See It. Say It. Appreciate It! – How Employee Recognition & Appreciation Drive Business Results

IRI Podcast Episode on Connection Between Employee Recognition and Business Results

Everyone likes to be appreciated, and those who perform exceptionally deserve to be recognized – but expressing appreciation and recognizing employee contributions aren’t just nice things to do, they’re critical managerial skills, skills that can have a tremendous impact on a company’s productivity, morale, retention and much, much more! There is a direct connection between employee recognition and business results, and today, we’re joined by Debra Corey, the author of See It. Say It. Appreciate It! The Manager’s Guide to Employee Recognition! Here, she explains:

  • That recognizing and communicating appreciation is a skill all managers can develop;
  • The Five Key Themes of Appreciation;
  • The Four Golden Rules of Recognition; and
  • Ways to start an informal employee appreciation program at your company!

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The Connection Between Employee Recognition and Business Results

  • Many managers are unaware that expressing appreciation and recognizing employee achievements is a skill that needs to be developed – and this lack of understanding is part of the problem. This training should be part of a manager’s training program.
  • Here are few statistics to illustrate the extent of the problem: 
    • 7 out of 10 employees have not been recognized or appreciated at work in the last year alone. This isn’t just receiving recognition from a manager or from their HR professional, but anyone at their workplace.
    • 9 out of 10 employees said they left their most recent workplace due to a lack of appreciation.
    • 8 out of 10 employees said they’d work harder if they were recognized meaningfully by their employer. 
    • 72% of individuals state that if a boss thanked them for what they did for the company, that would be enough.
  • In contrast with those findings, companies with good employee recognition programs have:
    • 12x better business outcomes than those companies without good programs. 
    • 14% increase in employee engagement than companies without good programs. The industry standard of what marks a good increase of employee engagement, as found by Gallup, is 1%. 
  • Many companies that don’t effectively recognize employee achievements cite time and money as the reasons why. With the connection between employee recognition and business results so clear, it begs the question:   “...can you afford not to [recognize employees] if they are going to be more engaged, productive, and less burned out?”
  • Recognizing and communicating appreciation is a habit and skill all managers can develop. 


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Playbooks For Employee Recognition and Engagement

  • Ms. Corey has written five books to date about employee recognition and engagement. In her first book, Build it: The Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement, she wrote about a model of employee engagement called the engagement bridge.
  • After the publication of Appreciate It, the author constantly had questions from managers needing support in expressing appreciation for their employees. As Appreciate It was originally developed for HR professionals, not managers, she decided it was time to write a book for the manager who needed support in appreciating their employees.
  • Ms. Corey’s most recent book, See it. Say it. Appreciate it! Manager's Guide to Employee Recognition, she encourages managers to name explicitly the work performance that merits appreciation while taking responsibility to deliver that appreciation.

The Five Key Themes of See It, Say It, Appreciate It

  • The first theme of See It, Say It, Appreciate It focuses on the feeling of appreciation. It isn’t just about the “prize” or the recognition ceremony, although those are important. Focusing on the feeling examines what managers want employees to feel after being recognized. 
    • This is one of the biggest pitfalls of recognition programs. Managers often say thatwhen they have given recognition, that moment might not have turned out how they thought it would. That’s because the manager didn’t focus on how they wanted their employee to feel first. 
    • This Maya Angelou quote should stay top-of-mind: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
  • The second theme focuses on inclusivity. All too often that managers consistently recognize the same people or the same types of people instead of branching out.
    • This can lead to driving a wedge between employees. 
    • In contrast, a more inclusive approach invites everyone to the recognition event and helps everyone feel they’ve contributed when they should be recognized. 
  • The third theme is about recognizing small inputs and contributions to the workplace. Waiting until a big project is complete not only slows down the process of employee recognition but delays the release of the brain’s happiness chemicals which help with motivation and achievement.
    • Leaders are encouraged to  “celebrate non-scale victories,” which is a common concept in personal training which views fitness progress as beyond simply moving the needle on the scale. These victories can be milestones and goals that can celebrated on the way to a long-term health goal.
    • The core concept of a non-scale victory is to celebrate any marked improvement along the way to a long-term goal, celebrating the “small and not just big” wins.
  • The fourth theme is about removing the winner versus loser-mentality of recognition. Remove the artificial scarcity of limits on recognition, such as recognizing only one employee of the month. 
    • For example, Chelsea Football Club has a quarterly employee recognition award allowing anyone who demonstrates the award’s criteria to win. That means there are an unlimited number of people who can win the award. 
  • The fifth theme is to remove constraints and guardrails on recognition. Try not to put limits on recognition that a manager can give employees, even if that means a manager recognizes someone on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. 
  • It’s important to develop a recognition toolkit for managers outside of just the formal recognition programs enacted by HR. This toolkit can include growth and development opportunities, gifts, fun activities, shout outs.
    • But a key caveat on these tools is using the right one at the right time for the right employee. 

Four Golden Rules of Recognition

  • The four Golden Rules of Recognition can be remembered with the acronym M-U-S-T. This framework helps managers remember how to meaningfully recognize an employee’s performance. 
  • The acronym is as follows: 
    • M: meaningful, which is that recognition must resonate with the person receiving it.
      • Managers should balance doing something that works for them and that feels authentic to their management style while balancing what’s right for employees. Don’t pull up someone on stage at a big awards event if that would make them uncomfortable. 
    • U: uniform and inclusive, meaning it must be consistent across the times it is awarded and not feel exclusive. 
    • S: spotlight, which means that the achievement must be highlighted in public communication. 
    • T: timely, which means the achievement must be recognized as close to the exceptional performance as possible.

Starting An Informal Employee Appreciation Program

  • An employee appreciation program can be really simple. Employee appreciation can be as straightforward as putting up a post-it note “Wall of Fame” in a designated location to highlight employee accomplishments or a Teams or Slack channel in which people recognize others’ achievements. 
  • It’s important to communicate informal recognition tools and let everyone know what those are. 
  • If you find a form of recognition does not resonate with an individual or group, that means it is best to pivot to efforts that work more effectively. 

The Importance of Management Training

Debra Corey Background



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