What’s Holding Us Back from Using Employee Recognition Strategically?

When employees feel valued, they are happier at their jobs and they are more productive, which motivates them to keep doing—and improving upon—great work. Motivated and engaged employees are very closely related. It’s a no-brainer. We should be recognizing and rewarding their employees, but many of us aren’t doing it.

We all want our people to be more productive, right? Yet, only 12 percent of employees say they often receive appreciation for great performance. Those who aren’t focusing on employee recognition are missing out on an opportunity to engage and motivate. So why are we waiting?

· Not enough time. Will HR ever have enough time? It seems we’re always so busy putting out fires. First off, if you’re still trying to do some HR tasks that could easily be automated with HR software, look into adopting that first. You’ll be amazed how much time you were spending on tracking time off and updating employee information. Even if we have started automating a lot of our HR functions, we’re still busy and always will be. Start setting aside just a small amount of time—maybe a mere half hour each week—to start creating a plan for your company. You can use this time to start researching or outlining or trying out ways to use recognition to get things rolling.

Reward and recognition has to be a priority. Some days it won’t feel like a priority, as you’ll have compliance or open-enrollment that should be done right away. But if you set it up as a living, thriving thing to everyone at your company, others will keep it going when you’re putting out other fires.

· Uncertainty. As with anything new, we may feel nervous to get started. We want to get the most value possible out of anything we put our time and resources into. Frankly, we’re worried we’ll do employee recognition wrong. Because, frankly, there are wrong ways to do it that will get the opposite effect of what you’re working toward. Here are 5 ways some companies do it wrong:

1. Waiting: You can miss a great opportunity to motivate your people right away if you think you’ll just do that at the yearly performance review.

2. Giving one-size-fits-all recognition: Do you know how each person likes to receive recognition? Some people don’t want to be applauded in front of everyone else.

3. Not knowing the details: Make sure you know how the person was involved and call him out on the things he actually helped with.

4. Calling it a team win: You should single people out when it’s a solitary effort or praise the team when it’s a team win.

5. Not being genuine: Your people can tell when it’s not sincere. Make sure to make it real and show them that their contribution was truly valued in a real, authentic way.

Your company, culture and people are different from any other. You know your people more than anyone, so you can feel confident knowing that you’ll create a plan that’s meaningful for your people. Really think about your culture and what kind of reward and recognition plan would fit and support your company’s culture.

· Don’t know where to start. We all have to start somewhere. Can you start encouraging managers to think about how their teams may most benefit from recognition or rewards? Sit down with some of your people, ask them what motivates them. Ask their managers. Send out a simple survey. Then test some things. Offer a reward to the highest salesperson this month. Try out thanking employees either without attaching money or gifts to it.

You don’t have to do it perfectly the first time. Try new things and adjust. Know that you don’t have to unroll a full-fledged plan and that you can tweak as needed. But by doing nothing, you’re letting a huge opportunity slip by to have big influence on our companies.

Don’t let these reasons hold you back. Now is the time to start making reward and recognition one of the ways you’re strategically helping your company through engaged and motivated employees. One easy way to get started is to ask yourself, “What’s going to have the biggest impact that can be done today and is easy to implement?” What makes sense for you and your company right now?

You can start working on creating a culture of gratitude and verbal recognition at your company immediately. Start by saying, “thank you” and “great job.” You’ll be surprised how quickly to catches on. Once that’s begun, then ask yourself, “What is the next step?” This process will guide you to continue working on your reward and recognition program and to continue growing and improving.