Recognition has always been a key tool of leadership but has increased in importance over the past five years.
The workplace has changed, so recognition must change as well. Here are some of the key changes and what businesses can do about it.
1. New generations
With Generation X in middle management or higher, Generation Y in the workforce and Generation Z coming in, it’s worth thinking about how these groups see recognition. For most sub-40 employees, salary is significantly less important than doing something meaningful. This is made up of your company, its products and your values, but it also includes being appreciated for contributing to that. Jokes are sometimes made about youth needing too much praise, but it’s less about ego and more about acknowledgment that they’re making a difference.
Recommendation: Annual reviews won’t retain the younger workers. They want regular small pieces of feedback so they can regularly affirm that they are at the right place doing the right things. They grew up with technology being normal, so it’s best to use it to give yourself the best chance of engaging them consistently.
2. Remote working
More companies now have multiple offices or people working in multiple locations (home, overseas, travelling). This makes quick chats to the whole team and clanging the sales bell much less effective.
Recommendation: Encouraging managers to share good news and wins to the whole team via email or a digital tool is more inclusive. Those people who are remote will be hungry for interaction, so they will need at least double the amount of recognition to make them feel the love.
Whether it’s specific roles, parents returning to the workforce or people part-time retiring (cutting down the work week to three or four days), non-fulltime staff are increasing across the board and they also have different needs. Less time often means more focus, which is great for productivity but can be bad for recognition. They have less extra times for meetings, coffees and casual chats. This reduces opportunities for investment in them as well as moments for feedback. They often work on smaller projects or ‘glue’ roles where they get lots of little things done, both of which can lead to less major moments of recognition.
Recommendation: Having a system in place that allows for recognition of big and small moments will help part-timers. It will also help if there are clear systems and communication tools to let everyone else know when they work and what they are working on.
Another growth area of company structures is outsourced employees, i.e. sub-contracted typically from a lower cost base country. This can be a core, supporting or administrative service, but either way the people doing the work are delivering a service for your company and they matter.
Recommendation: For any person who works for you for more than two weeks it is worth including them in your recognition system. They will benefit by increased motivation and you will benefit by increased productivity. It is also often outsourced workers that bring new perspectives to your business and listening to them can highlight new opportunities.
The final area of change in the workplace is partnerships, which is growing due to specialisation and the fast pace in all industries. This comes when other companies provide key services including sales, supply or marketing. This has similar issues to outsourced employees, though given that the partners are whole companies, the people in the roles may change even from week to week which makes them understanding you and you recognising them harder.
Recommendation: At very least add the key contact and also the company as a whole to any recognition system you have. As a guiding principle, if there is anyone in the partner company that you need to be engaged and aligned with you, then include them in your recognition system.
Recognition will continue to be a key way of training, motivating and aligning businesses, but the methods must change as business changes. It’s worth taking the time once a year to look at your system and make sure it’s doing its job to boost productivity.
Mick Liubinskas is the co-founder of Pollenizer and co-founder, investor and recognition trainer at WooBoard.com, a technology company that helps small to medium businesses boost profit by boosting recognition.