As a manager, your key role is helping your employees get things done. Today, let’s talk about one of the most important things you can do to motivate your employees to work harder and make the workplace a more creative, productive environment. That one thing is praise: the explicit recognition of hard work and extra effort.
Today’s blog discusses how praise is critical for motivating workers to try harder and stay focused.
First, let’s look at common arguments not-so-great managers use when confronted with a call to praise and recognize their worker’s successes.
1) Their recognition is that bi-weekly paycheck. My workers are compensated well, isn't that enough?
Not really. Good pay and benefits are very important, but they should be seen as appropriate compensation in exchange for the worker’s giving their labor to management. It is fundamentally transactional. You shouldn't look at pay as an active motivator that will drive employee energy throughout the year. To put it another way, a nice annual raise on December 31 isn't really going to motivate someone on a Friday afternoon at 11:00 am in late spring. Compensation is critical to attracting and keeping employees, but just “ keeping” employees isn't going to drive a business to new levels. You need something else, something that will drive daily excitement and motivation in the workplace. That something else is personalized recognition whenever extra effort yields great results.
2) Workers are adults. They shouldn't need praise like kids.
Yes, this can be a tempting attitude to adopt, but it wouldn't be correct. Recognition of good work is an exceptionally strong motivator, and that need does not fade as we grow older. We all appreciate recognition. No matter how old you are, the need for recognition never goes away.
By recognition, I mean recognition for truly good performance and specific actions that stand out from the norm. The worst thing you can do is offer vague, unspecific praise that reveals your lack of knowledge of what your employee is doing. Praise for its own sake is hollow and recognizable as such. Instead, notice when someone has devoted a lot of effort to ensure a project is done well. Take note not only of the good results, but the extra effort that was involved to succeed. They will appreciate that you noticed and work even harder next time, knowing their effort was appreciated.
3) We already have a formal rewards and recognition program
Many organizations, large and small, have institutionalized their employee reward programs. Employee of the month plaques, VIP parking place for a week, plaques, trophies, etc. These are often given for meeting benchmarks, or for going that extra mile as voted by peers or management. These are all great, and you should consider how they might fit into your organization if you don’t already have one. However, these programs complement more personal recognition efforts; they don't replace them. They do not absolve the individual manager from taking the time to note individual achievements. Every manager should be praising employees for their outstanding work on a weekly basis. And, it should be personally delivered. It may seem simple, but taking the two minutes to pull someone aside and acknowledge you observed them doing something great really goes a long way.
4) It feels silly praising my best employees all the time. We all know they are doing great.
Well, at first blush that may seem true. it would seem every week you’re just repeating the same thing. What is really happening if you stop supporting their efforts is that you are taking your best employees for granted. Think how it appears from their perspective. If you begin to slack off, no longer recognizing their successes, your silence may send a disturbing message. That message is that their work is unappreciated or unnecessary. They may soon be tempted to slack off. “I go out of my way, and no one notices anymore. Why bother?”
A last note: Recognition works better if it is personalized.
Understand that different employees respond to different forms of praise and recognition. Public praise might be embarrassing to some, and an added motivator for others. If recognition includes some material or other concrete benefit, try to vary it based on your knowledge of an employee's interests. Baseball tickets for the opera fan aren't very useful.