Recognition: A Leadership Tool To Motivate Employees

Posted by Joseph Sherren on March 9, 2017

I popped into Anna’s Country Kitchen in Crapaud, Prince Edward Island which is one of my favorite eating places, for lunch this past week.

There was a crew of workers also having lunch with their boss, Glen Stewart of Glen’s Place.

In a joking way he asked me, “How do I motivate this crew to work harder?”

A great question that every leader should be asking.

I said, “Well, a good start is just what you’re doing – feed them!”  People always work harder when they are not hungry.  However, the answer is much deeper than that.  We all think that people in different industries, of different wage classes, and different age groups must be motivated differently.  However, the truth is they are not.

There is actually a universal concept that functions to motivate everyone and it is this: Workers just want to feel valued and appreciated.  Sorry folks, it is as simple as that – recognition.

In fact, there have been numerous studies and extensive research done on this topic.  One of those was from a survey completed at Wichita State University.  It reported that employees rated a manager’s “thanks” as THE MOST motivational incentive of all.  Unfortunately, over 58 percent of the employees said they rarely received a personal thank you.

When I ask managers why not, I often get the following response – “Well, I’m not complaining, so they should know I appreciate them.”

That is like when your spouse says – “You don’t tell me you love me anymore.”  And you respond, “I said it the day we were married, if anything changes I will let you know.”

Author of the study, Dr. J. Allan Peterson, discovered that, in fact, it is the same in our personal relationships. Sixty-nine percent of married people do not work at building their marriages. They simply take each other for granted.

Peterson says the average husband has the attitude of, “Why do you have to chase the bus once you’ve caught it?” And the average wife has the attitude of, “Once you’ve caught the fish you throw away the bait.”

At the root of almost every relationship that has gone bad is the fact that there was too much taking for granted and not enough effort put into giving. The bottom line is this: Any good relationship, at home or at work, is built on a foundation of respect and appreciation.

Many of us underestimate the importance of using recognition as a leadership tool.  However, appreciation for all levels of employees, whether in a large corporation, or workers in a small mom and pop business, will work magic.

Employees tell me all the time how much they value personalized recognition for a job well done.  However, I find in many organizations, employee recognition is lacking.  This can become a key element to meeting the retention and productivity challenges facing most organizations.

Every employee, regardless of where they are in the food chain, is hungry for acknowledgement. So by using personalized recognition, you tap into the best way to motivate them and bring out their hidden talents.

Studies show that employees who are rewarded for going that extra mile are more productive and fulfilled, show greater loyalty and are eager to contribute to the organization in an impactful and meaningful way.

Bottom line is this: Employee recognition, at all levels, is a simple and powerful tool to create and sustain a culture that engages and aligns employees with organizational goals. This has been proven over and over and it applies to organizations of every size. The best part — it doesn’t cost anything!

Mary Kay Ash once said: “There are two things people want more than sex and money – recognition and praise.”

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