People need to feel important, and what better way to achieve that objective than to develop a consistent employee recognition program. Recognition motivates employees to become their best self. Employee recognition is easy to implement and the benefits are undeniable, so there is really no excuse for not doing it. There is no doubt happy employees are more loyal and more productive than disenchanted employees.

The Mary Kay Way, written by Mary Kay Ash, asserts praise is the best way to motivate employees. People may ask for suggestions but they really want praise. A leader’s objective should be to praise people to success. Praise employees for each small success and you build a person’s confidence and the desire to try harder. Small successes gradually lead to bigger successes. Praise is an incredibly effective motivator; to be a good leader you must understand the value of praising people to success.

Using recognition to motivate employees is all about making them feel important. And that is what leaders are paid to do. When employees feel special it will boost their self-esteem and increase morale. Increased morale increases productivity. The book, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees by Bob Nelson, Ph.D. offers three strategies for motivating employees through recognition techniques – personal praise, intangible forms of recognition, and tangible forms of recognition. The following is what I learned:

Personal praise

Mark Twain said it perfectly, “I can live for two weeks on a good compliment.” Successful managers understand the power of recognition to motivate employees. Research has proven that personalized, instant recognition directly from a supervisor is one of the most meaningful forms of motivation. People need to feel important and what better way to achieve that objective than to develop a consistent employee recognition program. The best personal praise is frequent, timely, sincere, and specific. Nothing beats a simple daily recognition program that builds a positive foundation of goodwill between management and the employees. To get the greatest effect, vary the following methods of delivering praise:

  • Delivering praise personally, face to face;
  • Using handwritten notes with a thoughtful word of praise;
  • Sending an electronic message containing praise;
  • Delivering praise to an employee in front of others.
  • Voicing your appreciation of them as a person; do not keep it a secret how much you value them.

Intangible forms of recognition

  • Employees must feel involved in the organization to feel they are important. Give employees the opportunity to voice their opinions, listen with sincerity, and let them know you respect their thinking.
  • Give employees responsibility as well as the authority to find their own best way to accomplish tasks which result in the desired outcome. When you give employees the power to make decisions for themselves it provides a sense of freedom and independence. When you empower people, you will encourage them to become independent, creative thinkers.
  • Give employees the opportunities and support to learn new tasks that they deem valuable. Assigning special tasks or projects that they enjoy doing says you value and trust them.
  • Information to employees is power. A person without information cannot take on responsibility, offer opinions, or learn new tasks. When people are growing they become more confident and self-assured.
  • Reward employees with flex hours and time off for extra hours worked.
  • Devoting your time to employees is recognizing their worth.  When you make the time to get to know them it says you care. When you invest the time to address questions, listen to them, or dispense knowledge, it makes the employee feel good about him or herself; it also makes them feel better about the organization.

Tangible forms of recognition

  • Trophies and plaques can be effective forms of recognition when the goal is to recognize a specific achievement. This method of recognition is most effective when it is awarded publicly at a company event.
  • Hosting a company party with a fun theme that simply says, “We appreciate you.”
  • Larger cash awards are effective forms of recognition for achieving pre-determined goals.
  • Gift certificates, a dinner for two at a nice restaurant, theater or sporting event tickets, can all be an appropriate way to offer recognition and appreciation for a job well done. Accompany your gift with a handwritten note of recognition for a more rewarding touch.
  • Specific company perks can be a form of recognition that can make an employee feel very special. Any of the following would be good examples of rewarding company perks: A premier office or parking location, use of the company vacation condo or lake cabin, a free cell phone, a membership in the company health club, use of a company leased automobile, or a free lunch in the company cafeteria.

Start today to utilize any of these employee recognition ideas on a regular basis to motivate your employees. When employees feel important and appreciated, they will naturally be happier and more productive.

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