Survey and then talk to your direct reports about what they would like as recognition for their good work. Doing so you not only create a more effective recognition plan, you build buy-in.
Developing a recognition plan is not about checking off a box, and spending allocated dollars. It is a tangible expression of thanks that you give to colleagues who have helped you.
It sounds simple, but busy professionals screw it up all the time because they do not listen. People are different, you know that. While one person might beam over receiving a plaque to hang on their wall, another might prefer a celebratory lunch with the team. Some people want cash, regardless of the amount, and others would move heaven and earth for the chance to leave early, or take an extra day off. What motivates each of them is personal, but you need to know what it is so your recognition will be meaningful and positive.
If you pull a stereotypical introvert to the front of the room to sing their praises and then ask them to give a little speech, you are going to embarrass them. Worse, going forward they will probably avoid doing whatever it is that got them there. You consider yourself an adaptive leader, so when it comes time to recognize someone who happens to be much more extroverted, you decide to quietly slip a thank you note and gift card into their mail box. Dumb move. They are going to be hurt and probably pissed off. They wanted a parade. You throw up your hands and give up. “There’s no pleasing these people.”
Did you ask? Did you listen?
Make the time to ask people what they would like for recognition before they have earned it. List all the things you could theoretically and practically provide. These can be standards like gift cards and favored parking spaces on the low-end to televisions and vacation trips on the high-end. Try to be more creative and be open to other ideas. Have each member of your team independently rate their level of desirability for each item, and then discuss it with them during your one-on-one meetings. Let them know you cannot always provide everything listed, and there are no guarantees. However, it gives you a better sense of how they would like their achievements supported. When was the last time you were asked, “How would you like your achievements acknowledged?” If you do not have an answer, they probably won’t be.
Some busy professionals are cash strapped, which is an irrelevant excuse for not recognizing someone. Rewards, tend to have a dollar value; recognition does not have to, its value comes from you saying, “I noticed and appreciated what you did there. It helped a lot. Thank you.”
If you surveyed a team of people, put the results together into a matrix, you’ll see the current culture emerge. Are most people looking for more time off? Do people want to be exposed to mentorships and included in different projects? Do they want tangible things they can bring home and share? What are they rejecting? Is there apathy or engagement?
The answers are there. Ask, listen and follow through.
Karl Bimshas is the guy who makes sure your direct reports never have to work for a lousy leader. He’s the author of “How to Stay When You Want to Quit; Strategies to get over yourself“.