Old fashioned, please! Recognition and good old “Thank-You”

When I was a child my mother taught me to write handwritten notes around the holidays to thank people for everything—for giving presents, for coming to our annual party, for letting me be in the holiday play. You name it; I wrote a thank-you note for it.

As an adult I’m ashamed to admit that I’m not as good at saying thank you as much as my mother would like. But I did learn an important lesson from all of those thank-you notes: something small and thoughtful goes a long way in making someone feel appreciated. Writing thank you notes taught me to appreciate the effort of the people around me and that my recognition helped other people feel that their efforts were valuable.

Saying thank you really is the cornerstone of recognition. Recognition programs often get really excited about mobilizing and engaging the workforce through dynamic online platforms, games, points or competitions. All of these things facilitate recognition; they attract people to an appealing platform where they are encouraged to appreciate and recognize. Many recognition programs aim to integrate recognition into a company culture and use technological platforms as a locus of that integration.

But when it comes down to it, creating a culture of recognition isn’t about exciting technology (although, it certainly helps). It is an exercise in learning to appreciate the hard work of our colleagues, and to reinforce their positive behaviors. It is the same lesson that we learned when our parents sat us down, holiday after holiday, birthday after birthday, to write thank-you notes to our aunts, grandfathers, or distant cousins who took the time to think of us on a special occasion.

It seems like an old-fashioned lesson, but employees who feel that their work is appreciated are more engaged and productive. Recognition creates a positive cycle of mutually reinforcing employee engagement and motivation. A culture of recognition in an organization has a strong positive correlation to improved employee engagement, and employee engagement, in turn, has a “dramatic positive effect on improving job performance and capturing business value” (Value and ROI of Employee Recognition). This old-fashioned lesson, then, can be central to the health and success of our businesses.

Training our employees to give meaningful, specific and timely recognition also trains them to appreciate each other in a manner that is tailored to business needs. We learned the value of appreciating each other from our parents, and a company also sets out a series of employee value propositions and business ideals for its employees to strive towards. I’m all for remembering that the old lessons are useful, even in today’s businesses.

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