Rewards and Recognition.

Chances are you’re overthinking it.

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The lowest scores on our Employee Engagement Surveys is typically linked directly to a lack of recognition at work. On the flip side, leaders often resent the idea of recognition because, “We shouldn’t have to give participation medals for showing up to do their job.”

But chances are – both sides are overthinking rewards and recognition. The key? Simplify your program and distill it down to communication preferences.

The other day we were talking to our client and he asked, “Who wouldn’t want to be recognized in front of the whole team for their efforts? We do this every month! And sometimes we even give out gift cards and hockey tickets.” His colleague piped up, and said, “If you ever publicly recognize Jill like that, she is going to disappear into the floor.” She also pointed out that they had team members video conference in from another country. The gift cards and hockey tickets were not relevant to half the audience, yet they were all supposed to feel like they belonged.

He scanned the scores for her department his colleague ran. Her scores were actually quite high. “What do you do?” he asked. She smiled as she shared an example from the day before when she brought in fancy coffees for her team to thank them for what had been a challenging week.

As individuals, we each have unique needs about how we want to be recognized and rewarded. For some – a public appreciation is sought after, for others, it is a quiet moment with their leader and a simple, “thank you”. Getting it right takes time and some investigation. It’s understanding the other person’s motivations, communication preferences and their values. This typically means that a one sized fits all program rarely fits the bill.

The thing to remember? Recognition and rewards can be low investment. We love ideas like the CEO’s parking spot for a day, lunch with a senior leader or a handwritten card or an opportunity to work more often from home.

The right mix of recognition and rewards will depend on your people, your culture and your creativity.

Your team will thank YOU for that.