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Hate Micromanaging? Try Employee Recognition!

A manager recently wrote:

“I am usually reminded that I haven’t been offering enough recognition  when an employee who especially craves recognition seeks me out on matters he generally sees to for himself.”

 I am often asked, “How much recognition is enough?” While there is no definitive answer, this manager has found a gauge that works for her. When this employee shows up in her office it means the team needs an infusion.

Why does employee self-initiative act as such a great indicator? Because employee recognition reduces the need for micro-managing. With enough recognition, people are confident and motivated. They know what you want, and they want to give it to you.

So many managers complain that people won’t think for themselves. These tend to be the same managers who think that recognition is a waste of their time. They believe they should focus on what is wrong in order to help people get better.

The manager who wrote this note knows better. She has experienced the direct correlation between self-initiative and recognition. When she sees a drop in that initiative she knows it is time spread a little appreciation around.

Copyright 2009 Cindy Ventrice

Employee Recognition: Small Budget, Big Payback

I’ve been working on a program I’ll be giving in Santa Clara on March 19th. The topic is employee recognition in a down economy. I am finding that many organizations don’t realize that recogniton doesn’t have to suffer because budgets have been slashed. In fact recognition becomes even more critical as morale is battered from so many directions.

There are two main points I plan to clarify for participants.

1) Recognition Doesn’t Have to Cost a Dime

With all the press about extravagant events, I am finding that it is even more important to talk about the difference between rewards and recognition. Employee appreciation events are rewards. Bonuses and incentives are rewards. Even company logo t-shirts are rewards (although they are not always appreciated rewards).

Recognition is an act, not a thing. Recognition doesn’t cost anything. Sometimes recognition is accompanied by a reward, but most of the time it is a thank you, praise, a new challenge, being trusted to do the right thing, or simply working with someone who knows you and what you bring to the team.

2) The Returns Are Enormous

The payback for offering meaningful recognition, for creating programs that make people feel visible and valued, is a workforce that is resilient, motivated, and highly productive. There are statistics and ancedotes a plenty to prove the value of good recognition.

Small budget, big payback. What more could you want?

Employee Recognition Is Up in Down Economy

A recent CareerBuilderSurvey found that while companies are cutting down on perks, benefits, travel and incentives, employee recognition is actually up!

It seems that the benefits of sound recognition programs are understood in most organizations. They know that the returns of good recognition far outweigh the costs.

Want to reap some of those returns? Forget about expensive appreciation events and awards for now. Focus on recognition between individuals.

Manager-driven programs produce the best results so teach managers how to build meaningful recognition into their overburdened schedules without causing additional hardship.

Second to manager-driven recognition is peer-driven recognition. Set up simple peer awards with little or no monetary component so that they don’t require a lot of oversight.

Create programs that drive your most important business initiatives. This helps morale and produces the results you really need right now.

Have some ideas you would like to share? I want to hear them!

Employee Recognition In the News

On Sunday, John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo took out a full page ad in The New York Times and Washington Post to explain a Las Vegas trip for mortgage employees.  Stumpf believes the media misrepresented the event and created public outrage over use of their bailout funds.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what make employee recognition excessive, particularly in these economic times. If you have followed my work for long you know that employee recognition does not have to cost much and can, in fact, be free. With that in mind, let’s look at the Wells Fargo situation.

Wells Fargo, pre-bailout, was one of our strongest banks. I believe that it is no coincidence that they also have an enviable recognition culture. I featured them in Make Their Day.  We have worked together from time to time, and I know that they are a solid company that knows how to do recognition right. 

As Stumpf stated, “Events such as [the Las Vegas trip] are the heart of our culture.”  and “We believe our profits actually increase by rewarding and recognizing our best performers.”

Recognition improves productivity, service, and profitability, but is that enough to justify this event? From a return on investment perspective, absolutely. But ROI isn’t enough in the situation.

Let’s take a look at the situation through the lens of public opinion.

On October 14, Wells Fargo sold $25 billion in preferred stock to the Treasury. Earlier in October they had stated that they didn’t want bailout funding.  I don’t know why they changed their minds, but they did. They took public assistance, and the public interpretes that to mean that they need our money just to stay afloat. True or not, that is the perception. Now the public expects Wells Fargo to operate in accordance with a company in dire circumstances.

So, was this event excessive? From a good recognition practice perspective, no, it isn’t excessive for a company celebrating its high achievers and signifcant success.  From the perspective of a company that has taken bailout? Absolutely excessive. When a company goes public their actions are tempered by shareholder opinion. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that when you take public money your every action is held up to public scrutiny.

Keeping Your Team Engaged in a Crisis

If you read Make Their Day you might remember Remedy Software. They were acquired by a company that quickly pulled them into a quamire when accounting descrepancies emerged. The CEO and CFO of the parent company resigned and, ultimately, the company was delisted on NASDAQ.

This was a company in crisis. Many companies are in crisis today. Does that mean that, along with being leaner, they have to be meaner? Hopefully, you know the answer to that question is a resounding “No!”

Remedy chose to maintain its pre-acquisition values and strategies. They put people on equal footing with profits and customer satisfaction. They did everything they could to insure that people felt valued. Yes, it was a lot of work. Yes, sometimes managers dug into their own pockets to pay for recognition that the struggling parent company wouldn’t authorize.

The result? They maintained morale, increased customer satisfaction, and grew their revenue stream!

Your organization is probably having a tough time of it. You don’t have money for raises. Hours are being cut. Pay is being reduced. There is no money for recognition. Morale is suffering. There couldn’t be a better time not to abandon your recognition efforts.

Keep these points in mind:

  • The most meaningful recognition is free. It is a few positive words, an assignment that provides a development opportunity,  or even a chance to spend a few minutes just chatting with someone within your reporting structure.
  • People want to be part of the solution. Keep them apprised and ask for their help in getting back on track.
  • Plan some fun celebrations (find something to celebrate!)…but remember that when employees are sacrificing raises or even having their pay cut, they don’t want to think that you are squandering their money.

How to Keep Your Headcount When Others Are Losing Theirs

A study by the Academy of Management Journal on the correlation between layoff and voluntary turnover found that layoffs will ultimately affect your ability to retain your best workers. They found that more than five times as many workers left voluntarily than were laid off during any round of workforce reduction.

You probably aren’t in a position to influence whether or not layoffs happen. So what do you do?

1) Treat people with utmost respect when conducting layoffs. Don’t treat them like criminals.  Those that remain are watching you. Your behavior sends a powerful message about how employees are valued.

2) Work to maintain morale. Those that remain have survivor guilt. They are overworked. They are fearful of losing their jobs. Those are some powerful demotivators. To counteract these focus on setting clear goals, communicate expectations,  celebrate small successes, and most importantly, keep your focus on your people.

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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