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Did you Know?

Basics to Motivating People

Humans need to be recognized. According to Abraham Maslow, a famous psychologist, in his paper, The Theory of Motivation, "humans need to be recognized for work well done, opportunities for accomplishment, achievement, and independence."

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, human beings have five different types of needs:

  • Biological and Physiological Needs such as water and food
  • Safety Needs like shelter
  • Love Needs such as belonging and acceptance
  • Esteem Needs which include respect, rewards, and recognition
  • Self-Actualization Needs which include personal challenge and advancement

Each need must be met fully before the next need can be attained. For example, all Biological and Physiological Needs – food and water – must be met before an individual will seek out shelter. All Safety Needs like shelter must be met before an individual will seek out love from another person and so on.

The basic human needs exist at work. The Organizational Pyramid, pictured below, illustrates how basic human needs are expressed at work.

The five different types of Organizational Needs include:

  • Compensation and Benefits includes fair pay, health insurance, and retirement
  • Location and Working Conditions includes the commute, available resources, and working environment
  • Acceptance and Involvement includes a feeling of belonging
  • Recognition includes being acknowledged for a job well done
  • Advancement and Growth includes the opportunity to grow and be challenged

Below is a picture of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the Organizational Pyramid.

Effects of Recognition in the Corporate World

According to John Knotter, author of Culture and Performance, companies that pay attention to employees enjoy exceptional increases to the bottom line when compared to companies that only pay attention to the bottom line. In this study, employee-focused organizations increased their revenue 483% over the bottom-line focused competition.

Source: Culture and Performance, John Knotter; Contented Cows Give Better Milk, Fresh Milk, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden.

According to the Revenue Comparison study below, companies that reward employees make more money over a five-year time period compared to companies that do not reward employees.

Source: Contented Cows Give Better Milk, Fresh Milk, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden.

It is clear that recognition programs have a direct effect on the financial performance of a company. Use this information when you meet with a client. These facts prove that recognition programs pay off.

Recognition increases the bottom line, however, that is not the only benefit of a recognition program – it affects employees and customers as well!

Key Results Obtained Through Recognition

Below is a description of how recognition programs affect employees and the corporate culture!

Recognition Programs Keep Employees Engaged

Recognition increases the level of employee engagement in an organization. Recognizing an employee for a job well done illustrates exactly what he or she did that made a difference. This helps the employee know what behavior(s) to repeat in the future. Feedback like this helps employees stay engaged in their work.

Lower Turnover

As a whole, engaged workplaces have low turnover, high customer loyalty, and are more profitable. In fact, engaged employees are 50% more productive than disengaged workers! Additionally, recognition builds a stronger relationship between the manager and the employee. As this relationship grows, employees develop a loyalty to the manager and the organization.

Recognition Programs Improve Employee Performance

When employees are appreciated for their work they are more likely to repeat rewarding behavior. These employees are more engaged in their work and are more loyal to the company than disengaged employees. According to Jeffery Pfeffer of the Stanford School of Business, “Thirty percent of employees improve performance after being criticized; 90% of employees improve performance after being praised.” It is clear that employees who are praised do better work.

Higher Customer Satisfaction

Recognition makes a company profitable because recognized employees are more engaged in their work. Engaged employees perform at a higher level and give better service. As a result, customers are more satisfied and will continue to do business with the organization.

Managers: The Key Ingredient

Managers are the key ingredient to a recognition program for two reasons:

1. Employees work for managers, not organizations
2. The manager-employee relationship determines employee satisfaction

Feedback from a manager makes an employee feel either appreciated or unimportant. Employees choose to leave a job when they are unappreciated. So, employees decide to leave a job based on the relationship with their manager, not the organization.

The relationship an employee has with his or her manager also determines his or her satisfaction at work. According to a recent study by Northwestern University’s Forum for People Performance Management, “Interaction between managers and employees with regards to supportiveness and goal-setting, as well as job design are … key drivers of employee engagement.

