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Improving Employee Performance by Giving Recognition

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Improving employee performance and retaining talent are two of the major targets of any human resources professional. However, these goals can be attained only if the employee giving superlative performance feels adequately compensated.

Poor human resources professionals forget too often that the compensation sought by employees is not limited to financial rewards; it also involves the human equation. A tendency to view employees simply as money-seeking units results in the failure of a human resources program. In today's world, it is the non-financial reward and the human emotional component that rule the attention of human resources.

Cold cash hasn't lost its charm as an incentive, but a workforce clamoring for work-life balance has learned to disregard cash when faced with other considerations. The toolbox of the modern human resources professional has expanded to include rewards like attention and recognition. Nelson, in "Motivating Employees with Informal Awards," cites four characteristics of a good employee-recognition program:
  1. Recognition should be immediate. It should be given as soon as possible following the demonstration of a desired behavior. An increasing time gap between the desired behavior and its reward devalues the behavior and diminishes the reinforcement value of the reward.

  2. Recognition should be delivered personally. Manner of delivery matters when it comes to social rewards. The importance of the desired behavior is underscored to the employee when a superior takes personal time to recognize and praise the target behavior.

  3. The recognition and social reward given should be valuable and meaningful to the employee. Some employees like to be appreciated in private; others may desire appreciation to be shown in front of peers to increase their likelihood of a promotion. The human resource professional should customize the non-financial reward to the recipient.

  4. Recognition should not be phony or superficial. It should link directly to the desired behavior in order to yield the desired effects (i.e., reinforcement of positive attitudes toward the desired behavior).
A national poll conducted online by Maritz Research, Inc., in October 2005 found that 55% of polled employees agreed that the quality of their companies' recognition efforts affected their job performance. The survey also found that only 10% of employees are completely satisfied with their companies' recognition efforts. Based on extensive research, the survey made the following suggestions, which are relevant for managers, employers, and human resource professionals alike:
  • Offer greater number of reward options to employees.
  • Identify what is meaningful to your employees.
  • Keep recognition programs fresh.
  • Train managers on best practices in recognition.
  • Recognize all levels of employees.
  • Make sure recognition is given consistently.
  • Develop a peer-recognition program.
Research suggests managers who spend time with their employees to determine how they are best motivated get the best results out of human resource development programs. The key questions to be addressed are as follows:
  • Does the employee like to be publicly or privately praised?
  • Would the employee like to receive recognition from any specific person?
  • Does the employee prefer any particular type of reward?
Keeping these guidelines in mind and building upon them can bring success to a human resource development program that seeks to reinforce a particular kind of behavior among the organization's employees. Turning a blind eye to employee recognition will only jeopardize prospects of human resource development. Human resources professionals need to be very careful about how they handle this issue.

Works Cited:

Nelson, B. "Motivating Employees with Informal Awards." Management Accounting 77.5 (1995): 30.

Maritz Research, Inc. "Bosses Not 'On The Same Page' as Employees Regarding Recognition." October 2005. (accessed June 15, 2007).
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Popular tags:

 human beings  beliefs  compensation  employers  personal time  demonstrations  behaviors  recognition programs  praises

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