Understand Colleagues Recognition Preferences

3 Minutes Read

I was at a surprise birthday a few years back and, as is the norm, screamed Happy Birthday when the guest of honor responded. During the holiday season we all wish Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. I was thinking lately, is that all we can say?  I mean it’s expected and I’m going to say it quite happily. 

This can also be directly applied to employee engagement. When I am meeting with the Human Resources leaders I deal with regularly for KangoGift, I am also asked not so much about what they should say, that’s easy enough.  No I am asked what is expected to be said.  What would those recognized would like to hear, and how, so that we have an authentic experience for the recipient. 

There are those two words we hear all the time, “authentic experience.” So how can we be authentic when telling employees what they want to hear?  What people expect to hear is as important as what you want to say.  It’s tricky but it’s also manageable. 

Let’s start with 3 concepts. 

We should talk about: 

  • Celebrating the journey
  • Being Positive
  • Make them look good to hirer ups

How about we look into these in more detail?

Celebrating the Journey— Whenever I hear about this I remember the old proverb about the destination not being as good as the journey.  As someone who has hiked the Appalachian Trial I can tell you that’s very true. No matter if I went a short distance or a great one, I never said I went 12 miles. I thought about the views and the people I met. 

Of course we all plan to break open the bottle of champagne or have a great pizza party once the project is done and its goal is achieved.  But the steps along the way are every bit as important when it comes to recognition and engagement.  Waiting until the end just isn’t going to cut it.  There needs to be feedback during the process for the successful execution of that stage. 

There is also something to be said for the power of being positive.  Times are tough and they will always be tough. There is a reason we are all nostalgic for the past it’s because people always think the present is terrible.  Take away that concerns about the present by making sure the team knows you are happy with their ongoing performance. Be authentic with your engagement and be frequent with how you recognize your teams.

Being Positive–This is a nice segue into the next process and that is about being positive. You need to engage your teams in a positive light so they feel properly motivated.  This isn’t about blowing smoke their way. Fake smiles will do more damage than real scowls. You need to be authentic in your positivity or people may start to think they are part of a cult. 

Being positive is not about being a cheerleader.  It’s about acting and reacting to the various needs of your team. One thing I tell the HR leaders I speak with is that providing positive engagement with your teams is a great way to let them know you understand and appreciate the challenges they face and that you recognize what they are up against. 

Make them look good to higher ups–Looking good to higher ups is the cornerstone of career advancement.  But, as always it needs to be authentic. If employee A is getting 90% of the recognition then the rest of the team is going to notice as much as higher-ups will. A sure fire way to disruption in the team dynamic. 

What this is really about for the leaders I see, is that the successful implementation of values is a great way to look good to higher ups.  If the company values innovation then the employees will expect communications along the lines of recognizing their successful innovation.  The communication from top down will say how your excellence proves that the company’s value structure is valid because you are making it so. 

The benefit to employees is that they can see more than just the contribution to the organization’s larger goals.  They can see the contribution to the organization’s achieving its value statement which they, hopefully, are behind. 

Again this has to be an authentic action.  Hollow values will have a steep detrimental effect on employee morale and their desire to contribute.  When they see your values are truly inline with theirs you will see employees more open to other forms of engagement.

Reaching out to employees and team members in a way they expect is not very difficult.  I’d like to leave you with a few takeaways.

  • Let your teams know that it’s about the journey as well as the destination and recognize them accordingly
  • Be positive but make sure you’re authentic and responding to the specific needs of the team and the organization
  • Make your employees look good to higher ups while telling them a message that adheres to the organization’s mission and your teams belief in it

You need to talk to your employees in such a way that it meets what they are expecting to hear.  Doing this is also known as telling the truth. Be authentic, let your employees know they are appreciated and contributing to a great goal and the accomplishment of the mission and you will build a stronger and more engaged team. 

Todd Horton