Recognition Is A Fundamental Human Need

This article appeared in Forbes India on April 27, 2016.

It is an oft-mentioned fact that recognition nurtures greater employee satisfaction, and an elevated zeal to contribute. Employee recognition is today becoming an essential HR tenet that finds mention in every corporate book; still it is one among the most neglected HR processes across the corporate sphere. This leads onto a debate if we are actually doing personal recognition right?

A fundamental human need, recognition done the correct way encourages employees to strive towards good work and build a system of positivity. Valuing the efforts being put in, recognition helps elevate employee satisfaction and productivity. It also motivates them to strive towards greater successes and yearn for the proverbial, ‘pat on the back’. Recognition being actively practiced by the employer helps show appreciation of the uniqueness that these employees brought to the table when they were hired.

A research on employee recognition undertaken by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) had revealed that more than 80 percent of corporate businesses today have well-meaning recognition programmes in their HR principals. But the survey also lists a majority of employees saying that their organisation’s recognition programmes have a negligible or minimal impact on their morale. This makes us believe that there is a huge room for improvement in the way personal employee recognition is done.

A recent whitepaper commissioned by OC Tanner examined employee performance matrices and found that inspiration and greater freedom at work are massive incentives to enhance performance. However, personal recognition takes the top spot in the research with nearly 37 percent of the respondents expressing that personal recognition encourages them to deliver exemplary work more regularly.

Taking into consideration the said white paper, personal recognition is among the most important aspects of organisational growth. While there are no set parameters to undertake employee recognition which can ensure greater results, a couple of key pointers can help managers to undertake focused recognition activities. These pointers include:

Focused and specific recognition – Offering recognition for specific activities helps focus on the work done: It ensures that the employees are in the know of the particular job they are being acknowledged for. This ensures that the employees are focused on their key responsibility areas and put in efforts that strive to bring success.

Timely recognition – A remarkable corporate adage goes, ‘Time is money’. It is worthy of noting that personal recognition is also dependent on timely deliverance. Any recognition which is not given in due time loses its credibility and in the long run, doesn’t serve its aim as delayed personal recognition more often than not is perceived as false.

Different recognition for different employees and different achievements – Today there are many great ways to recognise employees and appreciate their achievements. There are cases where monetary gains or gifts work the best, and there are cases where personal appreciation seals the deal. Experts believe that a pat on the back versus the silver award or a President’s award via cash, trophies or symbols or experiences all play a role and should be customised to the specific reason of achievement. OC Tanner’s research shows that employees who receive strong recognition are 33 percent more likely to be proactively innovating, generating 2x as many ideas per month compared to those who aren’t recognised well. Further, companies that provide effective performance recognition are more than 2x as likely to be highly innovative. As a smart manager, one should always be on the lookout for creating personalised avenues of appreciation, where different recognition for different employees works wonder.

More personal is better – Personalising appreciation to the extent of sending handwritten appreciation notes, calling out and appreciating a worker in the middle of team meetings or informal settings among others sets a great example for other workers and extends a deservedly ‘personal pat on the back’ to the appreciated employee. These gestures might look small, but actually, go a long way in encouraging an employee to give 100 percent every time.

After all, it’s about the team and a larger purpose – Personal recognition goes a long way in making the employee feel wanted and bonds them with the team more intrinsically. Creating value to the organisation, recognised employees feel connected to the larger picture and work towards achieving team and organisational objectives. By mentioning the specific reason for which an employee is recognised, the manager can create logic, transparency and inspiration for others; hence encouraging more employees to go out and do great work. This move empowers the manager to add more belief to the team and incite a culture change, one employee at a time.

The impact of recognition can also be underlined by a recent report by OC Tanner Institute. The report lists that employees in organisations that have strong recognition practices are likely to generate 1.5x more ideas as compared to organisations that have unclear policies. This goes to show that employees who achieve strong recognition are more likely to be more engaged to their jobs and have a greater zeal for personal and organisational success.

Hence to deliver focussed personal recognition, managers should focus on appreciating the unique talents of the employees, along with their individual expertise that adds the X-factor to the organisation. Also acknowledging positive behaviour encourages good work to happen repeatedly, thus inculcating it into the employee’s daily routine.

The formula for recognising good work is simple. Appreciate personally; state what the person is being recognised for and explain what value-add did the person’s appreciated activity bring to the team. In just three simple steps you would have appreciated a person for his hard work, and also, built up a value-stream where personal recognition has helped in turning a simple activity into a cherished memory.

Summarising in the words of renowned entrepreneur Sam Walton, “Appreciate everything your associates do for the business. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free and worth a fortune.”

- By Mr. Zubin Zack, Director and Chief Recognition Strategist, O.C. Tanner India