Recognition and Difficult Times

Employee recognition has been dealt two blows recently:

1) The economy. As companies experience (or anticipate) tough times it can make recognition spending seem frivolous. Budgets are being cut as organizations insist that managers focus on the “important stuff.”

2) Scandals. Expensive employee events thrown by struggling or bankrupt companies have been making the news. Companies have begun to cancel their holiday parties for fear of being seen in a similar light.

You might be wondering, now what? Do we put recognition on hold, and ride out economic bad times?

I have been in this business long enough to see us cycle through poor economic conditions. I have seen companies where morale has weathered the crisis and others where people are out the door the moment they have the opportunity.

The answer to whether you should put recognition on hold is, no, not if you want to keep your people motivated and productive.

When times are tough, people still need to hear that they are valued. You are probably asking them to do more with less. This can send the message that people are not valued. Quality recognition helps you correct that impression.

So if recognition is critical does that mean you should go ahead and have the glitzy party? Probably not. But a chance for everyone to get together, socialize, and share some simple refreshments? Why would you not?

Let’s burst a myth shall we? Hit play below:

Meaningful and Inexpensive

Meaningful recognition is not expensive. Did you know that 57 percent of people say that the most meaningful recognition they have received was free? Here are a few ideas for free or inexpensive recognition:

A hand-written note of praise or appreciation – simple, powerful, and long-lasting.

A symbolic award – a light bulb for a bright idea (make it the twisty flourescent kind if the idea is green), a magnifying glass for attention to detail, or a big golden paper clip for keeping things together.

Traveling trophy – pick an object that represents a behavior you want to reinforce (see symbolic award). You might choose Leonardo DaVinci to represent willingness to go outside the job description.  Or how about a magnetic sculpture that represents teamwork? Whatever you choose, make it big enough that everyone can see it. Award it to someone with instructions that they are to award it to the next person or with instructions to return it to you in a week so you can award it to the next recipient.

Time Off – This is the most preferred award you can give and it is relatively inexpensive. Give out “hall passes” or “get out of jail free” cards as spot awards. Make them good for one or two hours off that people can use at their discretion.

Have an idea for inexpensive recognition? Let me know.

Copyright Cindy Ventrice 2008


My name is Cindy Ventrice. I am the author of the best-selling book Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works and the companion guide Recognition Strategies That Work.

My work has been quoted in The New York Times, Alaska Airlines Magazine, Workforce Magazine, and Tim Sanders' book The Likeability Factor.

Visit my website today!

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