To Make Your Work­place Hap­pier In 2017: Rec­og­nize Your Col­leagues’ Work More


Some of the most com­mon New Year’s res­o­lu­tions are to lose weight, save more money and live life to the fullest. But this year, con­sider adopt­ing one that will cost lit­tle time or ef­fort and will make you and your co-work­ers hap­pier: Pledge to rec­og­nize your col­leagues more of­ten for their work. Hu­man re­sources con­sult­ing firm O.C. Tanner re­cently re­leased data on the state of em­ployee recog­ni­tion, and FORBES spoke with its vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing, Gary Beck­strand, about how to give recog­ni­tion ef­fec­tively.

Late last year, O.C. Tanner sur­veyed nearly 3,500 em­ploy­ees of large com­pa­nies and found that 29% hadn’t given recog­ni­tion to a co-worker over the past month. Among non­man­agers, the fig­ure was 36%.

An­other re­cent study found that more than 50% of Ameri-

cans want more recog­ni­tion from su­per­vi­sors, and 43% want more recog­ni­tion from col­leagues. And re­search shows recog­ni­tion is a great mo­ti­va­tor. Among the fac­tors that drive em­ploy­ees to pro­duce great work, recog­ni­tion was the big­gest lever, ac­cord­ing to an O.C. Tanner-com­mis­sioned re­port.

Tips For Rec­og­niz­ing Your Col­leagues

Given the need for more recog­ni­tion, how can you de­liver it ef­fec­tively? Beck­strand shared best prac­tices for mak­ing your mes­sages sink in.

“Be timely,” he says. Rec­og­nize good work as quickly as pos­si­ble. It makes your com­ments more rel­e­vant and pow­er­ful, and it in­creases the like­li­hood that you’ll com­plete the im­por­tant task.

“Recog­ni­tion is most mean­ing­ful when de­liv­ered pub­licly among co-work­ers,” adds Beck­strand. Go to an em­ployee’s desk and rec­og­nize her among her peers. If some em­ploy­ees pre­fer to re­ceive feed­back in private, cer­tainly grant their re­quest, but for oth­ers, so­cial­iz­ing the feed­back boosts their rep­u­ta­tion. It also broad­casts a cul­ture of recog­ni­tion.

Beck­strand’s third tip is to be spe­cific. Ac­knowl­edge the ac­tion the em­ployee took and the re­sults. Ex­plain how it ben­e­fited the com­pany and con­nected to a larger busi­ness ob­jec­tive. These de­tails will add depth to your mes­sage and make it stick.

Best Prac­tices For Man­agers And HR Pro­fes­sion­als

Ex­ec­u­tives and HR pro­fes­sion­als should de­sign recog­ni­tion pro­grams that ev­ery­one—not just man­agers—can par­tic­i­pate in. “Pro­vide lit­tle- or no-cost op­por­tu­ni­ties to say thank you, like e-cards,” says Beck­strand. In O.C. Tanner’s sur­vey, among peo­ple who of­ten give recog­ni­tion, more than 90% said their team had a for­mal recog­ni­tion pro­gram that was easy to use and well-pub­li­cized by their or­ga­ni­za­tion. Social media-style recog­ni­tion web­sites can be ef­fec­tive.

But don’t let tech tools dom­i­nate your recog­ni­tion strat­egy. “Social media can drive recog­ni­tion aware­ness quickly. But some­times that lim­its the mean­ing­ful­ness of the recog­ni­tion,” says Beck­strand. Giv­ing face-to-face feed­back is crit­i­cal and should be done of­ten. Weekly team meet­ings are great op­por­tu­ni­ties to rec- og­nize an em­ployee in front of her col­leagues.

HR and se­nior man­agers should train ju­nior man­agers and em­ploy­ees on how to give recog­ni­tion and shouldn’t po­si­tion recog­ni­tion as an­other HR to-do. Ex­plain why it’s valu­able— for in­stance, it can help an em­ployee reach his goals by mak­ing his team more pro­duc­tive. And keep man­agers ac­count­able. Check in and ask them who they rec­og­nized this week.

Lastly, don’t let HR be the only de­part­ment pulling the com­pany to­ward more recog­ni­tion. “You need rep­re­sen­ta­tion from all lev­els of the or­ga­ni­za­tion to come to­gether, par­tic­i­pate, pro­vide in­put and help de­sign the pro­gram,” says Beck­strand. Ask lead­ers to model the ideal be­hav­ior.

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