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Employee Recognition Works!

Want to start today to dramatically raise the engagement of your team and rocket their productivity?

One study by Towers Perrin showed that a leader recognizing good performance can raise employee engagement by as much as 60% – and raising engagement dramatically raises productivity and bottom line results. Best of all it doesn’t cost a cent! Here’s a step-by-step guide for making it work for you.

Employee Recognition
Why does it work?

Employee recognition is extremely powerful because it triggers employs two powerful responses common to every single being on the planet – one physiological and one psychological.

Physiology: It’s Chemical!

When you’re praised by someone, particularly someone you respect, your brain responds with a release of the brain’s feel-good chemical, Dopamine. Without Dopamine it’s pretty much impossible to feel pleasure. This is the chemical that gives the runner her high, those in love their intense feelings of well-being, and even provides the highly pleasurable sensation that comes from eating chocolate or making love.

Recognizing employees works because our brain chemistry is wired to respond positively to praise – and we naturally respond by unconsciously repeating the behavior necessary to get another dose of this feel good chemical. Recognition encourages the repetition of the desired behavior.

But there’s another psychological factor that multiplies the effectiveness of recognition – the so called ‘Norm of Reciprocity’.

Psychology: The ‘Norm of Reciprocity’

There is a universal human response psychologists call the ‘Norm of Reciprocity’. Most people feel an involuntary sense of obligation to return the favor when someone treats them kindly – even when that service was unsolicited, and even if the person rendering that service is someone they do not like.

This norm is triggered when you give your people the ‘gift’ of recognition – making it easier for you to get their cooperation in getting done what you need to get done.

So recognition works in two important ways: chemically conditioning those receiving it to repeat the behavior that won the recognition, and triggering an obligation to ‘return the favor’.

And the good news is: no one is immune to it! Some need it more than others, but we all genuinely crave it – regardless of our level of power or success.

Practical Recognition

Here’s a buffet of effective recognition gestures that you should mix and match to ensure that anyone deserving it gets appropriate recognition for results delivered:

  • Catch them doing something right. When you do so be sure to lavish positive praise and feedback upon them – ideally in front of valued colleagues: those whom they would wish to impress. Public praise and recognition is the gold standard.
  • Listen. Genuinely focus upon what your people are saying, and provide frequent feedback in the form of eye contact, nods and smiles to acknowledge key points. First class recognition.
  • Give them time. Your time is a powerful recognition currency. Give each of your people regular one-on-one time.
  • Promote their ideas. Look for frequent input from all of your people and, if a member of your team is trying to promote some particular idea that you feel has merit, be seen to publicly throw your weight behind promoting them.
  • Ask for favors. When you as leader ask a subordinate to help you with getting something done rather than simply telling them to do it, you provide potent recognition of that person as an individual, especially if what you’re requesting is already part of their responsibilities.

Recognition costs nothing and delivers extraordinary results in boosting employee engagement. Use it.

For the next month make a conscious decision to find a way to recognize as least one of your people as close to daily as possible – schedule reminders in your diary / to do system as if it was any other task. Over time work your way through every member of your team – then repeat the process on an ongoing basis.

A week after I published this post Michael Hyatt published an excellent post with advice for new CEOs – take a look at point number five in his post.

This time next month look at the dramatic difference in the attitude and engagement of every one of your team. I guarantee you’ll like what you see.

Question: How else could you recognize your people effectively?

Use the ‘Comments’ feature below to add your recognition tactics