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Recognition—the Greatest Motivator of Them All

Former CEO of IKEA, Anders Dahlvig, has argued that recognition is the greatest motivator of all. In his book, “The IKEA Edge” Dahlvig says that “I would even go so far as to say that recognition is the most important driver of mankind…” There are plenty of people who go about their day-to-day jobs and don’t expect to receive any kind of special recognition for showing up and punching the clock every day. To them a job is just a job. But every company has at least a handful of employees who don’t just punch the clock—they show up a little early, stay a little late, pitch in on projects they don’t have to help with, and lend a hand whenever it’s needed. These are the employees that deserve some special recognition! How you go about recognizing those employees can vary greatly.

Private Recognition

Sometimes the most helpful and hard-working employees are also the quietest. These behind-the-scene staff members might not feel comfortable in the spotlight so private recognition between you (the manager/boss) and them is exactly what they need to feel appreciated. Even the smallest of gestures like a note or email can have a big impact. And if you feel they deserve to be recognized with a cash bonus or extra vacation day you don’t have to announce it to the whole company as it might make them feel uncomfortable, just tell them!

Public Recognition

Some companies like to throw annual parties where all the teams and all the departments get the chance to just have a good time together in a relaxing setting. Maybe you have a company picnic or BBQ at the office, maybe you arrange for a special outing, or (if your company has the budget) perhaps you even throw some kind of official recognition ceremony. The point of publicly recognizing someone at an event like this is that you are recognizing them in front of the entire company and celebrating their contributions to your business. Public recognition lets everyone see who is making a real impact at work. It also lets your team know that you are keeping an eye on who does what in the office and appreciate the work your staff puts in.

Just make sure that if you’re going to publicly recognize someone they deserve the credit! Some employees might ride the coat-tails of others and you don’t want to reward someone for work they didn’t really do. That’s why peer-to-peer recognition programs are so great; it lets your staff nominate each other internally and reward those who truly deserve it.

Cash Recognition

Whether in public on in private, many managers feel like cold hard cash is a great recognition tool. It says to their team “I noticed you put extra hours into XYZ project and you should be rewarded for your time.” But you have to be careful when using cash as a recognition system that your reward is equal to the work. If an employee busts their butt for two weeks to meet some deadline and you hand them a $5 gift card that recognition attempt could actually backfire; you’re essentially telling them their hard work was only worth $5. Most employees won’t turn down an unexpected bonus but make sure it’s really reflective of their work.

Award Recognition

Recognition awards, especially custom-designed awards, are a nice addition to any kind of public recognition ceremony. A custom-designed recognition award is more like a piece of art than anything else and is the kind of thing an employee would be happy to display in their office. You can create unique awards based on the recipient, develop a design that reflects the nature of the award, or even go with a design that is an extension of your brand. You could also create a perpetual award plaque that hangs in a public space like the lobby or company cafeteria and every year new recipients can be added to this recognition award.