Your Employee Recognition Program is… You

Posted by Tony Fornetti on 9/8/18 4:13 PM
Tony Fornetti
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5 Everyday Things You Can Do Now to Make Your Employees Feel Appreciated

Hiring?  If you are – and if you’re like most hiring managers I know – you’re hyper focused on making sure you find the best candidates, ask the smartest questions, and pull together the most compelling offer.

That’s a lot of homework. 

But while you’re prepping all of that, keep this in mind:  those candidates are doing their homework, too.  And in today’s market, you’re not really in the position of picking your favorite candidate, making your best offer, and just knowing they’ll say yes.

Your ideal candidate is likely being courted by other firms.  And before they decide where they want to work, they have some pretty big questions that go far beyond the standard fare about key accountabilities, reporting structures, or benefits.  If you doubt what I’m saying, check out this candidate friendly how-to on  Or take a look at the advice here, on    

Today, it’s simply not enough to offer a challenging and financially rewarding position.  Nope.  You need to be ready for questions like these:

  • Could I have a quick tour and meet some of the people who have been here a while? 
  • How do you celebrate successes of the organization but also of individuals?
  • How do you support the efforts of different members of your team?
  • How do you motivate team members during challenging times?

See a trend here? A paycheck is no longer enough.  Today you need to offer a feeling, an everyday experience of being welcome, recognized, appreciated and supported.  And you need to offer proof that you’ll deliver on it. 

None of that has anything to do with a formal corporate “employee recognition program.” 

Don’t get me wrong, if you have a top down program, good for you.  Use it, brag about it, and make sure your employees are enjoying the benefits of it.  But no corporate program, no matter how robust, can make sure your employees feel appreciated by you, the manager, every day.  That’s on you.

And that’s where you can outshine most of your competition in the battle for top talent.  According to a recent Gallup study, a mere 3 out of 10 American employees strongly agreed that they have received recognition or praise for doing good work within the past seven days.

Again, that’s on the manager, not a program. 

So stop waiting for a program and starting your own employee recognition practices today.  Here are 5 easy things you can start right now.

1.Praise publicly, criticize privately

You don’t need to bring a trophy to every staff meeting.  But you should always bring a few words of appreciation that you can share with each person, in front of their peers, as often as possible.  Conversely, keep the critical messages out of the group dynamic.  Embarrassing someone in front of their peers crosses a line that’s difficult to recover.

2. Build bridges

Connections between peers – and across hierarchical lines – foster greater collaboration and reinforce a sense of true teamwork and belonging.  That’s the culture that attracts top talent and keeps them energized and engaged.  One way you can start building these bridges is by creating teams for various projects.  Within that framework, you can encourage people to recognize each other’s efforts and accomplishments during team meetings.

3. Host fun, friendly team competitions

Emphasis here is on those two words:  fun and friendly.   Separate from any incentive compensation you may provide, set goals that are, by the very nature, supportive of team effort.

4. Join forces to serve the community

It’s one thing to circulate paint-a-thon posters and encourage everyone to go.  But it’s another thing altogether if you announce the organization’s passionate commitment to that paint-a-thon, pick up a paint brush, and send a handwritten note of thanks to everyone after you’ve spent the day painting with them.  These kinds of experiences have the power to create emotional bonds between coworkers that hold people together, even during challenging times.   

5. Take the time to know the people on your team

What are each person’s career goals?  What kind of small rewards are most meaningful to each individual?  I’m not a fan of handing coffee cards to everyone seated at the conference table, with a vague, “thanks for your hard work!” I am a huge fan of giving a coffee card to a coffee lover, along with a heartfelt description of how their recent effort helped move a project forward. 


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Topics: For Employers, Workplace Culture, Retention