I asked a friend about the frequency of compliments or recognition she received for her work throughout her career. Her response was “Not often enough.”
Unfortunately, this is true for most employees. I wonder why that is. Let me share some ideas with you.
Firstly, there is denial. Many managers and supervisors believe that if they are already paying someone to do their job, there is no need to praise or recognize them for it.
However, the truth is that money may bring employees into the company, but it won’t necessarily make them stay.
So what will make them stay? Recognition. Praise. Feeling valued.
Let’s face it, most managers and supervisors haven’t been trained on how to effectively recognize employees. They often find themselves in these positions without the necessary training to engage and motivate their employees.
Interestingly, I’ve observed that highly intelligent individuals often struggle with soft skills. They have difficulty expressing their thoughts and fail to acknowledge the importance of appreciating employees. They may take employees for granted without realizing that they need to be valued and acknowledged.
To make recognition effective, it needs to be genuine, specific, sincere, and timely.
Simply recognizing employees once a year during performance reviews is not enough. Merely saying, “Alice, you did a great job” isn’t sufficient either. We should specify the task we are referring to, express what impressed us, and let her know how proud we are of her and her work.
Furthermore, it’s crucial to recognize employees in front of their coworkers. Doing so not only boosts the pride of the recognized employees but also motivates others to excel and be recognized.
We can even take it a step further by recognizing employees in front of customers.
For example, while walking around and noticing Allan assisting a customer, we might stop, introduce ourselves to the customer, and say, “Allan is one of our best employees. I know he’ll take great care of you.”
One great thing about using recognition as motivation is that it doesn’t cost anything. In fact, it saves money by reducing employee turnover and the associated costs of hiring and training new employees.
Unlike giving someone a raise, recognition requires no approval. You are free to reward employees with your words and build a cohesive, high-performing team that drives your business forward. In the NFL, a coach who fails to motivate players and foster teamwork will be fired.
My research indicates that when given a choice between $100 or a complimentary note written on a manager’s personal stationery, most employees would choose the note. Why? Because once they spend the $100, it’s gone.
But a handwritten note is personal and enduring. I have a friend who has saved such notes throughout her career. She keeps them in a file and revisits them annually to remind herself that her efforts are appreciated.
Now, I must emphasize that there are some employees who simply cannot be motivated, no matter what you do. Even though they physically show up at work every day, mentally, they have already checked out.
A few months ago, Ford Motor Company announced that it is giving its underperforming white-collar employees the choice to leave with a severance package or enroll in a performance enhancement program. Employees who choose the enhancement program but fail to improve will be terminated without severance.
Ford Motor Company recognizes what many other companies don’t: if you have exhausted all efforts to recognize and motivate employees, and nothing changes, it’s better to cut your losses and let them go.
John Tschohl, the founder and president of the Service Quality Institute, is a globally recognized authority in customer service. With operations in over forty countries, the Institute is the leader in customer service training. Tschohl has developed seventeen customer service training programs, including Handling Irate Customers, which are utilized by companies worldwide. The Institute also offers a monthly strategic newsletter available online.