Imagine you’re someone who’s curious about what it’s like to work in a certain company, so you seek out an employee of that company, and ask: “So, tell me, how does management here help you in your work?” And imagine that after a long pause, the employee gives you a somewhat embarrassed look and says, “Umm, I really can’t think of a thing…”
“Okay,” you respond, and thinking your question was too general, you try again: “What I mean is, what does your boss do that helps you do your job, you know, how does she support you?” Again, your query is met with a long pause until finally the employee says with a shrug, “Beats me. I don’t think she even knows what I do.”
Granted, it’s a brief encounter, but what might you surmise about that employee’s level of engagement?
What might his responses indicate about how well recognized he feels? And what do you think the chances are that he’s going to head back to work all charged up and ready to pour on the extra effort? Not likely!
Research has confirmed that recognition is one of the critical factors contributing to the degree of engagement employees experience in their work. As a result, large amounts of literature is devoted to the assessment, design and implementation “how-to’s” of formalized employee recognition programs. But we also know that when recognition at a more elemental level is missing, all the “Way to Go!” posters in the world won’t move the needle on an employee’s internal recognition meter.
So what does it mean to be recognized? Beyond the very basic definition of being known by others to exist, being recognized is about being acknowledged for the value we bring as human beings. Recognition itself answers some of the psychological needs that must be addressed for an individual to be motivated.
In the workplace, we can have a big impact on the people we work with by paying attention to some simple practices that build the foundation for genuine recognition:
And so, beginning with the end in mind: What would you like to hear someone who works for you say when asked by a stranger: “Tell me, how does management support you?”