Thanked Your Employees Today?
Today’s competitive society
wouldn’t exist without people seeking recognition--something
everyone needs, values and strives to obtain. This often
means simply having someone acknowledge your work.
Rewards are just one part of an effective recognition
system, which is the most important tool we have to maximize
the effectiveness and efficiency of our human resources.
Unfortunately, it’s often ne-glected. We train our
managers to handle unsatisfactory employees but neglect
to demonstrate the value of recognizing outstanding performance.
In fact, few organizations have well-documented recognition
procedures, and fewer still have an item on their managers’
appraisal form indicating how well they’re used.
Using a recognition system will effectively improve quality
and productivity by at least 10 percent. It will also significantly
improve morale and customer satisfaction, and reduce absenteeism
and turnover rates.
We all agree that individuals are different and have varying
interests and needs. Accordingly, an organization must develop
a multifaceted recognition system that provides managers
with a meaningful way to say “thank you” to
every employee. This can be complicated because each employee
hears “thank you” in a different way. Some like
their thanks in cash because they’re saving for a
car; others would appreciate a trip to the annual American
Society for Quality’s Annual Quality Congress. Still
others would be pleased by a promotion, whereas some simply
want an office with a window.
A company must have almost as many ways to express thanks
as it has people in its employ. Moreover, the type of thanks
must vary based upon the activity’s importance to
the organization. A lapel pin might be appropriate to recognize
an employee’s 10 years of service, although a $10,000
check and a plaque are more appropriate to give someone
for developing a patent that’s important to the organization’s
Throughout our lives we’re rewarded for acting out
desired behaviors that are defined by someone else. Our
mothers rewarded us by saying, “Eat your spinach,
and you’ll get dessert.” Yes, recognition makes
us eat spinach, study harder, be more productive and produce
better quality work. Lack of recognition causes us to become
lazier, give up easier, do sloppier work or search elsewhere
for a job that recognizes us for our individual contri-butions.
Consider a recognition system as subdivided into the following
Compensation--to be financially reimbursed for
Rewards--to receive a gift for above-average performance
Recognition--to show appreciation for behaving
in a desired way
The Public Agenda Foundation conducted a study on recognition
and discovered that more than 70 percent of the employees
feel that recent work efforts have deteriorated because
there’s no correlation between pay and performance.
Use the following questions to evaluate your present recognition
Does it recognize individuals who make unusual contributions
and encourage their continuing effort?
Does it reinforce the organization’s continuous commitment
to superior performance and organizational excellence?
Does it make maximum use of the rewards given to highlight
Does it provide numerous ways to say “thank you”
to every employee?
Has it been documented and adequately explained to managers?
Are rewarded individuals recognized by employees as people
who perform at exceptionally high levels?
Does it reinforce the desired behavioral changes that the
organization must bring about to continuously excel?
Does it boost morale?
Does it allow a manager to recognize an employee soon after
he or she has demonstrated the desired behavioral pattern?
I recommend the following procedure for implementing a
1. Establish a recognition task team.
2. Analyze the present recognition system.
3. Define desired behaviors.
4. Present the results of the recognition system and desired
behavior analyses to management.
5. Prepare the recognition system’s operating procedures.
6. Obtain management approval of the system.
7. Establish recognition funding.
8. Train management to use the recognition system.
9. Measure the system’s effectiveness and update
it as needed.
I’m looking for outstanding examples of recognition
systems. If you have one that you’re proud of and
would like to share with other Quality Digest readers, please
send me a description of it.
H. James Harrington is CEO of the Harrington Institute
Inc. and chairman of the board of Harrington Group.