1. Am I recognized for what I do?
  2. Am I treated every day with dignity and respect?
  3. Am I given the things I need to contribute to the organization in a way that brings meaning to my life?

The late Paul O’Neill, who was CEO of Alcoa and Treasury Secretary of the United States, said that everyone in an organization should be able to answer “yes” to those three questions. In reality, how often does that happen? We’ll try to answer that question in a series of posts over the next few weeks.

Today, let’s start with the first question: Am I recognized for what I do?

Gallup polls over the years indicate that a majority of employees say not enough or not at all. Does that matter? In a September 2022 Harvard Business Review article, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman show data from 360-degree assessments indicating that employee engagement is much higher when a leader is rated as better at providing recognition. Effectively delivered recognition can help improve morale, productivity, performance, and retention. In the article, the authors provide tips for getting better at delivering recognition.

One tip is improving the substance of the recognition. Some of us have experienced the boss who freely and frequently gives out the “good job” comment when a successful outcome occurs. While the recognition is appreciated, it becomes much more meaningful when the leader also describes the employee’s actions that led to the positive outcome. People like hearing how what they did specifically contributed to company success. And they are more likely to repeat similar actions and behaviors in the future. Another tip provided by Zenger and Folkman is improving the delivery of the recognition, referencing among other tactics the power of notes and cards. Many of us have felt the power of receiving a hand-written note of appreciation from a leader; or having a long-ago former employee tell you how much they appreciated the note you sent them many years ago.

At Red Purse Marketing, when we are helping clients design and implement internal communications strategies, we emphasize that communication is much more than just “getting the word out.” It is essential to increasing employee engagement. We provide communication guidelines and expectations – specific tools and templates – for leaders at every level in the organization. Providing recognition is a key element of the guidelines and expectations we develop for and along with our clients, including tips on providing recognition during staff meetings and while rounding in the organization.

For many leaders, providing recognition doesn’t always come easy. However, if they understand its power in enhancing employee engagement, performance, and retention, and if they are provided tools to build their skills in providing recognition, the answer to the question – am I recognized for what I do? – will be a resounding “yes!” across the organization.

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