A Pat on the Back

There is a lot to be said for getting positive feedback from your boss and your peers. Your employees probably didn’t enter their field to have someone patting them on the back, but still, it’s nice to know when your talents are recognized and appreciated. You should look for ways to acknowledge the talent that you’ve got.

If your company is big enough, consider some sort of annual awards program. Recognizing the top value-adders and team players in your company not only provides them with some motivation but also helps set expectations for everyone. Use the opportunity to highlight a number of people (“And the nominees are…”). Now, there are plenty of award programs, including quarterly as well as annual awards, that are pretty much worthless. They are given out based on whose “turn” it is, or who needs it because they are up for promotion, and everyone knows it, so they breed cynicism rather than enthusiasm. If you are going to take the time to do awards, make them worthwhile.

Whether your firm is big or small, something other than a top-down approach can be very useful too. Peer awards are an excellent way to encourage a climate of collaboration. Many companies allow their employees to give an award to colleagues who they think have done something notable. Often the award is something small, like a gift card for a store, but it’s really receiving the award rather than the nature of the award itself that is important. These might mean even more than something from the bosses; peer recognition is very powerful.

Consider looking beyond your firm, and submitting your employees for awards in their fields. There are industry awards you can nominate your employees for, as well as functional awards such as the many awards for HR practices. Having someone from your company win an industry award can be highly motivational for your company as well as for the individual or the team that wins.

Your employees probably are not spending their careers focused on getting a plaque for the wall or the occasional award check, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t nice to get. They become even more important when you’re not able to provide regular raises or bonuses. Positive recognition might not be your employees’ goal, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a nice thing to receive.

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