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GREAT Staff Recognition

Five ingredients create high-impact staff recognition

The deli manager was obviously pleased. As I passed the department, I overhead his enthusiasm: “This is the best the cheese display has looked in weeks!”
“Who arranged the cheese?” he asked. As a young woman stepped from behind the counter, he repeated his comments. She appeared happy to have been noticed, but a little uncomfortable with the public recognition. She seemed unsure how to handle it.

Given my belief in the value of well-delivered recognition, I could not help analyzing what I had witnessed. What had the manager done well? What else could he have said or done to strengthen the recognition?

At its best, recognition consists of five ingredients. All do not have to be present for recognition to be powerful, but the more elements that are used the stronger the recognition. The most meaningful recognition is:

  • Genuine – The most important of the five elements. Insincerity shows. If we do not believe the recognition is deserved, we should remain silent.
  • Relevant – Whatever is praised should reflect the organization’s mission and values and move it closer to its goals.
  • Explicit – Demonstrating knowledge and understanding of what was done adds impact to words of recognition.
  • Appropriate – Some people value public praise, while others prefer privately delivered words of thanks. It is important to know recognition preferences to personalize staff recognition.
  • Timely – Sooner is better than later when expressing appreciation.

How did our manager do? The recognition was Timely. He had just seen the display. His comments sounded Genuine, and an attractive display likely increases sales, something that is Relevant to any business.

The staff member’s reaction, however, suggests ways the manager could have done better. She seemed uncomfortable with the public praise. Another approach—personalized to her recognition preferences—may have been more Appropriate. A description of what he liked about the display would have made the recognition more Explicit, and increased the likelihood that these design elements will be part of future displays.

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