• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Employee recognition: A powerful leadership strategy

leadership strategy

Leaders struggle with publicly recognising their lieutenants or teams. Some just practically avoid giving any praise to their employees. Such leaders believe that when you give a little too much praise, the employees will cross the line and take them for granted. That is a grave mistake. Not just in terms of motivating the team but boosting the bottom line and raising employee engagement.

Some years ago, I was appointed to lead an organisation. I regularly would genuinely recognise and praise team members and employees to motivate them. One day, the outgoing President and Finance Manager told me to stop. They said to me, “You are always praising these guys for nothing. They don’t need any public recognition for doing what they are paid to do. That is why we pay them monthly salaries. Praising them will make them ineffective”. Then I ran these views by a senior leader who, to my surprise, shares a similar opinion. He said, “praise is for wimps, and if you continue this way, your people will take you for granted.”

However, this was contrary to the lessons I received from my Father. As a child, I regularly visited his office, and I saw how he demonstrated leadership for people at his office. A few weeks later, it was the Finance Manager’s birthday, and I saw an opportunity to run an experiment on him. I requested we move the leadership meeting to Monday, which was his birthday instead of the regular Friday. At the meeting, I gave him a personal gift, made him cut a cake with everyone singing for him, and praising him.

During my speech, I told him he was doing a great job, and that I appreciate the work that he was doing. You can imagine his reaction; he was ecstatic. He beamed with a huge smile as everyone complimented him. After the meeting or what I call the birthday party, he has grown an inch taller and puffed up. He appreciated me for the kind words and for recognising his hard work.

The result of this experiment was no surprise to me; instead, it reinforced my conviction that people always crave praise and recognition more than they seek money in the hierarchy of human needs. This is the ultimate truth, and as leaders, we cannot shy away from this reality as they confront us. It is expedient if you’re going to be an effective leader.

Globally, we are in a corporate war to engage and retain the very best talent. Leaders and organisations seek to attract and retain their best hands while growing the organisation and increasing productivity. Their approach has been from offering bonuses and incentives to designing remote and flexible workspaces, as it is every company’s efforts to optimise the workplace are as strong as ever. However, in the search for new innovative ideas and growth, most organisations often overlook the most cost-effective strategy: employee recognition.

According to Gallup’s analysis, it’s not uncommon for employees to feel that their best efforts are routinely ignored. Sadly, employees who do not feel adequately recognised are twice as likely to say they’ll quit next year. This engagement and performance component might be one of the most significant missed opportunities for leaders and managers.

Every leader who wants to inspire and connect with employees must start prioritising recognition. You need to praise your people if you want your team to achieve your desired outcomes, and what gets recognised gets rehashed. When people look to a leader, they not only seek for direction and daily bread but also recognition. Leaders often focus on what’s considered their primary responsibility, which is helping their team figure out what to do next.

Notwithstanding, encouraging pride and recognising success for a job well done is similarly significant. Employees crave recognition from leaders. Often when leaders and employers think of praise and recognition, their brain promptly goes to money related recognition. While money is helpful, that’s far from the only way to recognise employees.

At the point when a leader’s vision, objectives, and corporate targets are vigorously weighted towards accomplishments to the detriment of employee prosperity, it can exact a negative toll on their engagement and productivity. Edward Hallowell, says achievements and connection are the two most remarkable experiences in life. However, if we only focus on achieving, we will not do well at connecting with our people. He says the connection is a mindset and an energy exchange between people who pay attention to one another.

He posed a question, who will impact you more and inspire you toward your best? Is it the brilliant and well-published professor who has no time to relate and connect, or the distinguished however less known professor who connects with you as a person? No doubt, it will be the latter. A team’s success lies within the pattern of connection a leader has with his people, and the way and manner the leader enables them to extend that example to their immediate reports. In an organisation that is woefully lacking in employee commitment, leaders who aren’t actively connecting with people are themselves a liability.

Further, Gallup’s data reveal that the most effective recognition is honest, authentic, and individualised to how each employee wants to be perceived and recognised. The secret is to realise what makes it meaningful and memorable for the employee, and who is doing the recognising. The most memorable recognition for any employee is one from a top-level leader or CEO. Most employees will remember personal feedback from a top leader, and even a modest quantity of time the CEO takes to show appreciation can yield a positive impression on an employee. The affirmation and recognition from a CEO could become a career highlight and a permanent feature.

When some employees were asked what types of recognition are the most memorable, they outlined six methods specifically, and money isn’t the only or topmost form of recognition:

– public recognition through an award, certificate of commendation letter

– private recognition from the most senior leader, immediate boss or clients

– receiving an elevated level of accomplishment through assessments or reviews

– promotion or increase in the scope of work or responsibility to show trust

– monetary grants, e.g., a vacation trip, prize or salary increase

– personal fulfillment or pride in work

Sobande is a Lawyer and Leadership Consultant. He is a Doctoral Candidate at Regent University, Virginia Beach, USA, for a Ph.D. in Strategic Leadership. He can be contacted by Email: [email protected]