person delivering it, the way it’s delivered or when the employee
thought no one was paying attention. The brain is wired for nov-elty;
we pay attention to the things that stand out.
Leaders, it’s about being present, paying attention and caring
about those small moments – not letting them pass you by. It’s
about finding creative ways to express your gratitude, such as a
noteworthy time or the delivery method for sharing appreciation.
A great example is a new leader in a small not-for-profit who
loves to knit; she found out each of her staff members’ favourite
colour and knitted each employee a scarf for the holidays. The
recipients were touched at both the time she took and that she
paid attention to their favourite colours.
2. CREATE SHARED MEANING
BY PAYING ATTENTION
Often, we don’t acknowledge the important life events in employ-ees’
lives. We talk a lot about work-life balance, but how often do
we actually acknowledge the important things that are going on
outside of work: buying a first home, welcoming a new baby, an
adult child graduating from university, etc. These are important,
ever-changing events; think about the impact of simply noticing,
acknowledging and celebrating with them.
A busy CIO overheard that someone’s son graduated with hon-ours
and got his dream job. The CIO found a card in the local
drug store that said “Congratulations” on the cover and on the
inside, “You now have your house back!” It was funny and after the
laughter subsided, that employee knew they were more than “just
3. INVOLVE THE FAMILY
When hard-working staff sacrifice time away from their family,
this is the perfect time to not only surprise the employee, but also
their family members. How about sending a pizza to the family
of somebody working late, with a message saying, “We wanted
to say thank you for being willing to spare mom or dad, again,
because they’re working really hard on a project.” The cost of
doing this is probably the same as a gift card, but the impact is
If this is out of your budget, consider a more cost-effective
way to show family how much you appreciate their mom, dad or
spouse. Why not send a card? It costs a stamp and the price of
a card. Plus, almost 90 per cent of people report they appreciate
receiving written notes.
4. FOLLOW THE PLATINUM RULE
Leaders know that employees want to be appreciated and valued,
but do those leaders know how employees want to be appreci-ated?
Two things tend to happen: leaders appreciate people the
way they like to be appreciated, or they focus on what the cor-poration
most values (often the performance standards they are
accountable for). However, the Great Place to Work Institute™
has found individual achievement is more sought by employees
The Conference Board of Canada’s longitudinal work shows
that Canadian organizations are spending most of their money
on those large celebrations such as milestone years of service and
retirements. To better impact 90 per cent of people, offer a ver-bal
thank-you, personalized words of acknowledgement and/or a
5. ENCOURAGE PEER-TO-PEER RECOGNITION
Not only is peer-to-peer recognition free or virtually free – every
organization, no matter the industry, can afford to have and pro-vide
thank-you cards, e-cards or have poster boards around where
people can write acknowledgements to each other – having meth-ods
and spaces that encourage peers to recognize each other fuels
teamwork, collaboration, respect and support behaviours.
Recognition is not only on the shoulders of leadership, every-one
can take part. Create an army of positive culture stewards.
Recognition is the fastest way to boost engagement, trust, satisfac-tion
and continuous improvement, and the more people leading
the charge, the better.
One Home Depot store took a bulletin board that had no real
purpose and turned it into a “kudos board” where employees could
post their shout-outs to each other. After some initial enthusiasm,
the store leaders noticed the number of kudos being posted per
day was declining, so an employee suggested that they start post-ing
the kudos backwards with the person’s name. It became easy to
see which cards hadn’t been read yet and all of a sudden there was a
renewed energy with staff telling colleagues, “Hey, when you’re on
your break check out the board, you have a kudos waiting for you!”
ONE MORE THOUGHT
Leaders should examine what recognition program is already
working in their workplace. When leaders do more of what is
already working, it’s easier to gain momentum when adding and
tweaking existing effective approaches. Consider:
■■ Where is recognition happening already?
■■ Where is recognition part of daily discourse?
■■ Where could you experiment with different recognition
strategies and settings?
Even when financial resources, time and a formal program are
unavailable, leaders can always start a conversation or meeting to
acknowledge what’s working and hear from others.
We often fail to practice the very acts that we want most our-selves.
It’s small steps forward that can begin to slowly shift our
culture and it rests with leadership. n
Sarah McVanel is the founder of Greatness Magnified.
johnhain / pixabay.com
34 ❚ MARCH 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL