Why You Need to Invest in Employee Recognition Training

Employee recognition training is key to your program's success!

Recognition training gives your managers the critical skills they need to recognize employees. (Photo via ffaalumni, Flickr)

Employee recognition training is essential in today’s workplace. Research continues to strengthen the case that employee appreciation has a powerful effect on the bottom line — and managers need to know how to do it right.  Don’t jeopardize your recognition programs with untrained managers!

“Employee recognition is not a nice-to-have soft-skill,” writes Derek Irvine, vice president of client strategy and consulting at Globoforce.

In a post for Compensation Cafe, Irvine reflects on the results of WorldatWork’s May 2015 report, “Trends in Employee Recognition.”

“When done strategically to reinforce desired behaviors and drive organizational strategic objectives, recognition can have a significant impact on the factors most closely related to increased employee performance, productivity and customer service,” Irvine writes.

The need for training is critical as newer results-oriented recognition rises and traditional tenure-based recognition wanes. Recognizing employees on an ongoing, results-oriented basis takes a more hands-on approach than giving out years-of-service plaques at an annual banquet.

Read on to find out why recognition training is well worth the investment — and how you can take steps today toward cultivating basic recognition skills among your managers.

Before You Train, Know What’s At Stake

In its recent survey, WorldatWork looked at the effectiveness of recognition efforts, based on how deeply embedded recognition is in company culture.

Unsurprisingly, when recognition efforts are “informal,” the effect is minimal. Goals are vague, measurement is lacking and nobody is held accountable. Engagement soars, on the other hand, when recognition is strategic and deeply embedded in all aspects of a company’s operations.

The WorldatWork study also shows that a majority of companies surveyed are still relying on tenure-based recognition, which HR experts agree is not as effective as on-the-spot, results-based recognition.

But the stakes are too high to be relying on anything less than the most reliable, most effective recognition techniques.

Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy up to $550 billion per year. A full 70 percent of American workers are “disengaged” or “actively disengaged,” according to Gallup.

It’s important to understand the two levels of disengagement Gallup identifies.

  • Disengaged employees are simply “checked out.” They show up and do the work but don’t care to go beyond perfunctory job duties.
  • Actively disengaged employees are apathetic and also undermine coworkers’ engagement by griping, gossiping and encouraging others to participate in their negative attitude.

Recognition to the rescue! Nobody goes into a workplace wanting to feel disengaged. But the lack of engaging work and meaningful, frequent recognition will drive away even the best employees and cost your bottom line.

Teaching the Art of ‘Thank You’

Feeling appreciation is natural, but communicating effective recognition in a workplace setting takes skill, practice and organizational support.

Managers are promoted for their competence and expertise, not necessarily for their people-management skills. Often, otherwise competent managers simply don’t understand how critical recognition is: “Why should I recognize employees for doing what they’re paid to do?”

Roy Saunderson, president and founder of Recognition Management Institute, says employee recognition training should be an ongoing, holistic educational experience.

“Programs should answer the ‘so what?’ question in the minds of participants. They must show how recognition can truly contribute to the business goals of a division or department, and to the company as a whole. Provide the rationale and the benefits to be obtained and you’ll get greater commitment to learn and apply the skills,” Saunderson writes in an article for the APA Center for Organizational Excellence.

Managers need to understand that the contractual work agreement is not the sole reward of a job, Saunderson writes. Psychological, emotional and purposeful recognition-based elements are vital. Recognition provides what many of us long for in our work: meaning.

This isn’t a one-way conversation. Be sure to ask managers to voice their concerns and fears. For example, some may be worried their schedules won’t allow for recognition. Find solutions that will address and alleviate such problems before they arise.

Pinpointing hesitations “will help address potential obstacles to making a program stick and outline necessary training topics,” writes Razor Suleman in the Incentive Magazine article, “Training Managers in the Art of Recognition.”

3 Steps to Take Today

Designing a good employee recognition training program may take some planning. So, what can you do right away to get the ball rolling? Here are three quick ideas:

1. Thank a manager today. The best way to encourage recognition is to share gratitude! Managers who feel valued are more likely to pass it on to their employees.  If senior management doesn’t model recognition to their reports, how can you expect middle managers to be any better at it?

2. Listen to manager concerns. Solicit feedback from a manager on what they feel is the biggest obstacle to recognition within their department. Now’s not the time to pass judgment. Just listen. Then, brainstorm on what can be done to reduce obstacles.  What can you do to make things work more successfully?

3. Schedule “recognition reminders.” Suleman writes that “setting a rhythm” is important to making a recognition program stick. (Gallup researchers say once a week is ideal.) Keep notes on the effect your recognition has — with the intent to share your notes at a future employee recognition training. If your HR department is tasked with manager training, be comfortable practicing what you preach!

For more great tips and insights into building a vibrant culture of engagement, loyalty and appreciation, be sure to download our free e-book“The Top 20 Employee Engagement Blogs You Should be Reading”.

Download our FREE eBook, "The Top 20 Employee Engagement Blogs You Should Be Reading" and jumpstart your workplace TODAY!

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