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The best way to recognize employees

According to a SHRM survey conducted earlier this year, most organizations have employee recognition programs in place. So why don't many of those programs work?

Effective employee recognition isn't based on following arbitrary guidelines or creating insincere recognition systems. That's why so many formal recognition programs only pay lip service to praising employees for their efforts.

Your small business doesn't need a formal program in place to recognize and praise employees. Just follow these tips and it's easy to give the recognition your employees deserve:

See every employee as an individual. Every employee responds differently to recognition. Many appreciate public praise. Others shrink from the limelight. Don't pass out praise on your terms; recognize each employee in the way that produces the greatest impact for that person.

Assume too soon is never soon enough. There's an inverse relationship between recognition and performance: The longer you wait, the lower the impact. Praise employees immediately. Don't wait for "the right time," because the only right time is right now.

Provide details that show you know. Generic praise is nice, but specific praise is wonderful. Don't just tell employees they did a good job. Tell them how they did a good job. Not only will they appreciate the recognition, they'll also know you pay attention to what they do.

Be genuine. We've all received recognition that felt forced, like the boss who walks around once a month and says, "Thanks for your efforts." Only recognize hard work and achievement when you mean it.

Skip constructive criticism, at least for now. Say, "You did a great job, but next time..." and all the employee remembers is what they did wrong or could have done better. Follow up at another time with constructive feedback. Let the warm glow of praise be the feeling the employee carries with them.

Actively find employees to praise. We're all trained to spot issues, hunt down problems, and eliminate errors. We're usually not trained to find people doing things well. Spend part of every day looking for positives. (You might be surprised by how skilled your employees really are.)

Leverage the surprise factor. Unexpected recognition is incredibly powerful. Winning the employee of the month award is great, but being recognized in the middle of a meeting for outstanding achievement can feel even better.

Spot opportunities to share the "praise wealth." It's easy to recognize your great employees. They're great because they perform well. Look for ways to praise less stellar performers when they deserve the recognition. Sometimes all an average performer needs is a little attention and encouragement.

And keep in mind providing praise will get easier over time, because when you do a better job of recognizing employees they naturally perform better - and that gives you even more achievements to recognize.

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