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How managers should ‘stop, look and listen’ with employee recognition

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

As children we are told to Stop, Look and Listen before crossing the road, teaching us important lessons about safety. This same approach can and should be applied when it comes to recognition, teaching managers important lessons that will protect your company by engaging and retaining your critical talent.

Step 1: Stop

The first step for managers is to stop – stop what they’re doing and understand why recognition is important. If they don’t, trust me, they’ll never embrace recognition, thinking it’s a waste of their time. 

Here’s some data to share with them to convince them of the power of recognition, and the difference it can make to improve business metrics, have employees work harder, and reduce turnover.

  1. Organizations where recognition occurs have 14% better employee engagement, productivity and customer service than those without – Bersin by Deloitte.

  2. 69% of employees said they would work harder if they felt their efforts were better appreciated – Socialcast.

  3. Almost half of employees said they would leave a company that didn’t praise or thank them enough for the work they did – Reward Gateway.

And if data isn’t enough to do the job, here’s a great blog written by my friend Alexandra Powell titled ‘How to turn a recognition skeptic into a believer’ that can give you some more tips.

Step 2: Look

Great, you’ve gotten past the hurdle of your managers knowing why recognition is important. But what about helping them understand how and when to recognize? What I’ve seen happen time and time again is that managers wait for recognition moments to magically appear in front of them, and only then do they recognize their employees. This can cause huge problems because they end up recognizing either the wrong moments, or miss the important ones.

This generally leads to recognizing those that are the obvious, or easily seen moments (e.g. someone does a great job organizing and running a team party), or the loudest moments (e.g. to those employees who shout the loudest about the great work that they’ve done). 

According to a Reward Gateway study, 45% of employees feel that their manager unfairly rewards certain people over others.

If instead, managers would proactively look for recognition moments, looking as I like to say ‘in all directions’. Suggest that they picture themselves having eyes not just in the front, but on the sides and back of their head (sort of like one of those friendly monsters in the movie ‘Monsters Inc.’) By doing this, you’re able to see things in all directions, not just being able to see what’s directly in front of you. 

Step 3: Listen

Last, but certainly not least, is to listen. When it comes to road safety, this step involves listening for cars, trains, etc., any form of danger. For recognition, there is an element of listening for danger signs, e.g. managers listening for signs that employees don’t feel recognition is being done well, but there’s also an element of active listening, so not just looking, but listening for recognition moments.

What I mean by this is that managers are not the only ones who can (or should) look for recognition moments. There are others all around them that need to be doing this as well, making sure that there are many eyes and ears focused on this important process.

Ask other employees on your team to be on the lookout for recognition moments, other managers, anyone and everyone that interacts with your team. By doing this you are creating a culture of continuous recognition, and also making sure that you don’t miss these important recognition moments.

And in case you want data to support these points, here are two more pieces of useful data:

  1. 75% of employees receiving at least monthly recognition, even informal, are satisfied with their job – BambooHR

  2. Peer-to-peer recognition is 35.7% more likely to have a positive impact on financial results than manager-only recognition – SHRM.

So please share this with your managers and/or anyone else in your company who you feel this would help. Together, we can remove the dangers of recognition that isn’t done well and make sure that all our employees feel valued and appreciated, and do their best for your company.


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