If you’re in a management position of any kind, I challenge you to ask yourself the following questions: When and how often do I offer praise to my employees? Why do I offer praise to my employees? And finally, how do I offer praise to my employees. Sorry, but contrived Employee of the Month programs don’t count. If you find that you tend to focus on poor performance and other problems among employees instead of their hard work and successes, you could be jeopardizing employee morale and productivity.
Here are seven tips for improving your skills at recognizing and praising your team members for their achievements:
Don’t confuse compliments with praise: Telling an employee that you like her new haircut is not an example of praise, it’s a compliment. Compliments, while nice, will not have the impact on employee morale and productivity that praise has. Praise should not be treated as a vehicle for making your employees like you, though this may be an added benefit of learning how to properly recognize your employees’ achievements.
One size does not fit all: Every employee is different. Some employees may welcome recognition at a staff meeting while others cringe at the thought of being thrust into the spotlight. Try to find out what makes every employee tick and what kind of recognition will have the greatest impact.
Be timely: The longer you wait to praise an employee for his or her positive performance, the lower the impact will be. There’s also a good chance you’ll forget if you wait until later, so deliver praise on the spot when possible.
Be specific: For maximum impact, target specific accomplishments with praise, not general performance. “Good work this week!” is far less effective in reinforcing positive behavior than the more specific, “Great job on your report this week. I know you put in a lot of hours on the research and analysis, and it shows.”
Squelch the urge to tack on feedback: Recognizing an employee for an achievement is not the time to point out areas for improvement. Leave your constructive criticism for the performance review to ensure that your praise has its intended impact and does not come across as insincere (i.e. meaningless kind words delivered only to soften the blow of the criticism).
Be sincere: While presenting someone with an Employee of the Month certificate is better than nothing, the insincerity of the gesture, which requires little more than changing the name and date on a template, will not be lost on the recipient. Recognizing an employee for her polished delivery of a presentation to a potential client with something as simple as, “Nice job this morning! Your presentation skills are really an asset to this company,” will go much further than any tacky piece of paper.
Share the love: Make an effort to identify commendable acts among even your poorest performing employees. A pat on the back for a job well done might give an underperforming, discouraged employee all the encouragement he needs to flip the productivity switch. You should also be mindful of how much you praise your best performers; saturating employees with praise can dilute the effectiveness of your encouraging words.
The bottom line: the better you are at effectively praising your employees, the more reasons they’ll give you to praise them!