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December 1, 2010 | Volume 4 | Number 10
December 1, 2010
Most companies have a keen awareness of the service-profit chain model. When employees are treated well, they provide greater customer service and generate profits that contribute to the company’s survival and success.
An easy practice for treating employees well is the art and science of giving employees meaningful and authentic recognition – what we call “Real Recognition™.” Real recognition is defined as “any thought, word or deed towards making someone feel appreciated for who they are and recognized for what they do.”
While recognition giving should be multi-directional in origin – meaning everyone should be acknowledging contributions made across the organizational chart – there is still greater perceived value associated with employee recognition coming top-down from an immediate supervisor or manager.
But some managers and supervisors find giving recognition and positive feedback difficult to do.
In the 2007-2008 Employee Job Satisfaction & Retention Survey by Salary.com nearly 1 in 5 employees (17%) reported leaving employment due to insufficient recognition. The Gallup Organization’s proprietary “Q12” survey asked: “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.” Of the nearly 4 million employees surveyed, 65 percent felt they received no recognition at all on the job the previous year.
Yet according to the WorldatWork Trends in Employee Recognition survey, nearly 9 in 10 responding organizations (89%) indicated having recognition programs in place. Why then is there a disconnect between having the recognition tools in place and employee perceptions of recognition?
Some of this comes from managers and supervisors who are hired or promoted to their current positions based on technical competence or expertise, and not necessarily because of their people skills.
Having conducted employee recognition training in 11 countries worldwide, we have found that the human need for recognition is a universal one, and that the barriers for giving recognition are similar as well. Managers need to learn the importance and benefit of giving praise and recognition to those they work with, as well as the skills necessary to do so.
Learning Recognition Giving
One key for successfully educating managers in recognition practices is to first understand the difference between education and training.
Too often we forget to tell people the reasons for the training programs we ask them to attend. All employees, no matter what their title or position, should learn the why behind giving recognition and rewards and the impact and benefits of those rewards. This is education – knowing why you should do something.
Practicing the skills and acquiring the knowledge to become more confident in delivering recognition is about training – knowing how to do things. We need to provide a combination of both education and training to help recognition-giving become a way of life – a part of the culture – and not just another program-of-the-month scenario.
Education and training must focus on creating a clear business impact aligned with achieving specific business results on the job. Programs should answer the “so what?” question in the minds of participants. They must show how recognition can truly contribute to the business goals of a division or department, and to the company as a whole. Provide the rationale and the benefits to be obtained and you’ll get greater commitment to learn and apply the skills.
Too often we hear managers say, “Why should I recognize people when they are just doing their job?” It is essential for managers to learn the differences between recognition and rewards because of the semantic confusion that persists across various industries such as rewards and recognition vendors, compensation and benefits, etc. The contractual work agreement is not the sole reward; there is a psychological, emotional and purposeful recognition-based piece that many of us long for. It’s the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic “rewards” or motivation.
How to Effectively Promote Transfer of Learning
Research has shown the two leading factors affecting transfer of learning back into the workplace are a lack of reinforcement of the learning on the job and a lack of involvement by upper level management.
To implement the practice and application of any skill on the job, there are four things that need to be in place to address the issues of reinforcement and leadership involvement.
To get good learning and development results, one must determine who is ultimately responsible. Research findings from Dr. John W. Newstrom, professor emeritus of management at the University of Minnesota, show people believe the trainer is the most important factor driving training results. In reality, the most effective and powerful factor comes before training even begins: from the student’s manager.
“What you do before and after the training accounts for more of whether it works or not, and whether the training itself is any good,” said Dr. Robert O. Brinkerhoff, professor emeritus at Western Michigan University. “That involves accountability and responsibility from people outside the learning function. It means, for example, that managers have to hold their trainees accountable for using training.”
Before employee recognition training begins, managers can do the following with their employees:
Guaranteeing the Training Results You Expect
One outcome measure we suggest is a learner self-assessment to evaluate areas of recognition-giving each individual commonly has difficulty with. This provides the opportunity to conduct a pre-test and tailor learning to the strengths and weaknesses of a group, and to provide post-training assessment to show levels of improvement in skills and knowledge learned. This is an effective process for ongoing learning as well.
Once the employee returns to work, application of recognition-giving skills learned in the training session should be measured. This can be done by having participants set either individual or group goals to practice a skill, and by having them share principles learned in an “each-one, teach-one” process. This evaluation should take place within 30 days of the learning session.
Managers can get a feel for accountability by following-up with employees to measure level of success or proficiency reached on their individual or group goals. Ask the learners to share lessons learned from putting recognition into practice and use this as reflective insights. Finally, have each learner identify any remaining questions they have about the skills and knowledge taught so these issues and concerns can be addressed as a next step.
Create management forum meetings where managers and supervisors can share best practices and discuss areas where they may have a difficult time. Recognition-giving can be a part of the discussion.
In addition, following the training, learners should have a chance to debrief, review and set new goals. Upon the employee’s return, managers should:
Concrete Insights Gained from Global Training
Following the training of managers in nine European and Middle-Eastern countries to create a recognition culture in the workplace, we discovered several insights that might help with learning recognition skills where you work.
Training managers on the art and practice of recognition can only really happen if the beliefs and culture of the leadership and the organization will support and drive recognition-giving. Employees learn by example; managers need to demonstrate how to give recognition to dispel the myths and discomfort that prevents so many people back from elevating others. Then, recognition can be used to reinforce the values and culture that will make a system of rewards and recognition truly just “the way we do things around here.”
Roy Saunderson is the president and founder of the Recognition Management Institute, a division of Rideau Recognition Solutions. The Recognition Management Institute is a strategic recognition consultancy providing evaluation, strategy, education and training focused on recognizing people and inspiring greatness. For more information, contact Roy by email or phone 877-336-9601. You can also follow him on Twitter at @roysaunderson.
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