How to improve employee performance through recognition

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Give positive feedback when you observe it. Make it immediate. Don’t wait for days or weeks to point out what they’ve done well. The best time is to refer to it as you see it or as close to action as possible.

Give specific feedback rather than general. Instead of a quick, non-descript, “Good job,” be more specific: “Your report was very well researched, your visuals were clear and you did an excellent job with your verbal presentation.” General comments are too vague and employees might not know exactly what it is they did well or more specifically what you want repeated.

Provide a form of recognition that is appropriate to the person. Some people are private and don’t like to be recognized publicly while others like the fanfare of bells and whistles in front of the whole group. Your recognition can backfire if you recognize a private person publicly.

Match the form of the recognition to the magnitude of the achievement. If someone lands a major account worth thousands or millions of dollars after months or even years of pursuing the customer, you better offer something better than a pat on the back and a $10 gift card. This doesn’t mean that you have to give large monetary rewards but you should take more effort to acknowledge the significant contribution the employee made to the bottom line.

Be creative in your recognition. The more thought and effort you put into your recognition activities, the greater the level of appreciation will be felt by your employees. When employees sense that your recognition efforts are forced, contrived, routine or appear last minute, it will have little affect on their repeat efforts. Gifts should be unique and appropriate to the achievement.

If you establish regular awards such as employee of the month, be consistent every month and make the achievement meaningful. If you appear to simply rotate the awards without it truly representing top performance, the award will become a joke around the office and a complete waste of time.

Simple ways to recognize employees include an article in the company newsletter or a feature on the intranet. Consider a revolving trophy that gains a reputation round the office. The trophy doesn’t have to be ornate. In fact the more eccentric the trophy is the more prestige in winning it. A banner across someone’s office, cube or work area can also announce to people the current top performer. Just make sure it is clear to everyone what it takes to get the award.

Recognition doesn’t have to be expensive but the return on investment can be great. Take time to plan your recognition and watch your employees’ performance improve consistently and the atmosphere around the office brighten.


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