How to Build Manager Buy-In

The most effective way to build manager buy-in is to illustrate the effect a recognition program has on the bottom line. You will get a manager’s attention when you paint a picture of how a recognition program will combat the employee issues in the organization.

Another way to gain manager buy-in is through an endorsement from a respected leader who “gets it.” These individuals are advocates for the recognition program, and because of their influence, will have a direct effect on the success of the program. Lastly, managers are especially receptive to recognition programs when the organization is facing a crisis because recognition programs lift morale.

Manager Accountability

Most companies have a hard time holding managers accountable for their role in a recognition program. The most effective way to do this is by setting up a system to help the manager. Here are some suggestions:

  • Start by adding “recognizing employees” to the manager job description.
  • Train managers to make meaningful recognition presentations.
  • Develop an easy way for managers to track their progress.
  • Report the results of the recognition program back to the managers. Let them know what is working and what is not working.

Senior Level Managers vs. Middle Managers

Managers are the key ingredient to the success of a recognition program. They oversee the day-to-day activities in an organization and have the most opportunities to recognize employees for a job well done.

Managers consider recognition one-way to invest in their employees. Most managers agree that recognition is necessary for the health of the organization. However, senior level managers play a distinctly different role then middle managers.

Senior level managers and middle managers promote employee recognition in different ways. In general, senior managers are responsible for putting together the recognition strategy, while middle managers are responsible for implementing the strategy.

Senior managers define and document the recognition program. They build recognition requirements into the job description for middle managers. Periodically, they review the recognition plan to make sure it is still working as intended. Lastly, senior managers support the program by advocating for it whenever possible.

Middle managers implement the recognition program. They present employees with formal, informal, and day-to-day recognition. They determine when and how recognition is distributed in their department. They also implement any necessary changes to the recognition program.

Why Managers Don't Recognize Employees

Managers use recognition for a variety of reasons. Recognition is most effective when it is used as a strategic management tool to engage employees in their work.

However, some managers shy away from recognizing employees. Managers don’t use recognition because they believe:

  • It’s not valuable
  • I don’t have time
  • I don’t know what to say, who to say it too, or how often to say it
  • I’m afraid I’ll leave someone out

Combat these issues by creating a clear link between the business objectives and the recognition program. Recognition becomes important when managers can use it as a tool to get results.

Here is an example:
A production manager wants to maintain a level of cleanliness in the production area. A clean work environment lowers the risk of injury on the job. Help the production manager create a recognition program to reward employees that consistently keep the work environment clean to the standard set by the production manager. Set up a weekly check system to measure results over time. Based on the results, reward the top performing employees.

When and How Often To Recognize

When to Recognize

Managers need to know how to recognize employees, when to recognize, and how often. First, managers must identify what behaviors to recognize. When they see that behavior displayed in the workforce, the manager should recognize it immediately. According to recognition expert, Bob Nelson:

Recognition is most meaningful when it is given soon after the desired behavior or performance. Recognition loses its meaning when it is not timely, which means that saving up individual recognition for an annual performance appraisal or awards banquet is counterproductive.

How Often to Recognize

Recognition should be a daily management practice using tactics such as personal praise, thank you notes, or public praise. This type of daily recognition does not need to be formal or time-consuming. In 1991, Professor Gerald Graham of Wichita State University asked 1500 workers what motivated them most. The number one motivator reported was “manager personally congratulates employees who do a good job.”

Source: The Complete Guide: The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook by Bob Nelson 2003

What to Say

Managers often stop in their tracks just before the presentation because they don’t know what to say. The key to any recognition event is the presentation. Take the fear out of this experience by training your managers to effectively communicate their thoughts and feelings. Preparing to recognize a deserving employee is the most important part of any recognition event. Use the guide below to help you phrase your thoughts in a personally meaningful way!

I saw what you did…
I appreciate it…
Here’s why it is important…

The importance of including managers in the recognition program is clear. Organizations that involve managers build successful recognition programs!