Extraordinary Recognition for Extraordinary Times

3 Minutes Read

I think the phrase “new normal” is being used so much that it has basically become a cliche unto itself.  It seems we have to accept everything as our new normal.  When I am walking my dog in the morning I notice more dog walkers than I used to.  Is this the “new normal” for dog walking? 

Still when I am talking to some of the sharpest HR innovators on behalf of KangoGift the new normal is just that.  They are surrounded by it every day.  All day!  One of the issues they have to deal with is the concept of what the new normal is for recognizing the contributions of their employees during COVID-19 where everyone has had to excel.  

In the past the question asked was, OK what do we want to recognize them for?  The new model is to recognize them for doing their job, especially since a large part of what they are doing was not part of their job just a few months ago.  The change we have all gone through is nothing less than extraordinary. 

Change causes anxiety, stress, even fear in many of us.  You know that the teams are facing a new set of challenges but are certainly feeling greater stress than ever before.  What they need right now is some type of feeling of support, even security from you. 

The best way to do this is to have a stronger way of recognizing them. 

Let’s be clear, your current methods of recognition no longer work.  It’s just not the case anymore.  What your program now needs to do is:

  • HR leaders need to be human so employees feel safe
  • Enhance and expand your current program
  • Make sure your employees are feeling safe and engaged

Let's talk about this in some more detail

Use rewards to make employees feel safe--Let me start by saying what this is not.  It’s not about doubling the prize on an award. 50 becoming 100 doesn’t make employees feel safe.  This is about creating a proper environment based on what is happening today. 

When I am talking about the KangoGift solution to our customers I am seeing the same anxiety in each organization.  It’s clear that there is an intangible to the recognition we are all used to.  You need to understand that your teams want recognition of their concerns and anxieties. They want to feel that there is an open format to express their concerns, where they can openly share their feelings and opinions and feel they can trust management. 

By this I mean you have to create the type of environment where an employee feels they can discuss matters that are of importance to them including matters of race for example that would not have been addressed in the workplace before recent events.  Your recognition program now needs to address these issues in a manner that allows for them to feel like these key issues are recognized by senior management and that management is open to their concerns.

Enhance and expand your current program-- Now is not the time to look at your tactical recognition program as a cost to be controlled, even cut.  In fact the opposite is true.  Right now you need to be looking for things to recognize for rather than waiting for them.

The thing I tell people is to remember that it is almost certain that people are doing not just their jobs, but the jobs of another.  This could literally be true but it can also be true in the sense that the incredible stress we are all working under from internal and external issues. It is time to recognize their accomplishments.

What I tell people is that it shouldn’t be very hard to find a reason to.  Find that life milestone, or business anniversary or congratulations on a project well done that you can use to recognize them.  This isn’t about lowering the bar in any way.  It’s about realizing that the bar has been lifted so high and your employees are doing everything to reach them.  Now is the time to be aggressive when it comes to recognition? 

Make sure your employees feel safe and engaged--Employee engagement is more important than ever.  This is the combination of the first two sections but I am calling it out on its own because you need to make sure you aren’t doing one or the other but that you’re doing both.

We all feel we know engagement and, to some extent, we still do. But as I said, engagement has now changed. A common refrain of mine is that now is the time to put the human into human resources and you need to do that more than ever because the problems your employees are dealing with a human ones.  You can’t keep the world outside of the office anymore. 

What you should do next is: 

  • Ask your employees what they want, how they feel and what makes them feel safe on both a macro and micro level. 
  • Set an example  The HR innovators I speak with know that they have to lead the way.  They make sure that putting the human in human resources starts with them so they make sure their teams get the first tastes
  • Remind managers that the seemingly mundane of the past is the exceptional of the present. Your teams have lost a great deal and seen more change then any of us could have imagined. Make sure they realize you know that. 

We all know that it’s about the journey and not the destination.  Who ever said that had no idea that 2020 would happen.  Make sure you keep your employees engaged but most of all, in today’s environment, make sure they know you are always there for a free and open discussion.  Most importantly make sure that you remiding your employees that they matter by celebrating the events that seemed small but are now very big..

Todd Horton