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Praise Your Way to Success: 6 Steps to Effective Employee Recognition

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

"You're doing a good job." "That's a great idea." "Thanks for your extra effort."

For some employees, hearing those words is better than a cash bonus. Yet, many managers can muster up such phrases only during annual reviews ... if at all.

"The number-one reason managers don't give recognition is that they don't know how," says Bob Nelson, author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees.

That's why you need to teach supervisors how to give employee recognition and give them the tools to make it easier. Studies consistently show that "feeling appreciated" is a key reason employees stick around. And by making recognition a companywide effort, you remove a burden from you and make rewards more personal.

Here are Nelson's six guidelines for effective praising:

1. Make it soon. Any recognition is good, but the best kind is given as soon as possible after the good performance.

Example: When an HP software engineer told his supervisor that he fixed a software bug, the supervisor grabbed a banana from his lunch and gave it to the employee with a big "thank you." Today, the most prestigious award in that HP department is the "Golden Banana" award.

2. Make it sincere. Stop guessing at what rewards people want. Ask them.

Nelson says Medtronic Corp. recently stopped giving people "stuff" for their years-of-service awards. Instead, they give days off because the company finally asked employees, and that's what they wanted.

3. Make it specific. If possible, relate the gift to the performance being rewarded.

Example: Apple Computers prints different company core values on T-shirts ("Integrity," etc.) and gives them to employees who demonstrate those values. "Apple has employees who work hard trying to collect them all," says Nelson.

4. Make it personal. One bank asks new hires on their first day to write on an index card the three things that motivate them (time off, lunch with the boss, Starbucks coffee, etc.). The card is then given to their supervisors, who can mold rewards around those "wants."

5. Make it positive and public. When praising employees, don't undercut it by concluding with a note of criticism. And, when possible, convey the praise in person and in public. With public praising, says Nelson, "you're sending the message that this is the type of thing that gets rewarded around here."

6. Make it proactive. Teach supervisors how to be on the lookout for positive behaviors. One tactic: Managers can put the name of every staff member on their weekly "to do" list. Then, managers can cross off each name as they dole out praise that week.

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