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Focus on the Root of Recognition
I’ve been struggling lately with the idea of employee recognition. There are so many studies and statistics that make it seem like a wonder drug. If businesses simply recognized employees more, engagement and happiness would soar. For example, more than 40% of employed Americans feel that if they were recognized more often, they would put more energy into their work, or an employee who has been recognized is 63% more likely to stay at his or her current job within the next three to six months.
Additionally, employee recognition is big business. It has grown to be a $46 billion market, and companies typically spend 1-2% on recognition programs. The upsetting part is that 87% of traditional recognition programs focus on tenure. Yep, that gift you receive when you have stuck around for 5, 10 or 15 years.
Thankfully, there are businesses who have made recognition about more than tenure, e.g., a completed project, a high-profile client win, moments of going above and beyond, and the software systems can help keep gratitude on the forefront of leaders’ minds.
The challenge that I have with recognition is that it feels more transactional, more cause and effect. You, employee, perform in a particular way and here is your reward.
What if you emphasized appreciation over recognition? How could that impact your culture?
Appreciation is different. Cambridge Dictionary defines it as being aware of something or understanding that something is valuable. It also means to be grateful for something.
Expressing appreciation says, “I see you. I am paying attention to your strengths and efforts and I am thankful.”
When appreciation is expressed, you often feel:
Appreciation focuses more on the human. It can foster more meaning for that individual, and THAT is what will elevate engagement and happiness.
Now, I’m not saying to rid your organization of recognition programs. They definitely play a role. But maybe you could also encourage expressing appreciation. I have a hunch that it could save you a lot of money and go a lot further.