How do you keep up recognition of your top talent even when your business is growing at an exponential pace?
This is a question I have been asked by hundreds of individuals, leaders and business owners over the last few months. The assumption being: we don’t have time for recognition during growth cycles.
But I would question the assumption underlying the question.
Recognition needs to be front and centre all the MORE when your team, organization or industry are growing and the pace is exceedingly busy. This is when you need your best people the most, and it’s also one of the times you’re most at risk of losing them.
When your focus is not on recognition, it can lead to your most needed and valued people feeling like just a cog in the wheel of growth. They may feel like giving up and burning out. They may begin to wonder, “could the grass be greener on the other side?” The fallout: intention to leave.
Ironically, simple acts of recognition can help to insulate against fatigue and keep people motivated to do their best even during those exceedingly busy times. When your organization or industry is in a period of exponential growth, taking on more and more, that is exactly when you need your top talent the most, focused, implementing and performing. You cannot afford to lose your best people any time, and certainly not when you’re growing.
But leaders think they have no time. They cannot fit it in and certainly, can’t afford to not do it. And, the fallout (e.g., recruitment) is way more time consuming than simple acts of acknowledgement.
Recognition can help insulate against burnout and fatigue and provide an opportunity to see how scalable your recognition efforts are. Consider:
- How committed are you to making sure that your best people know they’re appreciated and valued?
- What is your people philosophy on the long-term?
- What do you want your people to be saying about the organization on the other side of your current growth cycle?
It’s a great opportunity to ensure your vision for the future keeps your people at the forefront. And here are some ways to ensure recognition now helps retain them so they stay with you later.
- Provide the unexpected
When your best people go the extra mile, do something unexpected, surprising and personally meaningful. For example, you have a core team working late for a few weeks, sacrificing a lot. The surprise recognition gesture: send dinner home to their families.
Think about it. They miss dinner with their families. Someone has to pick up the slack at home. Many people don’t like cooking (or certainly the dishes that follow). When your top people go home to smiles versus upset kids and spouses, they’re less frustrated about the extra time. And the cost is pretty low in the grand scheme of things.
Dinner sent home sends a message to the employee that you recognize and appreciate the extra effort and commitment. It sends a message to the family that you understand the sacrifice they’re making and appreciate them too. It also sends a message throughout the company that even though sometimes you have to ask people to work longer hours, it doesn’t mean you expect people to be married to the job; when you have to take time away from family, that will be acknowledged versus expected.
- Have a milestone celebration!
As much as you may have this huge growth, stop and celebrate. It doesn’t have to be a long pause. The importance of that pause is remembering how far you’ve come since the last time you took a pause. It’s that sense of accomplishment, that hit of dopamine, that allows you to feel the sense of success. Otherwise, it just feels like there’s more to do, and you get overwhelmed; the path to burnout.
I spoke for a client at a milestone event, celebrating progress so far on a long, onerous project (where no wins were that visible yet) after a multi-company merger. The energy in the room and appreciation for taking the time to break bread together, hear a non-work motivational speech and get to know each other on a social level was appreciated by every person I spoke to. They all said, “They didn’t have to do this. But it matters that they did.”
I hope you’re doing shout-outs all the way along. That is not just for your leaders and the business owners, but it’s also for your colleagues as well. Peer-to-peer recognition is one of the easiest ways to keep recognition momentum going. When you have that, as you’re growing, it allows everybody to have an opportunity to keep that strong recognition culture afloat.
- Strategize using an employee think-tank
If you are finding that you’re growing so exponentially that you can barely keep on top of it, bring the employees together to strategize together. Ask things like:
- What are we doing that’s working?
- Is there anything that’s not efficient?
- Is there anything we could be doing differently?
By asking for feedback (especially feedback that starts with an abundance mindset about what’s already working), you’re showing you value their feedback and they’re not just “worker bees”. Take the quick wins (even better encourage people most passionate about the quick wins to run with it) and put ideas into place right away. Keep that sense of ownership, that feeling of “I belong here despite the changes”, alive and well.
Something like this if not geared at being a complaints session. It’s not a passive “suggestion box” type of idea. Rather a strategy and opportunities generation session. What you’ll find is, there are things taking away good people’s time and attention that really aren’t important, and you can likely get much of that cleared away so they can stay focused on the most important work needed for growth.
- Strength discovery is critically important
There’s a free, really valuable tool called the VIA Signature Strength Survey, although maybe you have already done a strengths tool. Look at the results and map out their individual strengths. Consider if they are well aligned with the work being done. While you’re growing, the easiest, most efficient way to maximize people’s talents is to leverage the strengths and expertise they already have. When you’re trying to work outside of your strengths and push yourself, on top of having a huge volume of work and tight deadlines, it’s exhausting and not as rewarding. Map out the strengths and try as best as you can to match your growth strategy to how you already have strengths within the organization.
- Measuring matters
Finally, find a way to have those performance milestones. Are you measuring performance and progress as you’re growing? Are you still measuring the cultural variables that individuals feel most strongly about preserving? Are you measuring both process and outcome measures (usually we like to measure the final product – outcome – but that doesn’t keep people going, nor does it allow for quick course correction, when measured in isolation).
What you measure matters. As you’re measuring it, as you’re going through those milestones, I hope that you have some of those “people measures” as well. And pull them into the celebration!
I hope these tips have been helpful as you continue to embrace recognition. What other suggestions do you have? Pop them in the comments below.
For other free resources to help you keep recognition strong in your culture, feel free to hop over to my website for the Cool Stuff page and download many helpful tools to use even when you’re growing.