December 19, 2012
The Best Ways To Praise Your Employees

On a scale of 1 to 10 — no negative numbers allowed — how would you rate a previous boss’s skill at recognizing, praising and rewarding your hard work and achievement?

Let me guess: Would you give them a two or maybe a three?

Effective employee recognition is mostly art, not science. That’s why most formal recognition programs quickly sputter and die. It’s easy for employees to spot an insincere recognition program that is more formality than function.

So don’t create a systematized program to praise your employees. You don’t need one.

Just follow these tips to make sure you’re giving people the recognition they deserve:

Treat employees like snowflakes. Every employee responds differently to recognition. Many appreciate public praise. Others cringe and want to run away.

Recognize individual employees in the way that produces the greatest impact for them.

Never wait. The longer the interval between great performance and deserved recognition the less the impact that praise will make.

Right away is never too soon.

Be specific. Generic praise is nice, but specific praise is wonderful. Don’t just tell me I did a good job; tell me how I did a good job. Tell me specifically what I did that was so wonderful. Not only will I appreciate the gesture, I’ll also know you pay attention.

And I’ll know exactly what to do next time.

Be sincere. This one should go without saying, but how many times have you been praised by someone and were left feeling they had just checked off a box on their to-do list?

Never praise for the sake of praising. You only reduce the impact when you really do mean what you say.

Leave out the “constructive” stuff. Many leaders can’t withstand the temptation to throw in a little feedback while praising an employee. Praise and recognize, and leave the mentoring and performance improvement coaching for later.

Be proactive. Sometimes managers spend too much time looking for problems. Focus even more on catching employees who are doing good things, too.

Try the “just because” flowers approach. Just like a surprise bouquet can make a bigger impact than roses on Valentine’s Day, unexpected recognition is always more powerful.

Winning the Employee of the Month award is nice, but the surprise visit from the CEO to thank you for winning back a client is awesome.

Strike a balance. It’s easy to recognize some of your best employees. (Maybe consistent recognition is one of the reasons why they are your best employees?)

Find ways to share the positive feedback love. You might have to look hard to find reasons to recognize some employees, but that’s okay: A little encouragement may be all a poor performer needs to turn the productivity corner.

Make recognition systemic. To create a culture of recognition, try starting your management meetings on a different note. Go around the room and have everyone share two examples of employees they recognized or praised that day. Peer pressure and natural competitiveness will cause many to help their employees accomplish things worthy of praise — if only so they have great stuff to report.

Recognizing effort and achievement is self-reinforcing: When you do a better job of recognizing employees they tend to perform better — and that results in even more achievements you can recognize and praise.