what others are seeing and can mention it so that their work does not go unnoticed.”
Salemme also said the company streams Cheers for Peers recognition on a big screen TV so that the CEO or anyone who walks through the door can see what the team is up to. Then, others can give kudos after they see this. This also allows others in different departments to see what is happening.
Finally, customers can also help to recognize employees. There are organizations that have formalized this by offering short “happy face” transactional surveys that are either emailed to customers immediately following an interaction or that are in the employee’s signature line. I have even used positive survey feedback at weekly team meetings to reinforce customer service excellence. There is often gold in the verbatim survey comments.
Boiling Down the Kudos
As humans, we all just want to feel like we are valued and important. Recognition in the workplace takes us a step closer to meeting these basic needs. While managers bear the main responsibility of employee recognition, organizations, co-workers and customers can help too.
Heather Younger is founder and CEO of Customer Fanatix, an organizational development firm. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.