By Dan Cooper on October 19, 2018

How to implement a recognition program that you can sustain as a busy leader

It was the first time I was recognized publicly. I had just joined a technology company as an inside salesperson. Part of onboarding was to work for a week in tech support. Answering phones made me learn the product quickly and have real conversations with customers learning their needs and challenges.
Tech support is a goldmine for sales. Solve a problem or offer a solution to a problem. Towards the end of my week I received a call and set up the sales team to close a $20,000 deal in a short timeframe.

In an all-hands meeting, the CEO called me out in front of the everyone. The high fives, handshakes, and meeting people I hadn’t met yet was extraordinary, so much so, that I always thought I would be the type of person to recognize others when I got into a leadership role.

I must have forgotten. By the time I was running a company I had too much to do with too little time. Recognition was an afterthought. I knew I should do it and that the impact could be huge, but it was a low priority.

I had a similar conversation about recognition during recent Acumen monthly councils. Two separate teams had the same discussion about this challenge – prioritizing and executing a personal recognition program.

Here are best practices that the group shared.

1. Handwritten: High value, old school

Hands down, the handwritten note is still one of the most impactful ways to recognize an employee and let them know you appreciate their efforts. It’s must be written by you and call out precisely what you are recognizing. Many a note ends up getting shown to family or hung up in their office. The time it takes to craft the message and drop it off pales in comparison to the impact of a handwritten note.

2. Make it personal

If your company celebrates important dates, make the gift personal; birthdays, work anniversaries, company milestones. When you are singling out an individual, make the gift individual. Nothing says I almost care like the token gift that everyone gets. One particular leader would always know what the hobbies of the individual were and get something associated with it, like a crochet set (no lie, people do this) or mountain biking accessory.

3. Get the family involved

Many employees don’t talk about work with their spouses once they are home. One construction company asked for the emails of all spouses and included them on the monthly internal company newsletter. In that communication, the CEO would call out and affirm specific people and projects. Many spouses never knew what a job site looked like or that their significant other was part of constructing that building going up down the street. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and created a new sense of community within the company.

4. Schedule it

If you want to be intentional about recognition then you have to schedule it. Put it on your calendar and make it habit weekly or monthly to write that note, send that email, make that phone call, buy that gift. Make it a habit. How many people can you touch in 30 minutes or an hour of intentional focused time?

5. Delegate the management

Assign someone in your office the management and reminders for the events. Birthdays and anniversaries can all be scheduled in advance. Designate someone to create and manage the schedule so you and the team never miss that important date. This person can also hold you accountable, which is what you need.

Recognition will have a meaningful impact on your company and with a plan comes momentum.
What do you need to start doing to recognize and engage your employees more?

Published by Dan Cooper October 19, 2018