Join The Recognition Culture Club

By Malcolm Fleschner

What are the defining traits of your corporate culture? Are they a passion for excellence and a truly supportive, team-based environment? Is customer care your number one priority? While these are all admirable characteristics notes Adrian Gostick in a recent article for Workspan Magazine, recognition is a critical trait of a productive corporate culture. So how do you promote a culture of recognition? Gostick, author of the 24 Carrot Manager (Gibbs Smith Publishers, 2002), recommends you follow three critical steps.

Reward early and often
Rather than simply letting HR handle recognition or relying on individual departments to take care of recognizing staff on their own, companies with a culture of recognition make it a point to reward a significant percentage of their employees every year.

That means at least 80% of your staff members should receive some formal annual recognition for achievements above and beyond set goals. In addition, between 70% and 80% of staff should be given informal recognition for their achievements.

Everyone should be touched by service award presentations that communicate, even to non-winners, that upper management recognizes accomplishments and high performance.

Make it easy to recognize achievements
So employees know they are valued, use both formal and informal recognition. Top performing organizations excel in this area by making it easy for downstream managers to recognize achievement regularly. They give their managers tools and resources they can use to reward employees. This ensures recognition is consistent and not left up to chance.

Remember that raining matters
Management communication should reinforce the company’s values, goals and mission. Yet managers, even with the best intentions, often cross their signals. Take the example of a manager who tries to praise an employee by saying: Bob, I’m pleased with the way you mentored Susan and Alan through the Hopkins deal negotiations. You showed real leadership by letting them do much of the heavy lifting, and only intervening when they needed more focused direction. Not only did you close the sale, but you helped them understand what it takes to work through such a big-ticket deal. Unfortunately, says Gostick, such messages often come out as: Hey Bob, congratulations on closing the Hopkins deal. We thought for sure you were going to blow it when Alan forgot to email those projections before the deadline.

The reality is that to be effective communicators, Gostick says, managers require training. Companies that make it a priority to teach their executives how to communicate effectively are exponentially better at producing a culture of recognition.