“Research indicates that employees have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.” – Zig Ziglar
Motivation cannot be a onetime thing. Just like our bodies need daily food as fuel to run, motivation acts as the catalyst that pumps us with infinite energy to make the best of our day. It’s quite well known that families that play the ‘blame game’ are pretty much depressing and least likely to survive together for long, unlike those that support and appreciate each other’s efforts in managing the ends together. Similarly people who run the business and those reporting will stay longer together if their efforts get due respect and recognition, mutually. Transparency in setting expectations, and regular feedback is important for any employee to get clarity of what is expected of him or her at work. From the management perspective, a job well done deserves as much attention as a closed door feedback session. It’s how sincerely these two important ‘attributes’ influencing engagement is factored in the HR systems that measures the real success or failure of HR driven employee engagement programs. Clarity in organization goals and the visibility of an employee of how well he fits in the puzzle is another contributor to high engagement levels. Motivation to perform can well be the summary of all of the above.
Picking up recognition from the above mentioned multiple factors is like cutting out a slice from the cake. As per Gartner Report: Recognition and Rewards Software: What You Need to Know? Recognition is no more limited to periodic award ceremonies, rather it is now reinforced with performance management, culture of coaching and learning and development. (https://www.gartner.com/doc/reprints?id=1-3UM0MDY&ct=170301&st=sb). The value of recognition lies in how well it’s accepted into the culture of the organization.
Some of the reasons why recognition programs lose value are:
- Alignment with performance management systems: appreciation when given from the heart without any expectation in return is the truest form of recognition. But programs that propel a ‘you scratch my back while I scratch yours’ linked with appraisals or point systems tend to fail since anything that’s not natural is inevitably not sustainable either.
- Discretionary powers given to the leadership team: any recognition program that does not honor transparency and raises eyebrows later on whether it was a biased decision to reward a particular candidate in question and not the other equally deserving employee.
- Preplanned periodic award events: days when people expect to the ‘recognized’ becomes more boring year on year as against ‘instant’ or ‘on the spot’ recognition which energizes the employee and assures him that the organization appreciates his labour when its most due.
- Strict budgets for R&R programs: smaller cos lose out talent to larger businesses due to tight finances esp. when it comes employee engagement programs. Employees who do not feel valued and motivated at work tends to look for greener pastures early on if there aren’t suitable R&R programs.
- Accolades: Additional titles like employee of the month, etc. may still be a motivator for a fresher or a trainee just out of college but loses its shine when bestowed upon senior employees after a certain point in their career when they take up leadership positions and act as mentors.
To increase the value of recognition systems, building a culture of appreciation is of outmost importance. Organizations need to target and foster specific behaviors aligned to the values (like solution provider, creativity, integrity, etc.) they wish to drive. Employees need to feel comfortable and at ease with the system that’s supposed to bring their good work to life in a public work space everyone has access to. It should be visually appealing. Open communication and sincere appreciation has no limits and should not be regulated by hierarchy /gender /cultural or religious bias. Even the leaderboard, where top contributors or top receivers are highlighted need not be a static one but a dynamic board which are weekly or monthly refreshed to bring up new faces taking center stage for good work. The need is to feel each one valued for their good work and successful recognition programs can be just the right parameter for improving motivation levels on a daily basis.