At a company I once worked for, I once received a card in the mail, handwritten by the president, stating something like “In our leadership meetings, I have heard many times the great work you are doing for the team.” There was a token gift along with the card as well. But to me, the card meant more than any jackpot I had won – it boosted my confidence, morale, and motivation, made me happy, and more than anything – made me realize that the work I was putting in, was meaningful.
One of the least recognized ways to motivate people is.. recognizing them on a timely basis! Not via formally established processes or competitively, not at the end of the quarter or year, but truly for what they have done at any given point. Not a measure, but simply a recognition.
To give a runner’s analogy – think of recognition as water as you run a long distance – you need it on a regular interval to keep going, and not simply at the end. More importantly, every runner needs water to keep going, not just the ones who are ahead. Of course, you will award the winner the prize, but you need water for everyone to keep running.
In keeping the recognition random, without much tangible benefits, and with no formality, you are not asking for a change in performance, but truly rewarding the person for the work done. Also, given the randomness, it doesn’t encourage others to alter their performance just to win the award.
Most importantly, it costs almost nothing, and yet the benefits and impacts to the individual, team, and the company are numerous – almost too many to list.
Here are some tips to institute random acts of recognition in your workplace:
- Have a generic name for the award or no name at all. Let it reflect the work for which the person is being recognized and not some “Hero of the week.”
- Don’t create a process around it – like taking votes, or having people suggest on a weekly basis. Instead, keep a open-door policy on people to suggest. No specific timelines – and as the name suggests, keep it random.
- Don’t set a criteria – it should be random that people don’t gear up to be competitive to win the next round of recognition. It can be for someone who brought in a huge deal, or someone who helped out in mailing holiday envelops. Remember, this is recognition, and not an award. By doing this, you also send a message that little things, and not just big things, matter to the company.
- Base it on inputs from the teams – If you are the manager, you can choose whom to recognize based on what you see and hear from teams. There is nothing more rewarding than hearing that your team values you.
- Keep it simple and genuine – and if there is a token prize, keep it the same for any level of recognition. And, the token prize should be just that, a token. So, cookies – yes, golf clubs – no. And even a simple “good job!” would do.
- Hand-write your note – the art of writing notes is fast disappearing. By writing a small note of recognition, you communicate to the employees that you do value their contribution, by taking time to write.
- Make it public – even if you send a note, follow-up in an email to employees on who were recognized. Acknowledge it as if it were a formal award. And, if physical proximity allows, also follow-up in person or even a quick phone call.
- Let it come from the leadership. Doing so, makes it feel contribution being recognized at higher levels.
- Don’t make it feel competitive. The fundamental idea is to recognize people for things they do, and not compare people for the often different types of work they do. Have multiple “winners” if you’d like.
- Keep it random, which means no schedules, no formality, no set number of winners, and so on. Have it regularly, but randomly. – Manohar Kamath