Peer Recognition Efforts that Work at Work

April 5, 2010

Appreciating and reinforcing the value that employees bring to an organization leads to all kinds of “hard” benefits: improved job satisfaction, productivity and retention, for example. Yet, on the floorboards of the executive offices, recognition efforts can often slip through the cracks. Help foster recognition efforts in your organization by making it the responsibility of all employees, not just the management team. There is strength in numbers; use that strength to your advantage. Implement a peer recognition system or program.

Recognition efforts lose their power and value if they are perceived as inequitably and inconsistently applied. Carla O’Dell, author of People, Performance and Pay, has compiled survey results revealing that the majority of current recognition efforts in the US are management-driven, relying on such methods as management nomination and supervisory commendations. Result? Out of 271 companies surveyed, the mean percentage of the employee population recognized on an annual basis was less than 5%. This is an important statistic, considering that everyone has an innate need to feel noticed and appreciated.

Since we all want to be valued and recognized for our work, it makes sense that appreciating, valuing, recognizing one another for work done well should be everyone’s responsibility. Although management has the largest influence on how satisfied employees are, they aren’t the only source. Recognition efforts can be provided from a 360-degree perspective. After all, many performance appraisals have managers, clients/customers, colleagues, and partners evaluating employees. Why not set up a way to praise them, too?

Peer recognition efforts can be as straightforward or comprehensive as you want them to be, but there are four “must haves” for any recognition efforts:

Outline the goals and the employee behaviors that will build your organization’s success. Point the way by communicating this to every member of your business, so each person knows how to contribute. Have fun spreading the news of the organization’s new and current recognition efforts, and be creative in your delivery.

As important as it is for managers to continue to recognize, employees should also have it as part of their duties to strive for a positive work environment. Do not limit the responsibility for recognition efforts to your management teams. It may be overwhelming for managers, leading to employees being overlooked. Give each employee the permission and tools needed to reinforce the positive efforts that move your company forward. Whether it’s through instant e-mail, traditional certificates, or five-minute meetings, make peer recognition efforts sincere and earnest experiences.

The primary argument against peer recognition efforts comes from a lack of trust. It is commonly feared that recognition efforts will be too expensive and will interfere with getting work done. However, with forethought and time spent in developing your recognition efforts, you can build peer recognition into your processes using a minimum of time and expense. Most of the time, employees can recognize each other in the amount of time formerly taken by standard greetings and information transfers. Further, when employees feel empowered and trusted, they feel a larger sense of pride in their work. The long-term benefit from creating such trust in an organization is loyalty.

Peer recognition efforts are not a new concept. Peer recognition efforts can be as simple or comprehensive as an organization desires; certainly you’ll want to tailor yours to the personality of your organization, budget, and interests of your team. Offer tools for one-to-one, group, and team recognition efforts. Schedule regular times and places where you “recognize the recognizers.” Stay centered on the needs of the employees and the whole organization will reap the rewards of a successful peer-to-peer program.

In short, employee recognition efforts are a much too important business objective to be left to management! Offer all employees the opportunity to build their own satisfaction by giving and receiving recognition. Create programs in which the tools for peer recognition are easy to use and access. Set the example. Make it a priority on your list of things to do: Recognize one another.

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