When I announced to my parents six years ago that I was going to leave my safe corporate job, they just about had a heart attack. Then when I said I’d be a recognition expert, I thought they were going to faint (I could almost hear them mentally moving boxes out of the basement for our family to move in because we couldn’t afford the bills.)
Now, they were right to be leery. In the first year, only one client actually called asking for recognition support specifically (forever grateful to you Jamie.) For everyone else, it was the problems that recognition solves – turnover, low trust, disengagement, lack of innovation, burnout – that people hired me.
Things are starting to shift, however. Now, there isn’t a week that goes by without someone inquiring about how recognition can elevate their culture, improve the interpersonal working relationships, or energize their conference. As a new client said to me the other day, “It’s officially the age of recognition.”
So why all of a sudden is recognition on people’s radars? Why is it becoming part of the strategic discourse at senior teams? And how has it become such a prominent player in people’s people plans? Well, I have a few ideas.
1., The Talent Shortage Cannot Be Ignored
Our revolving door of talent costs organizations 2.5 people’s annual salary, so losing people is a very expensive proposition. Then, when talent is gone, they cannot be easily replaced. Our talent shortage shows no signs of easing until 2030, according to Deloitte, and this teamed with it being a Knowledge Workforce and low unemployment makes it a talent’s marketplace, not the employers. People will not stay where they’re not valued and doing meaningful work.
2. You Can’t Have a Diverse & Inclusive Workforce Without Recognition
Recently I’ve heard espoused a few times lately: Diversity is being invited to the party, Inclusion is being asked to dance. People who are not valued do not get invited to the party (or they know when they’re not wanted). If you are serious about your D&I efforts not seeming like corporate-speak or the flavour of the month, you need to value differences and each other’s individual greatness.
3. Engagement Surveys Aren’t Enough
If there’s one thing busy people hate more than taking time away from their work to do something extra, it’s doing something that leads to no value. I cannot tell you how many organizations I’ve worked with that has launched an engagement survey only to not tell anyone the results, let alone create action plans to address gaps and build on strengths! Furthermore, we’ve been throwing a lot of Band-Aid solutions at low engagement with no measurable impact; recognition (according to our data) shows that it is the easiest way to boost trust, continuous improvement, satisfaction with leadership, retention and overall engagement.
What to Do Next
So, what if you work in an organization not fully leveraging the exponential power of recognition? How can we move things forward in the age of recognition?
- Study Your Data
You probably have been collecting data directly on recognition, engagement and related workplace data like sick time and attrition. Trust me, it’s costing you a fortune to let this opportunity slide. This data will help you to build a business case for a recognition-rich culture. If you don’t feel you have the data, what do we need to look at? What data do you need to start collecting? Where are there pockets of issues and how might recognition be part of that equation?
- Reach Out and Ask Somebody
The next layer to that is looking at your qualitative data such as your exit interviews, comments in engagement surveys, questions that get asked in town hall meetings, etc. What people issues keep coming up in your team meetings that might be addressed, even a little if people felt appreciated and valued? What are some of the things that continue to come up as recurring themes and ask yourself does a lot of these things have to do with if people feel valued and appreciated around here?
- Driving for Results
The next step is once you see how vast your opportunity is and you’ve connected it to the evidence for why this is needed, now connect it to the business drivers. What are your key performance indicators, your KPIs? And even if you don’t use that KPI terminology, it could be quality improvement plans, indicators of success, operational goals. Pick your terms and let recognition drive specific business initiatives forward. Then, take a look at how you can formulate a group together that can help you move this forward (for more on this check out this post).
- Plan for Purpose
It goes without saying you need to have a plan, at least a high level one or the first few steps of a plan. This can’t just sit out there as somebody’s pet project for it to really gain momentum. It can start that way, however, it’s not what will allow it to gain traction over time. For it to really gain momentum, we need to anchor it into some strategic objectives, your people plan or other major strategic projects. I know organizations now that their number one priority when it comes to people this year is complementing and appreciating each other. Man, they are going to see breakthrough results on things that they have found so challenging to be able to impact.
- Focus on What Matters
Finally, make sure people know this is your focus. Let me correct that: we need to know people are the focus. This is how you can avoid the trap. Socialize it. Tell people this is the focus, why and how they can get involved. Give them the tools and resources to be part of the solution, and encourage them to come up with unique ways that work for them and in their teams. In fact, a great way to do that very quickly is to encourage peer-to-peer recognition. People recognizing teaches others can lead to additional grassroots recognition efforts that will naturally spread faster.
My friends, it is the age of recognition and the age is here. We’re here together in community. If you’re not already a member, why don’t you subscribe to my YouTube channel full of helpful videos. Want a particular topic covered in a future VLOG or blog post? Comment below! These are always for you, so let me know how I can support your recognition efforts.
Want to check out more resources about how you can recognize other’s greatness? Check out these articles: