Monday, May 19, 2014

Ditch the Flowers – Employee Recognition Deserves More Time and Thought

Once upon at time, before I quit my job and started my own business, I was just an average employee like the 90 percent of the world. I went to work, put in a hard day’s effort, came home to spend time with family and started the routine all over again the next day.

My last career transition took me from a Fortune 500 company to a small office of three. When it comes to employee recognition, ’ll never forget one day in particular at my last job. As I was pounding away at my computer, feverishly updating an employee handbook for a client, a flower delivery came to the office. The arrangement was simple yet elegant, with flowers that screamed springtime but not high price.

I worked with two men, so instantly I knew the flowers were likely not for them. My name was carefully printed on the card. A little surprised and perplexed, I took the flowers back to my desk. I wondered if my husband had called in a delivery to surprise me, but that didn’t seem to add up. So I opened the envelope and read the card. The card read “Happy Administrative Professionals Day! We appreciate all you do!” It was signed by both of my bosses.

While that seems like a very kind gesture, it sent a mixed message to me. At the time I received these flowers I was not a receptionist, administrative assistant or general office support person. In fact, I was managing and directing the entire human resources division of this company, overseeing HR management for over 50 clients and a few hundred employees.

As an employee I recognized the gesture was meant to make me feel appreciated, but in fact it almost did the opposite. It made me feel that my bosses viewed me as basic administrative support.

I can tell you that never happened again in our office. My bosses found other ways to recognize me and encourage me -- probably by trial and error, but at least based on some knowledge of what motivated me personally and professionally.

This is why it is so important to carefully craft how you do your employee recognition within a company. What you may feel are thoughtful efforts could actually be perceived by your employees as something completely different. The occasional company-paid lunch, company party or office potluck are great ways to break the monotony of the work day, but they should never be the only efforts you do to recognize your employees. Trust me when I say there are thousands of ways to recognize your employees and show them you appreciate, all of them cost efficient and effective.

How do you do to show your employees you care and how do you do it? For starters, put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Think about what would mean most to you as an employee if you were being recognized by your company. What could the company do to recognize you as an employee to make you feel valued? Maybe offer an extra paid time off day? Lunch time massages? Many massage clinics will offer free chair massages at your business just to help increase their business.

Think above and beyond bonus checks and potlucks and try to envision what would mean most to them. Remember as children, after working hard on a project or chore, getting recognition from your parents or teachers and how much it meant to you? Positive recognition and reinforcement is just as effective for adults as it is for children.

I am not suggesting that you have a smiley face sticker board for employees or a treasure chest. Everyone wants to feel like their work has a higher purpose.

From support jobs all the way up the ladder to management, finding ways to recognize and appreciate the employees for the work they do jobs makes a difference.

Taking extra time up just to change up the day-to-day can also make a difference when it comes to employee recognition. Encourage feedback for a specific idea or change from employees, and then
make a point of not only implementing the change but communicate to all employees the reason for the change and that it came from an employee's suggestion.

Making the workplace “fun” is also a way to recognize employees. Locally, one of our major employers in southeast Idaho held one of its annual conferences in Orlando, Fla., and rented out Disney World for the entire company. I know the rest of the world may not be able to manage such a fun effort, but think outside the box on this one. Maybe an afternoon of team-building through the summer, with outdoor activities like golf, zip lining or scavenger hunts around the office (if you have a large enough one) or town.

While there is no magical answer to how you should recognize your employees, your efforts should
reflect your company culture and employee base. Taking time to carefully craft your employee recognition efforts can have greater rewards than just boosted employee morale. You can have a dedicated, engaged and loyal workforce that makes a difference with your company for many years to come.