Is "Thank You" Enough?
Some people take to the idea of employee recognition like a fish to water. Others, not so much.
Those that aren’t sold on the concept often ask, “Why can’t I just say thank you?” It’s a good question. Certainly, there’s a lot of value in saying thanks, and doing so is a crucial piece of employee recognition. But it’s just one piece.
For an employee to feel truly recognized—and reap the benefits—the recognition should have the following attributes:
- Positive: Give recognition for a job well done. Never use recognition to criticize.
- Immediate: The smaller the time-gap between the action and the reward, the more strongly that behavior is reinforced.
- Certain: “You did great on this project” is always better than “I heard you probably worked hard.” Use descriptive language, not vague comments.
- Tied to company values: “Thank you” is appropriate when Steve brings in donuts. Give recognition when he works late to finish a big report.
- Trackable: Keep a record of all employee recognitions (online is easiest). Soon, you’ll find yourself with tons of invaluable data on your top performers and their biggest strengths.
Don’t get me wrong; saying “thanks” is infinitely better than saying nothing at all, but a comprehensive employee recognition program is the gold standard. Not only will your employees feel more appreciated at work, you will both have a record of accomplishment-based recognitions to access during performance review time. Psychologists have shown that it’s harder to recall positive memories when you’re in a bad mood, which means a traffic jam on the morning of your employee’s performance review could spell disaster for that raise she was hoping for. This isn’t a problem if you can see a list of her recent accomplishments that prove she has gone above and beyond lately.
Another great way to track recognition is to provide a physical reminder of it—a sticker, Post-it, card, or other trinket that employees can display in their offices. Items like this become a physical reminder that they are appreciated and that hard work is noticed and valued at their company. A verbal “thank you” is often too fleeting to have such a lasting effect. In addition, many people say it reflexively and so frequently (how many of you routinely end your emails with “thanks?”) that it doesn’t always carry much weight. Go out of your way to show an employee that he is appreciated and the gesture will mean much more.
Follow these best practices and you can easily implement a recognition program that motivates, cheers, and supports your employees as they work to achieve their personal and professional goals. Can a simple “thank you” do all that?
Cari Turley is a copywriter for Achievers and wants to change the way the world works. If you ask her, a happy employee is worth her weight in gold. Cari has seven active library cards and a worrying number of books.