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It Isn't that Hard

By Cyndi Bennett, Vice President of Compensation and Benefits, Selective Insurance Company of America

Cyndi Bennett, Vice President of Compensation and Benefits, Selective Insurance Company of America

Employee recognition is such a simple concept. When employees are recognized for their work, generally they become more engaged, more productive, and more committed to the organization. On the other hand, when employees’ best work is overlooked by managers, they are less likely to apply discretionary effort and more likely to seek recognition elsewhere (such as a new department, or worse, a new company).

Since there are now five generations in the workforce, recognition needs to come in all shapes and sizes. This includes, but is not limited to, spot bonuses, gift cards, sincere thank you notes, broader responsibilities, higher visibility project opportunities, exposure to executive leadership, flexible work arrangements, or training/development opportunities. While there are plenty of articles outlining the types of recognition each generation prefers, managers should focus on how each member of their team likes to be recognized, and what each employee finds most valuable.

Over my career, I’ve spoken to many managers who maintain that a monetary award is the best way to recognize and retain their top performers. Yet, in many instances, I’ve discovered that employees often preferred other forms of recognition for their work. For example, some employees wanted flexibility in their schedules to allow them to take their kids to after-school activities and events, or to care for aging parents. Others wanted public praise. Everyone knows the cliché about what happens when you assume, so I recommend you don’t. Instead, find out what each employee values –have a conversation (doing this helps build trust!), find out what is important to them, and then individualize the recognition you give.

An online recognition platform makes it easy for employees and managers to initiate both monetary and non-monetary recognition. One example of a non-monetary recognition is a virtual high-five, which employees at Selective Insurance can give one another to say thank you for a job well done. Monetary gifts don’t necessarily mean cash (although they can be) –points can be awarded that can be redeemed for items of employees’ choosing, like gift cards or merchandise.

Recognition that is aligned with the organization’s objectives and culture is even more impactful. One way to do this is to reward employees for behaviors that support company values. For example, if a value is inclusion, recognize employees for the ways they exhibit inclusion in their day-to-day interactions with their colleagues.

Recognition begets recognition. So, showcase the recognition given to employees as a way to motivate others. Some companies do this through newsletters or a company intranet site. At Selective, we have a virtual Hall of Fame where recognition is displayed for all employees to see. And, since every employee values recognition differently, an opt-out feature on the Hall of Fame enables employees to keep their recognition private if that is what they prefer.

"Whether your organization has a robust recognition platform or a few simple options, managers should take the lead by knowing what is important to their employees and use that information to recognize their efforts"

While recognition is a simple concept, it isn’t uncommon for managers to lose sight of how important it is, especially for those in less senior levels, or for a manager to simply forget to take the time to do it. Survey data shows that employees feel their most meaningful recognition comes from their manager. As such, managers need to incorporate employee recognition into their management responsibilities.

Managers also need to be aware of the recognition that members of their team receive from others. Managers should reinforce kudos that their employees receive from customers, clients, and other business partners, and acknowledge the positive impact their employees make throughout the organization. Automated notifications, triggered when employees receive recognition through an online recognition platform, are a way to notify managers about accolades their team members have received.

Continually updating the options for recognition, as well as listening to what employees want, helps keep it fresh, exciting, and relevant. Limited time recognition activities, like contests and spin-to-win games, are fun incremental programs to reinvigorate excitement around recognition. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of cultural events to celebrate recognition – National High Five Day, which will be on April 16, 2020, is a great day to give a high five and celebrate employees’ great work!

Whether your organization has a robust recognition platform or a few simple options, managers should take the lead by knowing what is important to their employees and use that information to recognize their efforts. Opting out of recognition or claiming a busy workload shows a lack of management accountability and hurts the organization. Recognition should be a priority for every manager because it is vital to a thriving workplace, a necessary component of engagement and retention, and frankly, it’s not that hard. Simply stated, recognition is too easy and too important to be overlooked!.

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