Labor Day Lessons—The Residual Impacts of Employee Recognition

September 1, 2016

As leaders and organizations seek strategies to attract and retain top talent, many overlook one of the most basic and easily executed strategies—employee recognition.  Shockingly, only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days according to a recentGallup poll.


It only takes a little to give A LOT.  Employee recognition is free and easy, yet employees are rarely ever praised.  Think about how you felt the last time someone recognized you for a job well done; amazing, right?  Recognizing even the smallest successful step, for example, an employee who finally wrote a stellar report summary, pays major dividends for such little investment of time and resources.  Dale Carnegie said, “Let us praise even the slightest improvement. That inspires the other person to keep on improving.”  No matter how big or small of an achievement, be sure to praise employees and encourage others to do the same. 

Positive feedback pays out beyond the workplace.  A study conducted by the Harvard Business School concluded that hearing positive feedback makes employees more productive and happy, and helps to reduce their stress levels. When employees are happier at work, they are happier at home.  From the study of positive psychology, we can glean that this ‘broaden-and-build theory’ of positive emotions means that the receipt of positive emotions broaden a person’s awareness level and encourages exploratory thoughts and actions. As time passes, this broadened behavioral method builds skills and resources. 

Praise strengthens relationships.  Switch gears and consider the person giving positive feedback versus receiving it.  Not only does it feel good to commend others, but doing so demonstrates that the person actually pays attention to what the employee does and has therefore witnessed performance worthy of praise.  This is one of our most basic psychological needs—the need for others to see and recognize the good in us.  Praising others is therefore a win-win strategy.

One statement of praise can last a lifetime.  If you excelled in an extracurricular activity during your school years, odds are you still have award ribbons, trophies, certificates of recognition, etc. stored somewhere.  It is human nature to want to remember these prized moments of achievement, no matter how old we are.  You can have a similar impact on another person!  Something you say or an award you present to an employee may positively impact them for the rest of their lives.  I still have cards, certificates and medals from both my school and early career days which I refer to when I feel discouraged.

Dale Carnegie said, “Let’s cease thinking of our accomplishments, our wants. Let’s try to figure out the other man’s good points. Then forget flattery. Give honest, sincere appreciation. Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise, and people will cherish your words and treasure them and repeat them over a lifetime – repeat them years after you have forgotten them.” 


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