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The art and science of employee recognition.

According to the U.S. Bureau of labor Statistics, the number one reason people leave their jobs is that they "don't fed appreciated." Numerous other studies have polled employees and found that recognition and "feeling valued" often rank above pay. That says a lot about human nature at work--and it becomes quite relevant when you consider the prediction that a significant percentage of good talent will be looking for more satisfying jobs once the economy rebounds.

There have always been organizations that have made recognition a part of their culture, understanding how positive reinforcement can raise morale and how that in itself can set into motion a myriad of other desirable business outcomes. For others, giving kudos to employees can fall by the wayside as the rapid pace of any given work environment may leave little time available to maintain recognition programming

Other factors that hinder systematic positive reinforcement include managers and supervisors simply not knowing how to effectively show recognition, and therefore shying away from doing it, We've also seen organizations where an attitude of, "Why should we reward employees just for doing their job?" may exist, demonstrating a lack of understanding about how to truly motivate better job performance

One of the most massive and in-depth studies undertaken to measure workplace productivity was performed by the Jackson Organization and Healthstream Research. This 10-year global study looked at the results of over 200,000 interviews with management and employees as well as at the links between employee recognition and direct fiscal outcomes.

Boiled down, the results strongly indicated that companies that implement positive reinforcement for desirable work behaviors also make more money. This research also supported what is already known: That these companies also hit higher marks for being intrinsically better places to work More specific findings included:

* Those companies where employees scored the highest in rating their managers as doing "a good job at recognizing employee contributions" also came in at the top in regard to customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and employee retention.

* Companies rated as most "effective in recognizing excellence," saw their return on equity as well as return on assets tripled in comparison to those organizations that were rated lowest in recognition.

Effective recognition

Fortunately, there is a great deal of information and assistance available to help an organization either start a recognition program or enhance one already in place

Here are what we see as the most important aspects of an employee recognition program:

* Delineate the behaviors you want to see to make your organization thrive. A good place to start is to look for any expectations in your mission statement. Even if it seems obvious, spell out those actions and then recognize efforts made towards enacting those defined behaviors.

* Consider whether interpersonal behaviors should be included in your recognition programming. Companies where respectful behavior becomes the norm among all employees can go a long way in helping that organization run more cooperatively and efficiently.

* Pair praise with rewards that are meaningful and actually desirable to your employees. Use a simple survey to see what forms of recognition matter the most and will have the most powerful impact

* Praise should be specific and timely. Telling employees that they are doing a "good job" may be too vague. Telling them that they handled a customer complaint with professionalism and in reflection of the company's value of enhanced customer satisfaction is much more effective. Why? Because you let them know exactly what behaviors are appreciated, therefore increasing the likelihood of repeating that level of performance in the future.

Just as there is a need to teach desired behavior to employees, there also may be a need to teach management how and when to effectively use recognition.

Debra LeClair, a licensed psychologist, and Heidi Page, who has a master's in social work, own Platinum Principle Training & Development, a company that offers communication training and coaching to improve teamwork, morale and productivity throughout the work environment. They can be reached at 603-391-2395 or
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Title Annotation:Workplace Communication; United States. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Author:Page, Heidi; Leclair, Debra
Publication:New Hampshire Business Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 26, 2008
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