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Don’t Get Trapped in the Pitfalls of Recognition - Human Motivation Can Be Delicate

Don’t Get Trapped in the Pitfalls of Recognition - Human Motivation Can Be Delicate


Formal recognition is an excellent way to reward stellar performance, improve motivation, and positively impact employee job satisfaction. Most companies use a common sense approach to “rally ‘round recognition”, rewarding employees with cash, with a pat on the back, or with a single item that can easily be shopped at retail. In return, employers whole-heartedly believe they should receive a significant return on their efforts and investment in the form of sincere appreciation, improved behavior, increased production, or better job performance.

Truth is, human motivation is a complex and delicate process. An employer’s perception of what motivates employees may not match the employee’s perception. All awards aren’t equally effective, and a poorly executed program may do more harm than good.

The good news is with a few small adjustments, common pitfalls can be avoided and new action plans can be created:

Cash vs. Merchandise

Using money to shape behavior just doesn’t cut it. If you think it did, think again on how long the improvement you were trying to accomplish lasted? Chances are the positive result lasted momentarily when the stimulus-dependent recipients went looking for the next infusion of monetary reward. Keep compensation and performance separate. Reward performance, length of service and on-the-spot (immediate) recognition with strategic-based planning that establishes benchmarks, timeframes, and rewards that are on going and deliver high-perceived value. Recognize employees with a meaningful choice of awards that have broad appeal so each recipient will find true value in your expression of appreciation.

Consistency vs. Inconsistency

Avoid a one size fits all approach. Don’t award everyone for the same thing with the same reward. Instead, set well defined goals. Reward individuals for outstanding achievement based on their job related goals.

Continuous vs. Sporadic

For greater impact, recognize specific achievements when they happen, vs. mass distribution of awards at a year end banquet or company picnic. Seize the moment; make it special and ongoing. That way, you’ll generate higher levels of enthusiasm and excitement and create a recognition environment that everyone will want to participate in, on a daily basis. Keeping it timely and meaningful keeps it real!

Generic vs. Wow-Factor Awards

Are you awarding framed certificates or the proverbial watch to everyone? Chances are, the reaction you’re receiving isn’t as positive as you anticipated. The younger generation tracks the time of day on their mobile phones, and where’s an in-field sales employee going to display their framed certificate? The more personalized the award selection, the greater the value, the greater the impact, the greater the chance others will want to achieve similar results. Tapping into an individual’s interests/lifestyles and offering a wide selection of award choices (vs. no choice) will provide a higher level of satisfaction and motivation.

Real recognition keeps employees charged and psyched. Remember to keep it interesting with a variety of constantly evolving ways to recognize and appreciate.


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