Personalized Recognition: A Crucial Piece of Employee Engagement

It’s no secret that employees want to be recognized for their hard work. Whenever a new hire joins your ranks, they carry with them vast potential, which they’re eager to show. But even the most devoted employee won’t want to carry on if he or she feels that their contributions are going unnoticed. Everybody — no matter how altruistic they may be — will eventually feel used.

Study after study has proven that people simply won’t stay in a job where they feel treated like a commodity. Fortunately, managers and entire companies are becoming quite aware of this and have gone to great lengths in an effort to show how much they appreciate their staff. But no matter how many bonuses they throw in workers’ direction, many employers don’t see a huge increase in engagement, leaving many of them scratching their heads.

We’ve established in the past just how powerful a simple “thank you” can be, as opposed to prizes. But companies are massive these days, and larger organizations have so much going on that workplace prodigies are often overlooked. Further complicating matters is that, in the hustle of daily employment, communication is often lacking. Consequently, interaction may be rare, causing opportunities for recognition — and therefore engagement — to fall through the cracks.

A pat on the back isn’t going to go far without some kind of message or meaning behind it, kind of like how a vehicle won’t get far without gas. But this is easily solved by simply filling the tank, so to speak.

Personalized Recognition 

For you recruiters out there, how many times have you come across canned, generic resumes that clearly weren’t tailored to the job at hand? It’s a classic error in Resume Writing 101, and virtually guarantees the application’s place in the discard pile. The candidate isn’t going to look very committed if he or she can’t be bothered to research your organization and acknowledge what you need from them as a potential employee. The same logic applies to recognition.

Everyone has different interests, needs and motivations. When it comes to recognition, the award needs to either meet those needs, or at the very least, seem created exclusively for them.

So this now begs the question, “how can this be achieved?”

Personal Recognition Platform

Having a personal recognition platform is a powerful tool. It allows employees and management to directly congratulate each other through a single medium. But within the context of that medium, some specific approaches are particularly effective.

Focus on everyone. Not all employees are top performers, but that doesn’t mean that, within the limits of their abilities, they can’t still do some good. Even if they’re not faring well, simply noticing improvement will do wonders to boost someone’s confidence and encourage further effort.

If an employee is struggling at work, he or she may focus on failures, leaving subtle positive progress unnoticed. Not only will pointing out good changes encourage harder work, but it will reduce the chance of them quitting in frustration. In other words, it’s an effective counter against turnover.

Being personal also needs to be part of the platform. General messages to the team don’t acknowledge individual contribution. It’s hardly fair to see the team slacker get the same praise as those who really took initiative. Take the time to touch base with every employee directly. Regular or even spontaneous (time permitting) coaching sessions usually work best in this regard.

The same applies to tangible rewards. If you know your employee is a fan of music, then concert tickets to their favorite band, for instance, will show how much attention you’ve paid to their individual interests.

Providing variety in terms of rewards is an effective practice. Obviously, people have multiple interests. Not only will changing the rewards maintain a degree of surprise and novelty, but it will also demonstrate just how well you know your staff.

Be transparent about how rewards work. If you’re trying to help an employee improve, explain how you intend to help and what they have to gain. For instance, let’s say you give out customized quarterly rewards for employees who stay on track. Remind them that they too will be eligible if they reach goal “x.”

Say “thank you.” At the end of the day, no form of recognition is more personal (or cheaper) than a simple statement of gratitude; however, you need to tell them why you’re grateful and also how their contribution or achievement worked to make their workplace or the company better. For instance, did they help boost sales for the quarter and contribute to slightly higher bonuses? No doubt that’s something they’ll be proud of. But even small, positive impacts are noteworthy and will generate an equal amount of pride.

Ultimately, recognition is a tricky thing. It’s a technique that often requires a great deal of trial and error. The key here is to truly get to know your staff. Once you’re familiar with their interests, personalized, effective rewards will seamlessly fall into place.