Recognizing a job well done shouldn’t be limited to once a year. Here’s how to praise your staff so they feel appreciated and engaged
BY LIZ URAM
Do you ever feel like there is way too little appreciation going on in your workplace? If you said yes, you’re not alone. Your team probably would say the same thing.
A Gallup survey revealed that 65% of employees haven’t received recognition in the past year. This directly correlates to studies that consistently report that two-thirds of American workers are disengaged.
Employees who don’t receive recognition are 51% more likely to look for another job, are less motivated to produce more and better work, and are less likely to respect you as a leader.
It’s easy to see that one of the most important communication skills in a leader’s tool kit is the ability to give positive feedback. This also is one of the most underdeveloped skills for many leaders. The reason is that some leaders just don’t know where to start.
Here are the five most common questions leaders have about giving praise:
1. Why should I praise people for just doing their job?
Two words — positive reinforcement. Do you want them to keep doing their job? Keep this phrase in mind: What gets rewarded gets repeated. If you want them to keep doing their job, let them know their work is appreciated.
One study concluded that 81% of employees would produce better work more often if they received personal recognition for their efforts.
That seems like a good return on investment for a few sincere words of appreciation.
2. I don’t need praise, why do they?
Who knows? Everyone has different internal drives that determine what motivates them. Recognition is one of the top motivators, along with challenging work, growth opportunities, job security, being part of a team and compensation.
If you happen to be motivated by growth opportunities, you may not understand why others need a pat on the back. You might even think they are being needy. Beware. That kind of thinking is a barrier to your own growth and could hold you back from achieving your goals.
The best leaders understand that everyone is different, and they meet people where they are without judgment.
3. How do I give praise without sounding phony?
The secret to meaningful recognition is to make it specific, timely and sincere.
- Specific: Instead of a generic “good job,” try saying, “Thanks for taking the initiative to help Marco get that order out. I really appreciate your teamwork.” The person is more likely to repeat the behavior when they know what the praise is for.
- Timely: Say it as close to the event as possible. If you wait, it loses its impact. Follow this rule for keeping your praise timely: When you see it, say it.
- Sincere:This part is easy. If you are specific and timely and you are genuine with your praise you will automatically come across as sincere.
4. Should I praise in public or in private?
You should give your praise where the employee is most comfortable. However, many leaders are hesitant to give recognition in public. They worry that it will create jealousy or resentment. Forget those fears.
One benefit of praising in public is that it shows the lower performers what’s pos
sible. It can actually be the shot in the arm they need to step up. Looking for opportunities to give shout-outs for positive behaviors, both big and small, in public creates a culture of appreciation.
You might even notice team members praising each other, which will result in increased morale and trust. One study showed that 90% of direct reports agree that team spirit is increased when the leader provides appreciation and support.
5. How often should I offer praise?
We know that once-a-year praise is not enough, but many leaders don’t know how often they should acknowledge good work. This is a good question because praising too often can be as bad as not praising often enough. Running around giving high-fives, thumbs up and generic thanks is exhausting for you and uninspiring to your team.
A good rule of thumb is to provide positive praise to each person on your team once a week. I know what you’re thinking: Some people aren’t doing anything worth praising on a weekly basis. Look harder.
Did your chronically tardy employee show up on time? Let him know you appreciate his effort.
What about the people who come in day after day and do their job? Nothing more, nothing less. They get the job done, and you need them. Let them know you appreciate being able to count on them.
The benefits of appreciation are clear — increased retention, motivated team members who work hard, and respect for you as a leader. Start catching people in the act of doing things right. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get the appreciation you deserve, as well.
Liz Uram is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer, consultant and author. She equips leaders with the tools they need to communicate like a boss so they can make a bigger impact, get better results and motivate others to do their best. With 20 years of experience, she’s developed systems that work. Uram has written four books, which are packed full of strategies leaders can implement to get real results, real fast. For more information, visit LizUram.com.