It’s gotten very easy to spotlight an employee’s accomplishments. These days, all we have to do is post a note in a collaboration tool like Slack or Teams. Before you know it, everyone in the company jumps on board to celebrate the success. In a recent Fast Company column, Michael Litt points out that this type of praise starts to seem a little like giving people prizes just for showing up. Is there a better way? Yes!
Managers typically use praise to motivate employees. According to Gallup research, today’s workers want to be engaged in purposeful tasks when they are on the job. Often, these tasks require weeks and months of effort. If you are spotlighting an employee every time they achieve a milestone in a big project, what do you have left for them when the task is completed? Probably not enough to make a difference.
Litt relays the story of a sales manager who stopped ringing the bell after every sale. Because, “closing sales is the job, not an extraordinary effort worthy of a special celebration.” Keep that advice in mind.
Many leaders still believe that financial rewards will drive improved employee performance. Yet, research shows that incentive pay programs don’t necessarily work. Managers often don’t have the stomach to give deserving employees bonus pay and then fail to reward other employees. Team members catch on to this kind of system quickly and see no reason to work any harder.
The other issue with financial rewards such as bonuses is expense. Not every company can afford to hand out bonuses every day. When you’re in a tight fiscal situation, your employees won’t necessarily understand that better times are on the horizon. They’ve gotten used to the bonus as part of the household budget. And, when they have to go without a bonus, performance and attitude can suffer.
The Right Touch
To make praise matter, use it in cases where an employee has delivered above and beyond their expected work output. As Litt says, personal recognition by the CEO during a company-wide meeting makes a difference. The team member receiving the praise knows the value of this recognition. And, other team members receive an important message about how to get the attention of the CEO and to get ahead in the company.