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First Steps in Management: How to Provide Recognition Effectively?

We have all heard that recognition is immensely important. But why is that, and what purpose does it serve?

First, recognition has a basic conditioning effect – the more you reward certain behaviors, the more likely it is that your employees will repeat them.

But not just that, recognition makes employees feel valued. This increases their engagement and, with it, the results they achieve and the likelihood they will remain with the organization.

Recognition, when it is public, has an effect not only on the employee whom you are recognizing but on everyone else around. It is a great way to set a good example and communicate what good work or behavior is across the team.

When should we provide recognition?

Recognition should be provided for achievements, big and small. Don’t wait for the big 8-month project to end to share your appreciation of your team’s work. Smaller milestones need to be celebrated as well. Otherwise, you might not have a team by the end.

Recognize effort and improvement, not just results. Sometimes the results may not be fully in your employee’s control so learn to recognize the incremental progress and the dedication to the task.

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This is especially important for new hires or people who have assumed new responsibilities. Initially, they may not yet achieve the expected results for the role, but their effort and positive learning trend also need to be recognized.

The timing of the recognition is crucial as well. Try to provide it as close to the accomplishment you want to honor as possible. Belated recognition may do more harm than good as many employees perceive it as disengaging rather than motivating.

You have probably heard the saying “reprimand in private, praise in public.” And public recognition is, by all means, a very effective management tool. But don’t forget to share your appreciation in private as well. One-to-one recognition goes a long way toward building your relationship with your team members.

How should we provide recognition?

Effective recognition is specific. It makes it clear for everyone what the accomplishment or behavior you want to reward and encourage is.

Your praise needs to be genuine too. It always shows when you are just going through the motions when providing recognition. I am sure that you can always find something you truly appreciate in your team’s work, and that’s the thing you need to speak up about.

Recognition does not always need to have a monetary aspect to be effective. But if you are providing a tangible reward, ensure it is appropriate to the accomplishment. Don’t give a Starbucks certificate to someone who transformed an entire business process.  But also, do not give a raise to someone who finally managed to show up on time to the team meeting three times in a row.

Who should we give recognition to?

Of course, you should provide recognition to your employees. But don’t forget to give praise to your peers as well.

Peer-to-peer recognition is proven to be a powerful motivator. So creating a culture of recognition where the appreciation and praise go not only top to bottom but also horizontally and (why not) bottom to top will be very beneficial for your organization.

And such a culture is built one “Great job today!” at a time!

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