Companies embrace praise
Employee recognition – especially in a down economy – can be an effective and inexpensive morale-booster.
The human desire for recognition starts early. Watch a third-grader beam at the gold star on a spelling paper, or a high-schooler triumphantly clutch a sports trophy.Skip to next paragraph
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In the workplace, that recognition takes many forms. Sometimes it's a quiet thank you, other times a bonus or a public award. Either way, it is a gesture that employers ignore at their peril.
So important is recognition that employee-appreciation programs are turning into a veritable industry, with national and even international organizations helping firms reward workers for a job well done.
Companies spend more than $1 billion annually on employee service awards, according to the Promotional Products Association International. Dozens of firms, large and small, even employ a manager to handle corporate recognition. At Cargill Inc., the title is chief recognition officer. At Intel, it is corporate recognition manager. Business books feature titles such as "Hug Your People" and "The Power of Appreciation in Business."
"If everyone was treated with respect and courtesy from the beginning, we wouldn't need this industry," says Christi Gibson, executive director of Recognition Professionals International in Naperville, Ill. She notes that in a survey of 10,000 employees from Fortune 1,000 companies, a lack of recognition was a major reason for leaving a job.
Roy Saunderson, president of the Recognition Management Institute in London, Ontario, finds impersonalization in the workplace. "Managers are walking by and not acknowledging employees or saying their name," he says.
Determined not to fit in that category, Dion McInnis takes what he calls a "morning walkaround" through his department at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. It gives him an opportunity to visit briefly with each person, offering anything from a simple hello to a question about work to a chat about what is going on in their lives. "It reminds them that I appreciate who they are," says Mr. McInnis, an associate vice president handling fundraising and relationship-building.
In addition to his daily walkaround, McInnis takes his staff to a nearby ice cream shop several times a year. On annual reviews, he states his appreciation for each person's work. He also uses meetings and e-mails to offer personalized thank-you's.
According to WorldatWork, three-quarters of US companies give tangible rewards such as certificates and plaques, 60 percent give cash, and half give gift certificates.
Some recent examples:
•At a medical practice in Austin, Texas, gestures of thanks include quarterly companywide activities such as bowling night or a night at the ball park.