You've carried out your first staff survey, and the feedback from the ranks is that they don't get enough thanks. They're prepared to give their all, but wonder if anybody notices. Time to launch a recognition scheme - but how do you decide whether Nigel in catering should be Employee of the Month, or Jane from accounts a Service Hero?
IDENTIFY THE BEHAVIOURS YOU WISH TO ENCOURAGE. Gene Johnson, a visiting fellow at Cranfield University School of Management, says: 'In motivation theory, recognition is about positive reinforcement. If you do something good and I praise you, then you'll do it again.' So the first step is to identify the actions that you want people to repeat. You can tailor your recognition programme to specific business objectives. If winning new customers is your prime objective, give it high priority.
CREATE A RECOGNITION CULTURE. You can provide recognition outside a formal scheme, says David Jackson, director of organisational change consultancy Novius and author of Becoming Dynamic. 'If you have a culture of recognition, then people say 'thank you' and 'well done' as a matter of course.
Promotion and praise are two of the most powerful forms of recognition.' It is vital, he adds, that people believe recognition given is sincere, and this can only come from the values of the firm.
TAKE NOMINATIONS FROM ALL DIRECTIONS. Don't rely on an individual or group to find those worthy of praise. Customers, managers, colleagues and subordinates may all have a point of view, but don't make the scheme too bureaucratic. Some of the best recognition schemes are run by the staff, for the staff.
EXPLAIN HOW THE SCHEME WORKS. Communicate clearly why award winners were chosen, in order to demonstrate that the process is fair and to reduce any chance of simmering resentment.
GIVE PUBLIC THANKS - NOT JUST CASH. Financial rewards play a part in recognition, but many people value the acknowledgment of colleagues far more than a modest cash prize. Celebrate your awards with certificates and pictures on walls, stories in your newsletter and intranet; invite winners to a special lunch or dinner. Ask employees whether there are other rewards they would prefer to cash. They may get greater satisfaction from receiving cinema tickets or a restaurant meal.
DON'T MAKE IT TOO HARD OR EASY. 'It can be demotivating if you reward those who aren't truly excelling,' says Johnson.
However, informal recognition is good for everyone.
USE AWARD WINNERS AS ROLE MODELS. The example set by those who have made an outstanding contribution can teach and encourage others. Winners can inspire others by talking about their own experiences. They can even be company ambassadors to clients and customers.
RECOGNISE TEAMS AS WELL. If a department or a group of people is outperforming, make sure they receive their share of praise. Some people perform best as part of a team, and in most cases that is an ethos you will want to encourage.
KEEP IT UP. Recognition, says Jackson, should be continuous. 'If people think you are simply introducing a recognition scheme so that you can tick a box, they will be cynical about it.'
DO SAY: 'Simon put in an outstanding effort to help us win the Jelly Components account, working two consecutive weekends to get the presentation ready in time. He made a big contribution to meeting our key objective of doubling our market share this year.'
DON'T SAY: 'Pass that personnel file; I'd better decide whose turn it is to get the Crown of Excellence and the gift vouchers.'